By James Mackie

With the majority of the 32 national sides going to the World Cup having now finalised their squads of 23 players, there have been some surprising calls. Some shocking inclusions, but more so, the big names who haven’t got a flight booked to the world’s greatest football competition. Here we look at five players that caused the biggest stir when it was known they wouldn’t be playing in Russia.

Radja Nainggolan

Belgium manager Roberto Martinez this week released his squad for Russia and it startled the world of football for two reasons. The first being that he included four goal keepers and the second, the biggest casualty of all selections this summer, not including midfielder Radja Nainggolan. Roma’s centre midfielder is arguably Belgium’s best midfield player and has been of the attention of many top clubs in Europe.

Although he wasn’t having his best season compared to previous ones scoring six goals and contributing 11 assists, he was still influential in Roma’s run to the semi-finals of the Champions League. Many a Belgian fan will question how Adnan Januzaj and Marouane Fellaini are on the plane, but not the mohawk maestro? Nainggolan has since gone on to retire from international football.

Alexandre Lacazette

Arsenal’s French striker signed at the start of the season for around £50 million and was known in Europe for being a potent finisher. In his first season in London it’s fair to say he didn’t quite hit the ground running and overall didn’t have the season that his price tag warranted scoring 17 goals in all competitions. However, this may not have all of been his fault. In the demise of Arsene Wenger at Arsenal, Lacazette was poorly miss managed, leaving him and Olivier Giroud vying for one spot.

It was the current red that missed out to the former fan favourite at The Emirates led to, to the surprise of many. He is a top striker and would be an asset for Didier Deschamps side but with the talent that his national side possess has the manager made the right call to leave the ex-Lyon man out and call-up the experienced Giroud?

Mauro Icardi

Maybe the most unlucky of the five is Inter Milan’s protagonist, Mauro Icardi. The Argentinian has had a superb season in Serie A scoring 29 goals in 34 games which is an unbelievable record, scoring the winner on the final day to bring Internazionale back to the Champions League.

Argentina have always been known for having exceptional talent in its forward department and Icardi is another to the roster. But, when you’re competing against the golden-boy Paulo Dybala, the prolific Sergio Aguero, the veteran Gonzalo Higuaín and the iconic Lionel Messi, it seems like Mission Impossible.

Messi and Icardi (Credit:
Messi and Icardi (Credit:

Cesc Fabregas

Fabregas has had an illustrious career with both club and country and is still a brilliant central midfield player. Having won the World Cup with Spain in 2010, he’s left at home this year as the new era of Spanish football begins to come through. A steady season at Chelsea winning the Fa Cup, whilst still showing that he has the range of passing and calmness under pressure, would normally be enough.

But the Spaniard is coming to back end of his career, whilst the likes of Thiago, Saul and Marco Asensio breath fresh life into an already dazzling squad. Spain’s disastrous 2014 tournament may have forced some of the old guard to make way, but was Fabregas the right man to drop?

Alvaro Morata

Morata is a player that seems like he has been around for a decade, but he’s only 25 years old. The Spaniard has had a fairly lively career playing for some of the top teams around the world, without receiving much recognition.

Having started his time at Chelsea brightly, after the Christmas period he wasn’t the same player and picked up injuries. With a £75 million price tag and only 11 goals all season in the league some may say he doesn’t deserve to go to Russia. But on his pedigree and with the talent he possesses, is it the right decision to leave him out of the Spain squad in favour of La Liga frontmen Rodrigo and Iago Aspas?


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