MADRID, Spain, Aug 26 – New Spain coach Julen Lopetegui on Friday left out veteran captain Iker Casillas, the country’s most-capped player, from his first squad as manager for upcoming internationals against Belgium and Liechtenstein.
“Iker is an absolute reference for the squad, a true icon yesterday, today and I hope tomorrow for Spanish football,” Lopetegui told a news conference to announce his first squad since taking over from Vicente del Bosque in July.
“But we decided that our first-choice goalkeeper will be David de Gea. In any case we are not closing the door (to Casillas) and will continue to track his performance, but have decided not to include him in this list.”
Pepe Reina and Adrian were the other two goalkeepers included as a total of 11 changes were made to the squad from that which went to the Euros.
Casillas, 35, has won two European Championships and the World Cup over the course of his 167 senior appearances for his country.
Spain take on Belgium in a friendly in Brussels on September 1, which is Lopetegui’s first game in charge, and four days later host Liechtenstein at home in Leon in their opening 2018 World Cup qualifier.
Lopetegui, who brought Casillas to Porto last summer while in charge of the Portuguese club, also left out fellow veterans Cesc Fabregas, Pedro Rodriguez, and Juanfran Torres from the squad.
A former goalkeeper who started a handful of games for Real Madrid and Barcelona, Lopetegui was in the Spain squad at the 1994 World Cup and coached Spain’s youth squads from 2010-14.
He said during his presentation that he would oversee an “evolution” rather than a “revolution” of the national team, who were eliminated from Euro 2016 by Italy in the last 16.
Casillas was relegated to the substitutes bench behind Manchester United’s De Gea during Spain’s 2-0 defeat to the Italians which ended their hopes of a third consecutive European Championship crown.
In June he hinted at his international retirement by posting a video clip of a Rambo film in which the lead character played by Sylvester Stallone says: “I don’t know where but I am going.”
Spain will also face Italy, Albania, Israel and Macedonia in qualifying Group G for the World Cup.
Goalkeepers: David De Gea (Manchester United/ENG), Pepe Reina (Napoli/ITA), Adrian (West Ham/ENG)
Defenders: Jordi Alba, Gerard Pique, Sergi Roberto (all Barcelona), Marc Bartra (Borussia Dortmund/GER), Sergio Ramos, Dani Carvajal (both Real Madrid), Cesar Azpilicueta (Chelsea/ENG), Javi Martinez (Bayern Munich/GER)
Midfielders: Sergio Busquets (Barcelona/ESP), David Silva (Manchester City/ENG), Saul Niguez, Koke (both Atletico Madrid), Juan Mata (Manchester United/ENG), Thiago Alcantara (Bayern Munich/GER), Marco Asensio (Real Madrid)
Strikers: Diego Costa (Chelsea/ENG), Alvaro Morata (Real Madrid), Nolito (Manchester City/ENG), Lucas Vazquez (Real Madrid), Vitolo (Sevilla), Paco Alcacer (Valencia)