Who were in the discussion for a place in Spain’s XI at the beginning of the qualification for Italia’90?
Zubizarreta (Barcelona) was the obvious first choice in goal. As his deputy, Luis Suárez preferred Ablanedo (Sporting Gijón) to Buyo (Real Madrid), who had been Spain’s number two in the 1988 Euros.
Spain fielded a new and young central defense pairing in the 1988 Euros: the libero Andrinúa (Athl. Bilbao) and Manuel Sanchís (Real Madrid). The latter had an excellent tournament and had also been a vital figure in Luis Suárez U21 side. In a back four, the central pair would without doubt be these two. While if Luis Suárez chose a 5-3-2, he could for example field Andrinúa’s club mate Patxi Ferreira (Bilbao). Fringe names that were mentioned in this discussion were Górriz (Sociedad) and Ricardo Serna (Barcelona).
It was a lot harder to predict who would play as full-back in the opening match. Camacho had retired, and so had (by the looks of it) Tomas. The fact is that Spain had many options of similar quality: Chendo (Real Madrid) and Quique Flores (Valencia) at right back, Soler (Real Madrid), Jiménez (Sevilla) and Nando (Valencia) at left back, and finally López Rekarte (Barcelona) who could play at either side, were all fielded in the two friendlies prior to the qualification. It looked to be a completely open question who would get the nod on either side!
In his pre-campaign, Luis Suárez experimented with moving Míchel (Real Madrid) into the role as a deep playmaker. As late as in the EUROs, Míchel had played in his natural wide right midfield position. Since then, Víctor as well as Gallego had retired from the national team, meaning that Luis Suárez was on the outlook for new options in central midfield. Roberto (Barcelona) had never been a regular for Spain, but was given the chance now when Luis Suárez took over the reigns.
There was also the gifted Martín Vázquez (Real Madrid), who Luis Suárez appeared more careful to pair with one of the two others in central midfield (probably having defensive concerns in mind). Against Argentina, Martín Vázquez played on the right side of midfield, where he unfortunately didn’t look to be at his best. On the left side, Txiki Beguiristain (Barcelona) started both against Yugoslavia and Argentina, and looked destined to start also against Rep. of Ireland. Another player in contention is Eusebio (Barcelona), who could play either in centre or right midfield.
After the retirement of Víctor, Luis Suárez had no clear ball winning midfielder in his team. He did however try out Patxi Salinas (Bilbao) in the friendlies.
Luis Súarez looked certain to play with two strikers. Butragueño (Real Madrid) was an indispensable member of the team, and now even captain. It is more uncertain who would join him: it looked to be either Bakero (Barcelona) or Julio Salinas (Barcelona). These two had obviously different qualities, Salinas being a tall striker with strong headers, Bakero a gifted schemer. In the background, Eloy (Valencia) was also an option.