Alejandro Balde

Barcelona’s Spanish wonderkid Alejandro Balde could be set to receive a last-minute call-up to Luis Enrique’s squad following an injury to Valencia’s Jose Gaya.

Gaya suffered a sprained ankle and withdrew from La Roja’s final training session on Wednesday, and although medical staff had initially been optimistic about his prospects, he is now set to miss out from the tournament.

Balde was included on Spain’s 55-man roster of potential squad members, but narrowly missed out when the list was whittle down to 26.

Though Balde is still waiting official confirmation of the decision, Marca report that he was warned on Thursday that his services may be required at the expense of the injured Valencia left-back.

The 19-year-old had been given an outside chance of making Enrique’s final squad, but was ultimately beaten to a shirt by Gaya and Barca and Spain stalwart Jordi Alba – veteran of Spain’s last major tournament win at Euro 2012.

However, Balde is now set to fend off club team-mate Marcos Alonso and feature in the 26-man team to go for glory in Qatar after a stunning breakout season.

FIFA rules stipulate that any team can make a substitution to their finalised squads, as long as it comes within 24 hours of their first game, which means that Spain would have until Tuesday at the latest to make their decision.

La Roja kick-off their campaign on Wednesday, where they take on Costa Rica, before facing Germany and Japan on November 27 and December 1 respectively.

Having made his debut for the Blaugrana last season, the La Masia graduate has made 16 appearances for Xavi’s side in all competitions, contributing three assists.

The left-back has been capped at every Spanish youth level already, and only made his U-21 debut in September 2022, but Enrique seems to have seen enough already to feel confident that he can make the step up to senior level.

Should he receive the phone call, Balde will become the eighth Barca player to make the squad under the Catalan giants’ former player and treble-winning coach in Qatar.

The youngster will bring pace and attacking intent to the left flank, and it will be interesting to see whether he is started ahead of Alba – who he has displaced for his club of late, and is now lacking his formerly prodigious speed.

He is also capable of playing on the right-hand side, although Enrique will be hoping against what would be a monumental injury crisis that would have to rule out Dani Carvajal, Cesar Azpilicueta, and perhaps even Eric Garcia.

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