Weak-link Arbeloa under threat for Real Madrid & Spain

The Salamanca-born right-back has been left out of Vicente del Bosque's latest squad to face Panama. In his absence, Barcelona's Martin Montoya is set to make his bow for La Roja
By Ben Hayward | Spanish Football Writer

He may be the world's most fortunate footballer. Alvaro Arbeloa has emerged from the shadows to become a first-team player for both Real Madrid and Spain, proof that hard work and consistency can pay off - even at the very highest level. Now, however, his place for both sides could be under threat.

Arbeloa was once described by Madrid coach Jose Mourinho as a "six-out-of-10 player", one unlikely to claim many Man-of-the-Match awards but, equally, one who would seldom let his side down. And that's about right. Technically proficient and defensively sound, the Salamanca-born defender nevertheless can frustrate when he advances into opposition territory. His crossing has improved, but will never be the strongest part of his game.

After Euro 2012, in which Arbeloa had looked suspect in the opening games, the defender was praised by coach and fellow Salmantine Vicente del Bosque. "Alvaro knows he is a good player." Later asked by Marca in an interview about his coach's kind words, the defender replied: "I play for the best [club] team in the world and for the best international side in history. There is not much more I can say."

The 29-year-old is approaching the twilight of his career but continues to improve at Real Madrid. He came through an indifferent spell of form last term and showed his worth in the latter stages of Euro 2012. Solid and reliable, albeit unspectacular.
The 21-year-old is yet to win a full cap but is a European champion at Under-21 level and has looked good in his seven appearances for Barcelona this term. He and Chelsea's Cesar Azpilicueta are set to compete for the position in future.
However, had it not been for the conversion of Sergio Ramos from right-back to central defender with Madrid and subsequently Spain, Arbeloa may not have been so lucky. The 29-year-old was in the right place at the right time. and although he has worked extremely hard to gain recognition for club and country since his €3.5 million move from Liverpool to Madrid in 2009, he is now probably the weak link for both of his teams.

Recently returned from injury, Arbeloa has been left out of Spain's friendly against Panama on Wednesday, something of a meaningless match but one which could see the emergence of his next rival for the right-back role: Martin Montoya.

Montoya has been called up before by Del Bosque but is as yet uncapped for Spain's senior side. The Barcelona right-back is set to make his debut on Wednesday, though, following an impressive start to the season with the Catalan club.

The 21-year-old cannot offer the same defensive stability provided by Arbeloa, but is a much more exciting option as he provides pace and an attacking threat down the right. In fact, the two could not be more different.

Montoya may find appearances few and far between now that Dani Alves has returned from injury at Barca, so will look to make a big impression on Wednesday night. Many fans of the Catalan club already believe he should be starting in place of the Brazilian however, and, at 21, he could be the future for both club and country.

Arbeloa may face competition at Madrid before too long, as well. Mourinho has been on the look-out for a new right-back ever since joining the Spanish side but has so far failed to strengthen the position and even allowed promising youngster Dani Carvajal to leave in the summer. 

That highlighted his confidence in Arbeloa but, if the Portuguese can find a right-back with superior attacking qualities, Alvaro may find himself back on the bench - for both Madrid and Spain. In the meantime, however, he is unlikely to let anyone down.

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