Money talks as Panama pay to play Spain

If La Liga Loca happened to be Spanish – or was handed a passport, Marcos Senna-style – and very, very good at football, then it would be tickled pink to be traveling to Panama on what is ostensibly a tiring, pointless friendly trip apparently designed solely to make the Spanish FA a bit richer.

The trans-Atlantic adventure would be a chance to see the Panama Canal, perhaps the greatest engineering feat ever, ever, ever. After the Pyramids, perhaps. Or the Santiago Bernabeu public address system, which if pointed in the right direction and cranked up to 11 could shatter the moon into tiny pieces.

Vicente Del Bosque's 19-man party are pictured in Wednesday’s papers taunting the blog at one of the canal’s locks, looking distinctly unexcited, as only footballers can be when either meeting incredibly distinguished people or visiting remarkable places of interest.

However, there’s mixed reactions in the two main Spanish papers as to the relevance of the world champions' latest friendly, which follows similar recent jaunts to Costa Rica and Puerto Rico. Marca are doing their bit for king and country, backing the FA by justifying the game as a means of spreading the good word of Spain around the world, pleasing globally-minded sponsors. “The Canal of Stars!” yells the headline.

Flowing locks: the Spain players pop down the canal

AS, on the other hand, don't even attempt to disguise the main value of the match to Spain – the €3m fee. “That’s the reason Spain are playing today in Panama, at 33 degrees and 75 percent humidity. It will be at 22.30 our time, televised only if the General Strike permits it,” laments the paper’s editorial. 

Del Bosque has done his duty, talking up the game in Panama by saying that “we have to show ourselves in the best possible light” around the world. Meanwhile, Cesc Fabregas was forced to clarify his comments that the game would be of no use in preparing for the crucial France clash in March. “I did not say that it wouldn’t be of any use,” back-pedalled the Barcelona midfielder. “We always want to win but lacking so many footballers, it is not going to help us prepare for France.”

Those missing from the squad traveling across the Atlantic – for the seventh time since Spain became world champions just over two years ago – include Carles Puyol, Gerard Pique, Xavi, Xabi Alonso, David Silva, Fernando Torres and Alvaro Arbeloa.

The old guard's absence creates space, and the friendly has brought a first call-up for Markel Susaeta. However, the Athletic Bilbao winger – born in the Basque country – enraged the more strident parts of the meanie Twitterverse by avoiding using the world ‘Spain’ when asked what it was like to be with the national side.

“We represent... a thing... and well, we have to give our all and show respect in all circumstances,” flannelled the flanker. The fairly shy young man also said that “it’s an honour to take part in a training session and a game with them, so I’m really happy,” causing the maternal blog to leap in front of him, yelling “leave him alone!”

The match will be a positive point for some, like the returning David Villa and Santi Cazorla, so Spain’s performances may not be as flat and lifeless as those in previous friendlies. For this reason LLL suspects a comfy 2-0 win – although perhaps not one watched by many, what with the match finishing past midnight in the homeland after a hard day of either rioting, protesting, or sitting about in bars to support the General Strike.

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