Spain’s record goalscorer David Villa has been handed a shock recall for their upcoming World Cup qualifiers against Italy and Liechtenstein at the age of 35.
The former Barcelona forward has scored 59 times for his country, winning Euro 2008 and the 2010 World Cup, but has not featured for Spain since they were dumped out of the 2014 World Cup in the group stages.
Villa has scored 19 goals in MLS for New York City FC this season and joins a Spain side currently leading Italy in Group G on goal difference, with four games remaining.
And head coach Julen Lopetegui is happy to welcome back Villa, believing the veteran forward – who has also previously represented Valencia and Atletico Madrid – can make a difference in a crucial double-header.
“I understood that it was necessary to bring back Villa,” he said. “We believe that he can help us.
“He gives us mobility and he is very eager. We trust him.”
Villa last year disputed claims that he had retired from international football, insisting he remained hopeful of a call-up.
“I never said I retired from the national team, because to go with the national team is the most happy [I am] in my life, to play with the national team,” he told the Planet Futbol podcast.
There is no place, though, for Diego Costa who remains AWOL from Chelsea following Blues coach Antonio Conte saying the striker has no future at Stamford Bridge.
AC Milan’s attacking midfielder Suso is in line to make his international debut, though, while Marc Bartra is recalled and Asier Illaramendi drops out.
The Spain squad in full:
Goalkeepers: David de Gea (Manchester United), Pepe Reina (Napoli), Kepa Arrizabalaga (Athletic Bilbao).
Defenders: Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid), Gerard Pique (Barcelona), Marc Bartra (Borussia Dortmund), Nacho (Real Madrid), Dani Carvajal (Real Madrid), Jordi Alba (Barcelona), Nacho Monreal (Arsenal), Cesar Azpilicueta (Chelsea).
Midfielders: Isco (Real Madrid), Thiago Alcantara (Bayern Munich), Sergio Busquets (Barcelona), Suso (AC Milan), David Silva (Manchester City), Andres Iniesta (Barcelona), Saul Niguez (Atletico Madrid), Koke (Atletico Madrid), Marco Asensio (Real Madrid).
Forwards: Iago Aspas (Celta Vigo), Gerard Deulofeu (Barcelona), Vitolo (Las Palmas), Alvaro Morata (Chelsea), Pedro Rodriguez (Chelsea), David Villa (New York City).