Cristian Tello emerged into the first team during the end of Pep Guardiola's reign. Helped by David Villa's tibia injury, Tello and fellow youngster Isaac Cuenca found they were being given more minutes. While Cuenca left for Ajax, Tello stayed at Barça and continued to progress well in Tito Vilanova's side. The La Masia graduate's explosive pace was one of his best abilities and led many to believe Tello was destined to become a Barcelona starter. But this season, the 22 year old has made only 19 appearances in all competitions, with just under three quarters of them being substitute appearances.
Tello did miss a week or so with an ankle injury but he would no doubt have been hoping for more appearances this season. He was very impressive against Levante in the cup, scoring a hat trick. But the majority of his performances have been unconvincing. Too many heavy touches and occasionally being too slow to react bring back memories of the days when Lionel Messi showed annoyance at the winger's lack of end product.
Tello has so far made 13 league appearances and given just two assists with no goals, not exactly stats that his wing partners Neymar, Pedro and Alexis would be happy with. Tello's lack of appearances could explain some rustiness in his game and it could be argued that Tello has been distracted by transfer rumours surrounding his future. Liverpool have been sniffing around the player for the best part of six months now, and while Tello has firmly said he will definitely stay at Barça until June, it would be understandable if he became a little distracted.
The winger enjoyed a successful summer last year when he was included in the under-21 Spain squad that triumphed in the European Championships in Israel. Tello has also made one senior appearance this season.
So does he have a realistic chance of making it into Vicente del Bosque's Spain squad? Let's have a look at his opposition. Alongside midfielders, attacking wingers is one of the areas that is hardest for a player to break into. Spain has an abundance of talent in this area and many are much more experienced then Tello.
To start with, you have Tello's Barcelona colleague Pedro. It has been well-documented that Pedro is in great form for his club this season and even better for his country. So his spot on the plane seems set in stone, barring any injuries. Next we have Premier League stars Juan Mata and Jesus Navas. Since joining Manchester City, the usually homesick Jesus Navas has settled well into life at England and combined with ex-Sevilla teammate Alvaro Negredo to boost City's title ambitions.
Juan Mata, meanwhile, has found life difficult under José Mourinho. The best Chelsea player of the past two seasons found himself on the bench more often then not as Mourinho favoured a physically stronger midfield outfit. Premier League rivals Manchester United where interested in acquiring the Spaniard's services, and last Saturday, they got their man. Mata's route to Brazil is not as clear-cut as Pedro's and I believe his start at United will be crucial in deciding if he makes the squad.
Next, we have the less conventional wingers such as Santi Cazorla, David Silva, Isco and occasionally Andrés Iniesta. Iniesta has been the heart of Spain's triumphed sides for years now so to even suggest he would't be one of the names on the teamsheet is absurd. Premier League players Cazorla and Silva are both enjoying the freedom the English game offers but both have yet to replicate the form they showed when they first made the switch across Europe. Regardless, I would expect to see both in Brazil this summer as they are very useful squad members that can play well in three or four different positions.
Ex-Barcelona man David Villa may also stand in the way of Tello. With the emergence of more in-form Spanish strikers such as Negredo, Roberto Soldado, and recently converted Diego Costa, David Villa may be asked to play a similar role as he did at Barcelona if he makes the squad.
Spain took five outright attackers to the 2010 World Cup in South Africa and, as of right now, it's difficult to see Tello as one of them. Del Bosque is likely to take three wingers and two strikers with him, so it would seem likely that Pedro, Jesus Navas, Mata, Diego Costa and Negredo would make the cut.
For Tello to earn a place in the squad, he needs more minute and needs to produce performances similar to the Levante game. He needs to get back to his form of the late Guardiola / early Vilanova period where he was a weapon in Barça's arsenal.. So perhaps a loan move may be a good idea for the player (it seemed to benefit Cuenca last year), but both Barcelona and the player have said no to move. Time will tell, but I think he needs to get back to his best quickly if he wants to book his seat to Brazil.
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