On Wednesday, David Raya (Barcelona; 26 years old) showed his dark-skinned face, adorned with shiny stones in his earlobes, through one of the doors that give access to the locker room area of the Las Rozas Football City. The Brentford goalkeeper, Luis Enrique’s great novelty for tomorrow’s friendlies in Cornellà, against Albania, and on Tuesday against Iceland, in A Coruña, looked at the crowd of press waiting outside with an air of disorientation. Raya did not know which of the interview tents to go to and, overwhelmed by the rookie’s shyness, he did not dare to cross the door until a federative employee indicated his position to the media.
Raya’s presence has caused as much media and popular surprise as David de Gea’s absence. In the federation itself they do not deny that the United goalkeeper’s non-call is surprising because he is going through a great moment of form and in his day Luis Enrique made a fervent defense of his figure. “De Gea is my goalkeeper,” he said as soon as he took office. “They should dedicate the covers to David,” said the coach after a good performance against Germany in Stuttgart in September 2020. Various federation sources consulted deny that the decision was due to bad behavior by De Gea for not taking the substitutions well. Safety in the game with the foot, the same one that pushed both Unai Simón to the starting lineup and Robert Sánchez’s entrance on the scene, has also played a role and much in favor of the summons of the Brentford goalkeeper, whom the coach from Gijón I wanted to see live.
Praise for Klopp
In this last call there is no trace of the three goalkeepers with which the Asturian coach began his time in the national team in September 2018. Pau López, Kepa and now De Gea have gradually fallen off the lists. For the first time, the coach has three goalkeepers who have a footwork in accordance with what his script demands when starting the game from behind.
Luis Enrique was about to call Raya last November, in the window in which the team certified its qualification for the World Cup in Qatar after beating Greece in Athens (0-1) and Sweden in Seville. Only a knee injury that kept him inactive for three months prevented the call that would have anticipated De Gea’s loss of the national team train.
The coaching staff of the national team knew of Raya’s adventure in English football, which he arrived at at the age of 16 captured by Blackburn Rovers, but they did not begin to monitor him until this season, in which Brentford returned to the Premier League after 73 years of absence. His technical reports suggest a quick and agile goalkeeper under the sticks, brave when shooting from above despite not being very tall for the current conditions of the goals (1.84 meters) and very active to cover the spaces behind a defense that he plays very advanced, as happens in the national team. However, it is in the game with his feet where the analyzes of the coaching staff describe a goalkeeper with a higher level, at the height of the best specialists such as the Germans Ter Stegen or Manuel Neuer. This virtue did not go unnoticed by Jürgen Klopp in the match between Liverpool and Brentford last September (3-3). “He could wear the number 10, he has put some incredible balls,” the German coach proclaimed with amazement.
Precise long runs to striker Ivan Toney rushed the Liverpool defense and dazzled Klopp. Raya’s self-confidence with his footwork made a video go viral in which he emerged from the pressure of a Wycombe Wanderers attacker by throwing a pipe at him in his own box.
Raya is the Premier goalkeeper who averages more passes per game (42) with a success rate of 61%. City’s Ederson has a higher percentage of successful passes (88%), as does Liverpool’s Alisson (85%), but they play less long because their teams start the game more from behind than Brentford. Raya’s shots can be flat, like those of the South American school, or with more parabola. It is in these that his precision is reminiscent of the old midfielders who organized the game and had their strong point in passes of 30 or 40 meters. “I didn’t know him personally, but we had mutual friends. He is a very complete goalkeeper. Quick reflexes and good footwork”, describes Dani Olmo. “At the beginning of the season they already spoke very well of him at City,” says Laporte.
With the goals of most of the teams that occupy the upper part of the table covered by foreigners, Raya’s option ahead of other goalkeepers who play in the Spanish league such as Remiro (Real Sociedad), Pacheco (Alavés), David Soria (Getafe) or Edgar Badía (Elche), explain it from the federation in which the Catalan is more in line with what the coach demands. “We have a way of playing and the coach believes that Raya is better for what he needs,” says a federation employee. The game of the Spain of Luis Enrique is dressed by the feet.
Training behind closed doors on the return to Catalonia
Eighteen years later, the Spanish team will fly to Barcelona today at twelve noon to face Albania tomorrow in a friendly match at the RCDE Stadium in Cornellà. The last time La Roja played in Catalonia was in February 2004, in a preparation match for the European Championship in Portugal against Peru (2-1) and under the direction of Iñaki Sáez. Spain will land in Barcelona around one in the afternoon without the presence of Raúl de Tomás, who injured his shoulder in yesterday’s training. The Espanyol striker, who has not been replaced by Luis Enrique, was one of the main attractions of the match as it was played at the Blue and Whites’ stadium. The federation hopes that the full will be touched. Yesterday they assured that only about 6,000 seats remained to be sold (capacity is 40.00) whose prices range from 28 to 80 euros.
The team will stay at the Hyatt Tower hotel. The events planned during the Red’s stay in Barcelona are minimal. There will be an exhibition of the trophies won by the team in a shopping center adjacent to the stadium and little else.
Fans not attending the match will not have the opportunity to see Luis Enrique and his internationals up close. Today’s training scheduled at seven in the afternoon will be closed to the public as is customary in the Luis Enrique stage. Half an hour before, the coach and a player will appear before the media for the pre-match press conference. Sunday’s training at the RCDE Stadium will be at eleven in the morning, but it will also be closed. The expedition will remain in Barcelona until Monday morning. He will take a flight at 11.45 to A Coruña, where he faces Iceland on Tuesday. In the Galician city, training sessions will also be closed.
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