Spain boss Jorge Vilda has refused to answer questions on the fifteen players who opted to exclude themselves from selection from the national side.
His team are preparing to take on England in the final of the Women’s World Cup on Sunday, but it comes against the backdrop of large controversy with reports suggesting that tensions have been arising between the players and the manager.
The Spaniard was appointed as the head coach of the women’s national side back in 2015, guiding them to success in the Algarve Cup and Cyprus Cup and now to the showpiece of the tournament in Australia.
But divisions between his side have been prevalent throughout his tenure as the Spain boss that saw 15 players choosing to omit their own names from an international call up, with Vilda at the centre of the drama.
Spain manager Jorge Vilda (pictured) has refused to answer questions over the relationship between himself and the 15 players who exiled themselves from the national side last year
Tensions have been rising within the Spain side since he took over as the team’s manager back in 2015
The players have become unhappy with Vilda’s management of injuries and team selection and preparations for games
Back in September, the Spanish FA (RFEF) revealed that 15 stars had written to the organisation threatening to not play if Vilda did not resign.
It came amid accusations and reported concerns over the Spain coach’s management of the side, with players having previously called Spain FA president Luis Rubiales, to also complain about the manager.
Subsequently, the 15 players sent separate emails to the organisation claiming that the current situation had ‘significantly affected their emotional state and health.’
Dubbed ‘Las 15’, the players who walked away were Patri Guijarro, Aitana Bonmati, Mapi Leon, Mariona Caldentey, Sandra Panos, Claudia Pina, Lola Gallardo, Ainhoa Moraza, Nerea Eizagirre, Amaiur Sarriegi, Lucia Garcia, Ona Batlle, Leila Ouahabi, Laia Aleixandri and Andrea Pereira.
A statement from the Spanish FA read: ‘The RFEF can confirm that, throughout today, we received 15 emails from 15 players of the women’s senior soccer team… in which they state that the current situation affects ‘significantly’ their emotional state and their health and that, ‘as long as it is not reversed’, they resign from the Spanish national team.
Bonmati, Caldentey and Batlle are the only three members of that group who have been included in Spain’s World Cup squad this summer.
And during his press conference ahead of his side’s World Cup final match against England on Sunday, Vilda batted away questions regarding his relationship with those 15 players, stating: ‘Next question please.’
When pressed over whether not having some of those key names as part of his playing cohort in Australia made him ‘sad’, Vilda again seemingly refused to comment.
Speaking on Sunday’s match, the 42-year-old said: ‘What we want to do tomorrow is to be the best in the world and we’ll do this by winning the final.’
The last time the two sides faced eachother was in the quarter-finals of the 2022 European Championship, with Sarina Wiegman’s side being victorious with Georgia Stanway scoring in extra-time to send the Lionesses through to the semi-final.
After that match several Spain stars made complaints to RFEF president Rubiales, claiming they felt they were unprepared to face England and criticised their preparations in the run up to the game.
Speaking on Saturday on that defeat in the Euros, Vilda said: ‘It was a game that we know we were on top, but the result is what counts.’
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Spain’s Alexia Putellas painted a frustrated figure after she was subbed off against Sweden
Players wrote to Spanish FA president, Luis Rubiales, but the football chief failed to agree
‘Games against England really require our best. She [Wiegman] is a coach that with her results has shown the fruits of her work, it’s not easy what she has achieved.
‘You don’t achieve this without excellent preparation and star players. It will be a tactical match and it’s a final that we’re going to fight with everything.’
During the World Cup, tensions have been visible between Vilda and his playing cohort, stemming from the deep-rooted divisions between him and the team.
He was snubbed from celebrations by his team following their win against the Netherlands, while two-time Ballon d’Or winner Alexia Putellas swatted away the hand of her coach after being substituted against Sweden.
The ‘rebellion’ made front page headlines in Spain during the lead-up to the World Cup
Following the letters from the 15 players, the RFEF issued a strongly worded statement condemning the actions.
It said: ‘The RFEF is not going to allow the players to question the continuity of the national coach and his coaching staff, since making those decisions does not fall within their powers.’
It added that the decision to refuse an international call up was a ‘very serious infraction and can carry sanctions of two and five years of disqualification’.
But in response, key players Guijarro, Leon and Pina refused to apologise.
Leon said: ‘It will really p*** me off not to go to the World Cup, but my values come first,’ Leon said in a statement.
‘It’s not a decision to be taken lightly, but my decision is clear. Mapi León has a way of life and values. I can’t go back if the situation doesn’t change.’