Luis Aragonés has named four Liverpool players in his final 23-man squad for this summer’s European Championships, to be held in Austria and Switzerland.
Pepe Reina, Álvaro Arbeloa, Xabi Alonso and Fernando Torres are all involved.
Spain will play a friendly against Peru on May 31st, but their Euro 2008 fixtures get underway on June 10th against Russia in Innsbruck. Four days later at the same venue they play Sweden before ending their group games with a match against Greece on June 16th in Salzburg.
The decision to omit some star names, including Real’s Raul, whilst including the uncapped Santiago Cazorla and Sergio García has raised eyebrows, but Aragonés was clear that he would make the decisions he felt were right: “I’m the one, for better or worse, who has to choose and I have chosen.” Álvaro Arbeloa has only played around 15 minutes for Spain too.
Aragonés caused upset at Espanyol by not picking any of their players in his squad, including Liverpool-linked winger Albert Riera. DiarioSport reported earlier this week that Riera was a Liverpool target with Sebastian Leto part of the deal. They suggested Liverpool had made an offer of around £8m with Espanyol holding out for £12m. Fiorentina were also said to be interested, but Liverpool may be helped thanks to Espanyol’s sporting director being former Liverpool head scout and long-time friend of Rafa’s Paco Herrera.
The inclusion of Liverpool’s young Argentinean midfielder Leto in the deal would be on a loan basis. Leto has suffered from passport problems this season and hasn’t played for the first team since October. Spanish government rules on work permits are different to British rules so he should have no problems playing in Spain whilst waiting for a resolution to the issue.
On Friday Marco van Basten announced the changes he had implemented to reduce his 30-man squad down to 26, the final step before he takes it down to the 23 allowed for the finals. Included in the 26 are Liverpool forwards Ryan Babel and Dirk Kuyt, who made a massive contribution to the much-improved form of Liverpool in the latter stages of the season. van Basten has to lose on goalkeeper from the four he’s selected, meaning two outfield players will have to be given the bad news they aren’t needed after all. With seven forwards amongst that number there are no guarantees at all that the Liverpool duo will be making an appearance in the finals.
The Dutch coach has one friendly before the deadline for the final squad to be sent to UEFA, a game against Ukraine on 24th May. After the deadline he has two more friendlies, against Denmark and Wales.
Holland open their campaign in Berne against Italy on June 9th, the same venue as their next game against France on June 13th and their final game against Romania on June 17th.
Meanwhile the Mail report that Liverpool will try to sign Maik Taylor from relegated Birmingham as cover for Pepe Reina next season. Scott Carson is for sale – the Mail say Fulham are now showing interest – and although David Martin just signed a new deal to stay on at Anfield the Mail say he’s going to be going out on loan next season, with Watford a possible destination. It’s been alleged for some time that Charles Itandje’s worrying performances on the field are less of a concern than his unprofessional attitude off it, and the Mail say he’s been told to try and find another club. Taylor is out of contract next month meaning Liverpool can sign him on a free transfer.
Goalkeepers: Iker Casillas (Real Madrid), Pepe Reina (Liverpool), Andrés Palop (Sevilla).
Defenders: Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid), Álvaro Arbeloa (Liverpool), Carles Puyol (Barcelona), Carlos Marchena (Valencia), Raúl Albiol (Valencia), Juanito (Real Betis Balompié), Joan Capdevilla (Villarreal), Fernando Navarro (RCD Mallorca).
Midfielders: Marcos Senna (Villarreal), Xabi Alonso (Liverpool), Xavi Hernández (Barcelona), Cesc Fábregas (Arsenal), Andrés Iniesta (Barcelona), Rubén De la Red (Getafe), David Silva (Valencia), Santiago Cazorla (Villarreal).
Forwards: David Villa (Valencia), Daniel Güiza (RCD Mallorca), Sergio García (Real Zaragoza), Fernando Torres (Liverpool).
Holland squad (provisional):
Goalkeepers: Sander Boschker (FC Twente), Edwin van der Sar (Manchester United), Maarten Stekelenburg (Ajax), Henk Timmer (Feyenoord).
Defenders: Wilfred Bouma (Aston Villa), Tim de Cler (Feyenoord), John Heitinga (Ajax), Joris Mathijsen (Hamburg), Mario Melchiot (Wigan Athletic), Andre Ooijer (Blackburn Rovers), Khalid Boulahrouz (Sevilla)
Midfielders: Ibrahim Afellay (PSV Eindhoven), Giovanni van Bronckhorst (Feyenoord), Orlando Engelaar (FC Twente), Nigel de Jong (Hamburg), Denny Landzaat (Feyenoord), Wesley Sneijder (Real Madrid), Rafael van der Vaart (Hamburg), Demy de Zeeuw (AZ Alkmaar).
Forwards: Ryan Babel (Liverpool), Klaas Jan Huntelaar (Ajax), Dirk Kuyt (Liverpool), Ruud van Nistelrooy (Real Madrid), Robin van Persie (Arsenal), Arjen Robben (Real Madrid), Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink (Celtic).