SEVILLE, Spain — Spain got its most experienced player, Sergio Busquets, back at the European Championship on Friday.
The Spanish soccer federation said Busquets tested negative for COVID-19 on Thursday, so he was allowed back with the team after being in isolation since testing positive on June 6.
The Barcelona midfielder will be in Seville for Spain’s match against Poland on Saturday and coach Luis Enrique said he will be available to play.
Luis Enrique said Busquets showed no symptoms of the virus while in isolation and was able to practice at home. He did not say if he planed to use the midfielder from the start on Saturday.
“He was away, but it was as if he had been here,” Luis Enrique said. “You can tell that he is our captain.”
🤗 ¡¡YA ESTAMOS TODOS!!
🗣️ "Agradezco mucho a los compañeros, al presidente y al staff haberme hecho partícipe desde la distancia. Os echaba de menos".
— Selección Española de Fútbol (@SeFutbol) June 18, 2021
Busquets received a warm welcome from his teammates, who lined up to wait for him at the entrance to the team’s training center in Madrid. He hugged each one of them as they applauded.
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“You have no idea how much I missed you,” Busquets said. “Thank you very much for all the messages expressing your concern. You made me feel like I was here even though I had to be at home for a few days. I’m very proud of all of you. We have a long road ahead of us but I’m certain that it will all be OK.”
Busquets said it was “almost impossible” to stay positive after hearing the news from the team doctors about his positive result.
“You start thinking if you are going to be OK, if you are going to be back in time,” Busquets said. “There were a lot of questions without answers going through my mind during a difficult moment.”
Spain opened its Euro 2020 campaign with a 0-0 draw against Sweden in Group E.
Diego Llorente also went into isolation because of the coronavirus but the defender has already rejoined the squad after health officials determined his test result was a false-positive.
Fears of a COVID-19 outbreak prompted Luis Enrique to call up a parallel squad to train in a separate bubble in case there were more positive results within the team. Personalized practice routines had to be implemented and the team’s final warm-up match had to be played with under-21 players.
The entire squad was hastily vaccinated just days before Spain’s opening match against Sweden.
Busquets is the most experienced player in Spain’s squad. He is the only one left from the World Cup-winning team in 2010.
Busquets was replaced by Rodri Hernandez in the opener against Sweden, and Jordi Alba took over as team captain in his absence.
The federation had considered dropping Busquets and Llorente from the squad after they tested positive but Luis Enrique decided to wait for them.