Aragones drops captain Raul from Spain squad

September 29, 2006

MADRID, Sept 29 (Reuters) - Spain captain Raul was dropped from the national side for the first time in 10 years for reasons other than injury on Friday when he was left out for next week's Euro 2008 qualifier away to Sweden.

'I have chosen the players who I think are in the best form at this moment in time,' coach Luis Aragones told a news conference.

'This is a decision for this match alone and I'm not going to deny any player the right to play for Spain in the future.

'He is an extraordinary player with an impressive CV and I'm sure he will come back on future occasions.'

'I haven't spoken to Raul about it. I don't usually talk to the players unless they are injured.

Raul, 29, said he respected Aragones's decision and would work hard to regain his place.

'It's the coach's decision and I have to keep working,' he was quoted as saying on the Web site of sports daily Marca.

'The national team is more important than any individual interests. I will be supporting the team with all my heart from my home. I will always be the national team's number one fan.'

Once the golden boy of Spanish football, Raul is his country's leading all-time goalscorer and has made more appearances than any other outfield player.

He made his debut as a 19-year-old under then coach Javier Clemente in the 0-0 draw against the Czech Republic in a World Cup qualifier in Prague in October 1996 and scored his first goal in the 2-0 win at home to the former Yugoslavia two months later.

He played his 102nd game for Spain in their humiliating 3-2 defeat against Northern Ireland earlier this month and scored his 44th goal in the 3-1 victory over Tunisia during the World Cup.

His position in the squad has come under scrutiny after two lean years at Real Madrid. He scored his first goals for Real since Oct. 26 2005 when he grabbed a double in the club's 4-1 victory over Dynamo Kiev in the Champions League on Tuesday.

Aragones also dropped winger Joaquin, left back Mariano Pernia and Celta Vigo midfielder Borja Oubina who were included for the qualifiers against Liechtenstein and Northern Ireland.

Pernia, who has lost his place at Atletico Madrid, was replaced by Deportivo Coruna left back Joan Capdevila, while Valencia's versatile winger Miguel Angel Angulo, who can also play behind a lead striker, was drafted in to the 18-man squad.

Real Madrid full back Michel Salgado and Valencia centre back Carlos Marchena were unavailable because of injury.

Spain, who beat Liechtenstein 4-0 in their opening game in Group F, are in joint second place level with Denmark, Iceland and Northern Ireland and three points behind leaders Sweden.

After meeting Sweden in Solna they will play a friendly against Argentina in Murcia on Oct. 11.

Goalkeepers: Iker Casillas (Real Madrid), Pepe Reina (Liverpool).

Defenders: Antonio Lopez (Atletico Madrid), Pablo Ibanez (Atletico Madrid), Carles Puyol (Barcelona), Juanito (Real Betis), Joan Capdevila (Deportivo Coruna), Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid)

Midfielders: Cesc Fabregas (Arsenal), Jose Antonio Reyes (Real Madrid), Andres Iniesta (Barcelona), Xavi (Barcelona), Luis Garcia (Liverpool), Xabi Alonso (Liverpool), David Albelda (Valencia), Miguel Angel Angulo (Valencia)

Forwards: Fernando Torres (Atletico Madrid), David Villa (Valencia)