Jordi Alba came into the European Championship as the only player in Spain’s 23-man squad without a single trophy to his name but now the marauding left-back has surely won the first of many.
The 23-year-old only became a first team regular at this tournament,with six of his 11 caps coming during the last month in Poland and Ukraine climaxing with a super goal in the 4-0 thumping of Italy in the final here yesterday.
“These Euros have been an incredible dream come true for me. It was my first Euros – the other guys had already been making history” with their successes at the last World Cup and at Euro 2008.
“Now it’s my turn and I can do the same alongside them. I still can’t believe it – it will sink in eventually,” said Alba,who last week finalised a 14 million euros move to Barcelona. I’ve got to be really happy given what’s happened to me in the past few days,” Alba grinned.
Having played only once in the qualification campaign,Alba has now made the Spanish left-back slot his property.
And to see him streaking down the line,head back,arms pumping in full gallop,it is easy to see why.
There is more than just a touch of Roberto Carlos about Alba. He has searing pace,a willingness to run and the confidence to charge down the line with reckless abandon.
His goal on 41 minutes was symptomatic of that style,although created and aided by the sheer brilliance of one of his more illustrious team-mates.
Alba set off like a whippet from deep but once he went,there was no looking back. The Italy defence took half a second to mobilise but by then it was too late,Ignazio Abate had no chance of staying with him.
Master orchestrator Xavi glided forwards,delaying his pass until the perfect moment,fizzing the ball into Alba’s path just as he broke beyond the backline.
Onside,one-on-one with the best goalkeeper in the world,Gianluigi Buffon,Alba showed nerves of steel and a cultured left foot to boot.
Alba stroked the ball beyond Buffon’s grasp and notched the killer second that gave Spain comfortable breathing space.
They were in complete control by that point and there was never a chance that they would relinquish it.
It was Alba’s first goal in the red of Spain and his universal role in the goal — from his forward burst to his cool head to his classy finish — gave the watching world a glimpse of why Barcelona have paid such a high fee to secure his services.
Alba looks like he will provide the ideal foil to Brazilian right-back Dani Alves.
Barcelona had been rumoured to be tempted to bid for Tottenham’s Gareth Bale,but at a third of the price,every bit as good and Spanish to boot,Alba ticked all Barca’s boxes.
Those who had watched him throughout the competition would not have been surprised by his contribution in the final – he is almost certain to be named in the team of the tournament.
Already in the quarter-final against France he had given warning of his ability,and Italy should have taken note.
Then it was another equally lung-busting acceleration from deep that left Mathieu Debuchy scrambling in his wake,after which he looked up,spotted Xabi Alonso and planted the ball on his head for the Real Madrid man to head Spain into the lead.
Alba may have only broken his trophy duck on Sunday but now playing for the best club and the best country in the world,he is sure to add to his tally by the bucketload in the years ahead.
And with this new kid on the block,anyone hoping for a decline in either Spain or Barcelona’s fortunes will likely be left greatly disappointed.
Alba may very well prove before long to be the best left-back in the world.