Spain forced to call up uncapped Barcelona left-back Alejandro Balde, 19, after star sent home with injury

SPAIN have called up Barcelona rookie Alejandro Balde as a late replacement for injured defender Jose Gaya.

Valencia skipper Gaya, 27, picked up an ankle problem on Wednesday and was sent home two days later.

Alejandro Balde has won a late spot in the Spain squad amid a brilliant breakthrough season for BarcelonaRex

Boss Luis Enrique has now turned to 19-year-old Balde, who has not represented his country at senior level before.

The left-back has only become a regular for Barca this season, playing just 23 times in total.

A statement from Spain’s national team read: “Luis Enrique has taken into account his brilliant start to the season to replace Gaya.”

Enrique has been accused back home by some of having a bias towards Barcelona, whom he managed to a treble in 2015 after making 300 appearances for them as a player.

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Balde now becomes the EIGHTH Barca player in Spain’s squad, having been called up in favour of Real Betis left-back Alex Moreno.

He has been with Barca since the age of seven and has represented Spain at virtually every level, including two Under-21 caps which were only won this year.

And he is now Enrique’s only real cover for club-mate Jordi Alba on the left of his defence.

But Balde has had a sensational breakthrough campaign in LaLiga.


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His ability to play down both flanks has helped him to 13 starts for leaders Barcelona.

He even seemed to edge ahead of Alba and Marcos Alonso for a place on the left at the Nou Camp.

But Barca boss Xavi switched him when facing injury problems at right-back.

Chelsea were linked with Balde in the summer amid suggestions he has a release clause of £427million with two years left on his contract.

Spain had until next Tuesday to decide whether to replace Gaya – the day before their World Cup opener against Costa Rica.

But Enrique’s initial belief that Gaya could recover faded and he has acted quickly by sending for Balde.

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