Carlos Soler has no regrets about his move to Paris Saint-Germain from Valencia in the summer and said he never feared missing the World Cup with Spain as a result.
The 25-year-old midfielder struggled for minutes after his switch but was still called up by Spain coach Luis Enrique despite strong competition for places.
“He’s not used to being a starter,” said PSG team-mate Kylian Mbappe, after they beat Juventus in the Champions League in November, in an apparent dig.
However Soler says that before the World Cup started he was finally finding his groove in Paris.
“I thought a lot about the decision obviously, because it’s not easy to leave your home, where you’ve been all your life,” Soler told AFP in an interview on Sunday.
“But I wanted to go, take a step up to a huge club, at the top level in Europe, try to fight for titles, play as much as possible and I am very happy now because I have gone through a learning phase there.
“The first month, the second month, but I think this last month went very well, I played more, I helped the team and that is what I want.”
Asked if he worried his limited appearances would reduce his chances of being part of the squad for the World Cup, Soler said he always had faith.
“No, maybe it’s something that goes through your head, it’s inevitable and people are telling you it. My friends, people close to me, but in the end I believed in myself.
“I thought that the work I had been doing in the national team was good, and that what I did on the pitch was going to be good,” he explained.
“In the end, that’s what it’s about. Having confidence in yourself and thinking you are important, and in that sense I felt important here with the national team and thought I would come.”
Soler subbed on to score in Spain’s opening 7-0 romp over Costa Rica but has yet to reappear in Qatar, not used in the 1-1 draw with Germany or the 2-1 defeat by Japan.
In midfield Luis Enrique seems set on the Barcelona trio of Sergio Busquets, Pedri and Gavi, but Soler is waiting for his chance and hailed coach Luis Enrique.
“For me, he is one of the best coaches I’ve ever had, that’s the truth, he’s a coach who convinces you,” said Soler.
“And he doesn’t convince you just because he’s Luis Enrique, but he convinces you because he gives you the reasoning, and later you see it on video, he convinces you with reasoning.
“We’re with Luis Enrique on everything, we will go with his plan until the end and for now, it’s not going badly.”
Wear them down
Soler may not be likely to start against Morocco but he has been keeping an eye on them, keenly watching other World Cup games as well as playing darts and table tennis during his spare time.
“Morocco have had a magnificent group phase, beating Belgium and drawing with Croatia. The only goal they let in was against Canada in the last game, so it will be a really tough match,” said Soler.
“I’m sure they will tighten up and sit back, and maybe they will press us, I don’t know, but I am sure that against us they will sit back in numbers.
“We will have to try and wear them down, moving the ball quickly from side to side, and maybe a little more vertically when we get the chance, and try and get ourselves into the quarter-finals.
“Morocco have a strong team with very good players, (Achraf) Hakimi, (Hakim) Ziyech, (Youssef) En-Nesyri, Bono, a lot of very good players, (but) I think they prize the collective above the individual.”
Hakimi is a team-mate of Soler’s at PSG, and they could go head-to-head on Tuesday.
“It’s true that before the World Cup we joked in the last 16 we were going to cross paths, and look what’s happened now,” he added.
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