Victor Valdes injury causes Spain keeper scrap for World Cup spot
Following the news that Barcelona goalkeeper Victor Valdes is out for the rest of the season and World Cup, due to a serious knee injury, it gives the chance for one of Spain’s many talented stoppers to earn a place on the plane to Brazil instead.
Valdes, who is out of contract in the summer and set to leave the Catalan giants, tore his anterior cruciate ligament during his side’s 3-0 win over Celta Vigo. The news to would have hit Spain, World Cup fourth-favourites at 7/1, hard.
National boss Vicente del Bosque now has a tough task on his hands deciding who to replace the 20-capped keeper in his squad. A player with Valdes’ experience will surely be missed, but there are a few stoppers who fancy their chances.
Valdes has won the prestigious Ricardo Zamora trophy (awarded to the goalkeeper in La Liga with the best goals-to-games ratio of the campaign) a record-equalling five times.
It seems almost certain that Spain captain and record-capped Iker Casillas, despite his lack of appearances for Real Madrid this term, will get the call-up, as well as squad regular Pepe Reina – on loan at Napoli from Liverpool.
That means that there is just one spot up for grabs, and there are are few fantastic contenders waiting to get picked from the pool.
Casillas’ Madrid teammate Diego Lopez will feel he has the best chance making Spain’s 23-man summer squad, having played every single minute in La Liga this season for the title second-favourites (5/2).
Lopez gained his only cap for Spain in a 30 minute appearance in a friendly against Macedonia back in 2009, whilst playing for Villarreal, but has not received a call-up since. The 32-year-old is currently third in the Zamora Trophy this season, behind Atletico Madrid’s Belgium stopper Thibaut Courtois and Valdes himself.
Manchester United number one David de Gea provides the closest competition to Lopez, and is no doubt going to be Spain’s number one in the near future for many years to come. Although yet to win a senior cap, the young star has been in the squad on a couple occasions, and most recently on the roster for the match with France in March 2013.
De Gea, 23, has been one of the very few players to impress this season for the Red Devils, as United sit well behind the top four in seventh place (40/1 to finish in the Champions League places). It now seems to be the perfect time to integrate him in the defending World Cup champions’ set-up.
Outside chances for the third goalkeeper spot include Athletic Bilbao’s Gorka Iraizoz and Sergio Asenjo of Villarreal, who are fourth and fifth respectively in the race for the Zamora Trophy this campaign.
Iraizoz has been in fine form for the Basque side as his eight clean sheets have helped Bilbao to fourth in the league so far – six points ahead of fifth-placed Sevilla. However, at the age of 33, perhaps his chance has come too late for a first international call-up.
Step in Asenjo, 24, who has 15 caps at Under-21 level and played in all but one matches this season for his club in the league. Villarreal are in seventh in La Liga so far, five points off Sevilla, but with a game in hand, and you would think he would be a better choice than Iraizoz.