Cap in hand: Six players set to make their international bows
Sometimes, opportunity knocks when misfortune strikes. Diego Costa limping off with yet more hamstring pangs in the closing stages of Chelsea’s weekend win at Hull City slammed the door on his availability for Spain’s Euro 2016 qualifier against Ukraine this week. But in turn it opened a window for Juan Miguel Jiménez López, otherwise known as Juanmi.
The 21-year-old is having a memorable season for Malaga, scoring seven goals in 24 La Liga appearances including a February winner at the Camp Nou as the Andalusians stunned Barcelona 1-0. Juanmi has been on the scene since 16, when he became both Malaga’s youngest player and goalscorer in a Copa del Rey defeat to Getafe in 2010. He’s developed gradually since, but this season the kid known as El `Raúl´ malagueño – Malaga’s Raul – has hit new heights. Vicente del Bosque has taken notice.
“It’s every footballer’s dream,” beamed Independiente captain Federico Mancuello upon learning of his first call-up to Argentina’s senior squad. Mancuello will be largely unknown to European audiences, having remained strictly confined to domestic Argentinian football throughout his career.
The day before the 2014 World Cup kicked off in Brazil last June, a tournament Argentina ended as runners-up, the 25-year-old volante known as Mancu was lining up against Huracan in the Primera B Nacional.
Regardless, his form in midfield over the last year or so has been consistently reliable with flashes of inspiration a regular occurrence, usually from a left foot so cute it’s a wonder Buzzfeed haven’t yet written a listicle on the 28 best examples of it wearing a fluffy hat.
Mancuello will likely spend most of the trip as backup, but that’s of no concern to him. “You have to enjoy it,” he said. “I’m going to be in the presence of the greatest and I want to learn from them.”