Looking at the Spain side that beat Belarus 2-1 to all-but secure their place at the 2014 World Cup, one name sticks out. Amongst the world-beaters, Barcelona and Real Madrid stars and World Cup winners, the presence of a Swansea City player catches the eye.
Michu was rewarded for his excellent form for the Welsh club over the last 12 months with his first international call-up, and was instantly installed to the starting line-up for Friday’s clash in Mallorca.
It has been a whirlwind year for the 27-year-old, who turned out to be the Premier League signing of the season in 2012-13 after his switch from Rayo Vallecano for the modest sum of €2.6 million.
The Spaniard caught Premier League defences by surprise in the early games of last season, and even when his ability and goal threat became clear, there have been few opponents that have had an easy day against the Oviedo-born attacker.
A total of 18 goals in his debut campaign in England was a wonderful return, and the Spanish star played a considerable role in helping Swansea to a ninth-placed finish and the club’s first-ever piece of major silverware, the Capital One Cup.
Given the talent available to Spain head coach Vicente Del Bosque, Michu could be forgiven for thinking that the chance to represent his nation might never come. However, the La Roja boss has selected his contingent on form, and it appears that Swansea’s main man will continue to rub shoulders with some of the world’s best for the foreseeable future.
With the World Cup less than 12 months away, Michu’s fairytale story could well be set to have a new chapter in it. The Liberty Stadium attacker will vie for a place in the squad and the starting XI, and the attributes that have made him such a success in Swansea look perfect for the world champions.
Spain’s tendency to play without a recognised striker became apparent at Euro 2012, with Cesc Fàbregas deployed as the furthest man forward at times. The idea of a false nine has been used on and off since, with Del Bosque experimenting with personnel.
Spain are certainly not short of out-and-out strikers, with the likes of Álvaro Negredo, Roberto Soldado, David Villa, Fernando Llorente and Fernando Torres eager to make the World Cup contingent. Add to this naturalised ‘Spaniard’ Diego Costa, and if Del Bosque wants to use strikers he is not short of options.
However, there is an underlying feeling that the former Real Madrid manager prefers to play with a false nine; a player with the stature to hold the ball up, the movement to trouble defences and the technique to create for others.
This is where Michu is the ideal choice. The 27-year-old has the stature to challenge for the ball in the air and the strength to hold it up. His reading of the game is second to none, and his positional play to create space is one of his main attributes.
With the customary Spanish technique and footwork coming as a given for the former Rayo man, Michu looks like a player much more suiting to the false nine role than Fàbregas. His eye for goal last term shows that he can finish when given chances, and playing alongside top-drawer players will only see him improve.
The future is certainly bright for Michu, with every chance that he can start for Spain in next summer’s World Cup. His story is an inspiration and he looks set to become one of the superstars of the star-studded Spain side.