Francisco “Isco” Alarcon has been left out of the Spain squad, paying the price for not playing often enough for Real Madrid under coach Santiago Solari.
Jorge “Koke” Resurreccion, Saul Niguez and Thiago Alcantara also missed out on coach Luis Enrique’s list Friday for this month’s European Championship qualifying matches against Norway and Malta.
Among the unexpected names chosen were Jaime Mata of Getafe, Sergi Gomez of Sevilla, Sergio Canales of Real Betis, Fabian Ruiz of Napoli, Iker Muniain of Athletic Bilbao, Jesus Navas of Sevilla and Dani Parejo of Valencia.
“We are in a phase of evolving as a team and competition makes us better,” said Luis Enrique, who refused to speak about any player not on the current squad.
Not available because of injuries were Dani Carvajal, Lucas Vazquez, Diego Costa, Iago Aspas and Diego Llorente.
Isco hasn’t received many minutes at Real Madrid since Solari, who this week was replaced by Zinedine Zidane, took over the squad last year. The playmaker often didn’t even make it to the bench, and there were reports he and the club were negotiating a transfer.
Isco was a regular starter under Zidane in the coach’s first stint with Madrid, and his place on the national team had not been questioned until now.
Spain hosts Norway at Mestalla Stadium in Valencia on March 23, then visits Malta three days later.
Luis Enrique took over the national team following Spain’s disappointing World Cup. After a good start with wins over England and Croatia in the new UEFA Nations League, Spain failed to reach the tournament’s final phase after losses to both.
“Considering how we started, we would have liked to qualify for the final of the Nations Cup,” Luis Enrique said. “We have to attack in a more orderly fashion to be able to defend better. Our plan is still the same, to carry the initiative and not let our rivals dictate the match.”
Goalkeepers: David De Gea (Manchester United), Pau Lopez (Real Betis), Kepa Arrizabalaga (Chelsea)
Defenders: Jordi Alba (Barcelona), Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid), Jose Luis Gaya (Valencia), Juan Bernat (Paris Saint-Germain), Mario Hermoso (Espanyol), Inigo Martinez (Athletic Bilbao), Sergi Gomez (Sevilla), Sergi Roberto (Barcelona), Jesus Navas (Sevilla)
Midfielders: Sergio Busquets (Barcelona), Marco Asensio (Real Madrid), Rodri Hernandez (Atletico Madrid), Dani Ceballos (Real Madrid), Fabian Ruiz (Napoli), Dani Parejo (Valencia), Sergio Canales (Real Betis)
Forwards: Rodrigo (Valencia), Jaime Mata (Getafe), Alvaro Morata (Atletico Madrid), Iker Muniain (Athletic Bilbao)