Spain face fight with Barcelona over Pedri and Olympics squad

Spain face fight with Barcelona over Pedri and Olympics squad

Spain's teenage sensation Pedri will have the final say on whether or not he competes for his country at the Olympics.

The 18-year-old was called up for Spain’s Olympics squad on Tuesday but Barcelona have contemplated requesting that he be withdrawn to avoid him being burned out after his first season.

The country’s own law obliges clubs to release players for the Olympics but Barcelona could request that a player be taken out of the group, and if the player agrees that it is better that he does not join the Olympic squad then Spain coach Luis de la Fuente is likely to allow the withdrawal, especially if the health of the player is being risked.

De la Fuente has indicated, however, that he does not believe this will be the case.

He told Spanish radio Cope on Tuesday night: ‘I have spoken to the players and all of them have indicated their willingness to join up with the squad. I don’t think there will be a problem with the clubs.’

That may change if Spain goes all the way and the fitness of some of the six players called leads to requests for withdrawals.

Pedri has played a staggering 60 games so far in what is his maiden season in Spain's top flight. If he goes to Japan to compete in the Olympics, he could be playing up until August 7 – just a week before the new LaLiga season starts.

If that happens Barcelona will be obliged to give him a break once he returns and losing someone who is now such an important player for them will seriously disrupt Ronald Koeman’s plans for the start of the new campaign.

Pedri played 52 games for Barcelona last season as well as eight for Spain. And he has been ever-present for Luis Enrique at Euro 2020.

On Monday night, he beat the record previously held by Marcus Rashford by becoming the youngest player to play a knockout game at the Euros, aged 18 years and 215 days.

‘What a talent', tweeted Gary Lineker, who like so many has been in awe of the Canary Islander.

What could still see him complete his marathon season and do the Euros-Olympics double is his own desire to win Olympic gold and there is a clear precedent at Barcelona.

In 2008 Lionel Messi wanted to represent Argentina at the Beijing Olympic Games but Barcelona were adamant he would not go.

Pep Guardiola changed the club’s mind when he saw how not allowing Messi to go was affecting the mood of the young player.

Guardiola gave the green light for Messi to go and start the season late for Barcelona and he played a big part in Argentina winning gold. He scored two goals against Ivory Coast in the group stage and again against Holland in the quarter-finals. In the final he set up Angel Di Maria to score the winner.

If Pedri has the same desire to take part in the Games as Messi then Barcelona president Joan Laporta, who was also president in 2008, is unlikely to make any requests to the Spanish federation.

Barcelona are not the only club upset at players being called up to the Olympic squad. Villarreal centre-back Pau Torres has already played 55 games this season.

The young defender’s exhausting campaign included the Europa League run that saw Villarreal beat Manchester United in the final. Villarreal are confident that having qualified for next season’s Champions League local boy Torres will stay at the club despite the fact that both Liverpool and Manchester United like the young defender.

But they will want him rested and ready for the new season. Dani Olmo has played 59 games this season for RB Leipzig and his club are also likely to be unimpressed by his call-up.

Eric Garcia only played in 22 games last season between his then club Manchester City and the Spain team. He will feel that he can take another six games in Japan but Barcelona could lose Garcia, Pedri and defender Oscar Mingueza if all three of their players picked for the squad end up travelling.

Real Sociedad and Athletic Bilbao are the last sides affected by De la Fuente’s squad.

Mikel Oyarzabal has played 53 games so far this season. And Athletic keeper Simon has played 54.

Real Sociedad will feel particularly hard done by because Oyarzabal's team-mate Mikel Merino has also been called up. Their midfielder was close to winning a place in Spain’s Euro 2020 squad and has been selected as one of the nation’s three over 23s.

De La Fuente reiterated his confidence that players will not want to miss the Olympic opportunity. ‘They are young sportsman and they will be motivated to take an opportunity that does not come around every year,’ he said.

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