Raul: Spain's players are past their prime

The former Real Madrid legend believes La Roja now need to look to the next generation to replace stars like Iker Casillas if they want to defend their European title in 2016

Real Madrid legend Raul believes Spain are past their prime and need to look to the next generation to replace stalwarts such as captain Iker Casillas.

The reigning champions were eliminated in the group stage of this year’s World Cup – the first team to exit the competition and only the fifth defending champions to fall at the first hurdle – after suffering shock defeats to Netherlands and Chile.

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La Roja midfielder Xabi Alonso admitted after the losses that the team lacked the hunger to retain their title in Brazil, comments which the Madrid man was singled out for.

However, Raul – who played for Spain between 1996 and 2006 – has backed Alonso’s criticism of the team, indicating that it was always going to be difficult to win the World Cup with a group of players who are not at their peak.

“Instead of arguing [that] this individual would have been better than that [one], let's agree that the generation that brought Spain all the glory is past its prime,” Raul told The Times of India.

“Casillas, Xavi, [Andres] Iniesta, Xabi Alonso won all that was there to be won but in Brazil, perhaps with the exception of Iniesta, they looked jaded. So we do need replacements.”

He added: “Preferably, they should come from the next generation and we must use as many of them as possible in our Euro 2016 qualifying campaign.

“There were too many stalwarts who may not play for Spain again and before banishing them, one must remember with fondness what they have achieved.”

Despite his nation’s disappointing campaign in the tournament this summer, Raul remains optimistic about Spain’s future and believes that the new generation of players are good enough to help La Roja defend their European title in France in 2016.

“Spain has a tremendous system of producing talented footballers. All good things come to an end even as hopes of a bright future have been raised. Wait for a new Spain in two years when we defend our European crown,” Raul said.

“For the record, Spain beat Australia 3-0 in their last match and David Villa, Fernando Torres and Juan Mata scored. Does it mean Vicente del Bosque would have been better off using these players in the previous games? It's a valid question and we must look for the answer as we embark on a mission to rebuild.”