After helping Spain avoid the elimination of the European Championship, Sergio Busquets had to pause for a moment while talking about his time away from the team because of the coronavirus.
The Spanish captain was torn, recalling the doubts that went through his mind after he was told he had to go into isolation just days before the start of the tournament.
“I’m emotional because I had to go through difficult times,” Busquets said. “I had to stay home for 10 days without knowing if I would return or not.”
Spain were happy that Busquets returned, just in time to lead the team to victory over Slovakia on Wednesday. The Barcelona midfielder was selected as the man of the match in the 5-0 victory that sent Spain to the round of 16 after starting with disappointing draws against Sweden and Poland.
The result allowed Spain to finish second in Group E, hosting a match against Croatia in Copenhagen on Monday.
“It all helped us grow,” Busquets said. “Now, whatever challenges we face, we will face them with this mentality.”
The return of Busquets was a big boost for a Spanish team that had no lead and struggled with poor finishes and a shaky defense in the first two games. The 32-year-old midfielder, the only member left of the Spanish team to win the World Cup in 2010, has given the team the much-needed balance that Euro 2020 has lacked so far.
Busquets was the first Spaniard to touch the ball when the match started at La Cartouja Stadium, and he has controlled the midfield ever since. Assembled and compiled as usual, Busquets shows no signs of being affected by its less than ideal preparations because of the virus. He constantly directed his teammates and helped to create chances in attack and to defend the defense.
Busquets, who was asymptomatic with the virus and could train at home while in isolation, was replaced in the first two games by Rodri Hernandez, who could not bring the same attitude and leadership to the veteran Barcelona player.
Busquets took over as captain after Sergio Ramos was suspended after playing moderately this season due to injuries. Jordi Alba was captain of Euro 2020 in the absence of Busquets.
Busquets was greatly cheered by the hosts when he was replaced by Thiago Alcantara in the 71st minute, after feeling a slight tightening in the calf, which he said should not be a problem before the quarterfinals.
“He played perfectly,” said Spain coach Luis Enrique, who decided to wait for Busquets instead of removing him from the squad, although he did not know if he would fully recover from the virus. “It’s unique, a guarantee.”
After Busquets returned and the team found its result again, Luis Enrique felt that Spain was once again a contender for Euro 2020. He said there was always room for improvement, but La Roja remained among the favorites for the title.
“We are gaining momentum. I’m sure that if you ask one of our rivals, no one will be happy to play against us, “said the coach. “Now we have to play against a team from Croatia, which has great players and plays at a high level. You can’t expect weak teams in the quarterfinals. “