Sergio Ramos and Ansu Fati were left out of Luis Enrique’s Spain squad on Friday ahead of Nations League games against Switzerland and Portugal.
Head coach Luis Enrique also ruled out in-form striker Iago Aspas but called up uncapped Borja Iglesias and Nic Williams.
The upcoming matches are Spain’s last before Luis Enrique picks his World Cup squad, so all eyes have been on whether former captain Ramos in particular will return.
Ramos won a record 180 caps for Spain but may have played his last game for La Roja unless Luis Enrique has a change of heart before November.
The door was left ajar, but time was running out for Ramos and Aspas.
“These players were in the national team. They can return to the national team without any doubt,” Luis Enrique said on Friday.
It may be a different story for Fati, who has been a pro when fit and is working his way back to his best form at Barcelona after an injury-interrupted 2021-22 season.
Fati is yet to start a LaLiga game this season but managed two goals and two assists in just 120 minutes of action coming off the bench.
Luis Enrique said such limited action was telling at this stage, adding: “We hope to see Ansa at his best again, but I don’t see him on the list today. He is in the process of gaining confidence and improving after not playing for a long time.”
Enrique told a press conference: “Every time the squad list is available, the attention is drawn to those who are not there, but I prefer to talk about those who are. I have 25 players who I consider to be the best. matches.”
Athletic Bilbao’s Williams, whose brother Inaki recently switched football allegiances from Spain to Ghana, was hailed by Luis Enrique as a “pure winger” and a player the coaching staff wanted to see up close.
Luis Enrique already knows Betis forward Borja, having previously coached him at Celta Vigo, and said he appreciates the 29-year-old’s “always smiling style on the pitch”. He has four goals in LaLiga this term.
Aspas can probably make plans for November and December that do not involve Qatar 2022. The veteran Celta Vigo forward has been a standout performer in LaLiga and already has five goals this term, just one short of top scorer Robert Lewandowski.
More notably, Aspas has hit his targets despite having an expected goals (xG) of just 1.4, suggesting he is well above what would be expected of him.
However, the 35-year-old last played for Spain in 2019.
Spain take on Switzerland at La Romareda in Zaragoza on September 24 before taking on Portugal three days later in Braza.
Spain squad: Unai Simon (Athletic Bilbao), Robert Sanchez (Brighton and Hove Albion), David Raya (Brentford); Pau Torres (Villarreal), Jordi Alba (Barcelona), Jose Gaya (Valencia), Hugo Guillamon (Valencia), Diego Llorente (Leeds United), Eric Garcia (Barcelona), Cesar Azpilicueta (Chelsea), Dani Carvajal (Real Madrid); Sergio Busquets (Barcelona), Rodri (Manchester City), Pedri (Barcelona), Koke, Gavi (Barcelona), Carlos Soler (Paris Saint-Germain), Marcos Llorente (Atletico Madrid); Pablo Sarabia (Paris Saint-Germain), Nico Williams (Athletic Bilbao), Marco Asensio (Real Madrid), Alvaro Morata (Atletico Madrid), Borja Iglesias (Real Betis), Yeremy Pino (Villarreal), Ferran Torres (Barcelona).