Once Spain's star striker, Fernando Torres' scoring slump may be threatening his chances of helping defend his country's European title next summer.
Spain coach Vicente Del Bosque sat the Chelsea striker in the stands for the first time for Tuesday's Euro 2012 qualifier, favoring the in-form Alvaro Negredo and David Villa to spearhead the attack, with Fernando Llorente starting on the bench.
Del Bosque made it clear after Spain's 6-0 rout of Liechtenstein that Torres' past success won't be enough to regain his leading role with the world champions.
"(Torres) is an important player, but those who stand out with their clubs will get the call to the national team, not the other way around," the former Real Madrid coach said.
The 27-year-old Torres has been heavily criticized for scoring just a single goal since his 50 million-pound ($81 million) move to Chelsea from Liverpool last January.
His troubles, however, have been even greater with Spain.
Torres netted the winner in the 1-0 Euro 2008 final win over Germany, but a nagging injury saw him relegated to the substitutes' bench during last summer's World Cup and he has struggled to break into the team ever since. His last goals for Spain came on Sept. 3 last year when he scored a double in a 4-0 win over Liechtenstein in the teams' first qualifier.
While failing to recover his scoring touch, Torres has watched Barcelona striker Villa become Spain's all-time top scorer and Negredo of Sevilla and Llorente of Athletic Bilbao jump ahead of him in the pecking order.
Perhaps even more worrying for the Chelsea striker, Valencia's Roberto Soldado is making a strong bid to crack a Spanish squad that is also loaded with versatile attacking midfielders such as Andres Iniesta, Juanma Mata and the young Thiago Alcantara.
Negredo, who scored a double to spark Spain's rout of Liechtenstein, said he understood Torres' difficult position.
"(Torres) came down to the locker room after the game and congratulated me," Negredo said. "I am not going to get into whether he was upset or not. I would understand it if he were, because it is not pleasant to come and then not play a minute.
"But he is a great teammate and one of the national team's captains."
Spain's sixth win in as many games on Tuesday sealed its qualification for the European championship.