Thiago Alcantara left Barcelona because he wanted to play more football and have a better chance of featuring in the 2014 World Cup finals. Cesc Fabregas began to open his options of a move because he wants to be a regular first-team starter for his club, partly in order to boost his chances of being a starter for Spain in Brazil next summer.
Spain has too many top class footballers and there’s not a place in the national side for all. To have a chance, they need to be playing.
Roberto Soldado, Alvaro Negredo and Jesus Navas are all Spain internationals. They’ve joined the 29 Spaniards now playing in the Premier League. Not a single Englishman plays in Spain’s top flight.
The new arrivals will earn more playing in England, but they all feel that being stars in a championship-chasing Premier League team is better for their international prospects than playing for a team with no chance of the title in Spain. Soldado will soon realise that Tottenham’s chase tends to implode just as they are starting to be talked about as serious contenders.
Such is their quality, a second string Spain XI would still be superior to England’s finest XI – and all from a country with a smaller population.
Spain play Ecuador in Guayaquil on Wednesday, a trip that many of their players could have done without following their extensive pre-season travels with their club and the league programme starting this weekend.
The traditional August international friendly will be scrapped after this game, with several managers complaining about the timing, but Spain are there now, ready to play in 80 per cent humidity as the game kicks off at 3pm local time. Meanwhile, the Spanish Federation gets a nice pay cheque. To justify the visitors’ fee, high ticket prices have not only excluded many local regular match-going fans, but also meant that just 25,000 of the 80,000 tickets have been sold.
It’s not just about money. The South American countries are getting big game friendlies in ahead of some crucial World Cup qualifiers next month from a tight group. They want to be tested, not play against minnows.
Conscious of the talent at his disposal, Vicente del Bosque has named a young squad, with many of the players who performed in the Confederations Cup final (which saw Spain’s first defeat in 23 matches, at the hands of Brazil).
Established players like Xavi, Sergio Busquets, Gerard Pique, Xabi Alonso, Pedro, Fernando Torres, Soldado and Juan Mata have not travelled, affording space to some of the stars of Spain’s European U21 triumph like Thiago, Koke (Atletico Madrid) and Inigo Martinez (Real Sociedad).
The latter two are debutants and their bland pronouncements about being "surprised" and "proud" to play for Spain mask the fact that they’ve worked incredibly hard and deserve the recognition.
Other youngsters like Isco and Cristian Tello are also involved, all keen to impress as they’re unlikely to be selected when Spain play their next World Cup qualifier against Finland on September 6. Or maybe they will. Del Bosque has always been a believer in youth. He was the last Real Madrid coach to promote young players from within and he’s done similar with Spain.
The problem for players like Tello is that if they’re not regular starters for Barcelona then they’re not going to be regular starters for Spain. Tello is realistic and probably realises that it's unlikely he’s going to Brazil, but will he reach the point, like Alcantara did, where he feels that the only way to progress is to leave a club where he wants to succeed?
The only unfortunate aspect for all of these Spanish players is that they were all born within a generation. It’s a problem every national team manager would love, one with no obvious solution except to stand out for your club team. Which you can’t do if you don’t play.
All the travelling players will get minutes today in a game where both side will pay their tributes to the former Ecuador player Christian 'Chucho' Benitez, who died recently aged just 27.
It’s a long way to travel to play a game by the Pacific a few days before the season starts, but at least they are young and the game is being played at the beautiful home of Barcelona.
That’s the Ecuadorian Barcelona, founded by a Catalan immigrant in 1925, you’ll understand, not the city which hosts Levante on Sunday night.
By Andy Mitten - on Twitter @AndyMitten