Spain spoilt for choice between sticks

BARCELONA - Victor Valdes is having another outstanding season for Barcelona and his continued absence from Spain's squad underlines the embarrassment of goalkeeping riches for the European champions.

Valdes, who was called up once in August 2005 but did not play, has no chance of ousting Real Madrid's Iker Casillas as Spain's number one and if he makes Vicente del Bosque's World Cup squad will be third choice behind Liverpool's Pepe Reina.

The 28-year-old Catalan has conceded just 19 goals in 30 La Liga matches this term, compared to 26 for Casillas, and is closing in on a second straight "Zamora" award as Spain's top domestic keeper to add to the one he won in 2004/05.

A string of important saves have helped keep alive Barca's hopes of defending their La Liga title and there is even a website dedicated to persuading Del Bosque to select him.

"All this debate upsets me quite a lot, I must say," Valdes said in an interview with Monday's El Pais daily.

"What annoys me most is when people say I should be called up for what I have won. If that happens I want it to be for my abilities and not because I play for Barcelona and win titles."

Del Bosque is certain to stick with Casillas, who also captains the side, and Reina while the number of keepers lining up to challenge Villarreal's Diego Lopez for the third slot underscores Spain's strength in depth.


It is a luxury rival coaches like England's Fabio Capello and Germany's Joachim Loew can only dream of.

"There are some excellent goalkeepers in this country who, like me, do not get called up either," added Valdes, naming Sevilla's Andres Palop, Athletic Bilbao's Gorka Iraizoz and Deportivo Coruna's Daniel Aranzubia.

Del Bosque, who must name his final 23-man squad by June 1, has refused to be drawn on the Valdes question.

"Valdes is one of a group of keepers of an excellent level who could get a call-up," he said in an interview with football magazine Don Balon last week.

"I am an independent man, I don't have any restraints and I try to be as fair as possible.

"We don't hold anything against anyone and obviously he has a chance."

Spain are in World Cup Group H in South Africa alongside Switzerland, Chile and Honduras.

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