Julen Lopetegui has insisted he had decided to name Aritz Aduriz in his final Spain squad of the year before the Athletic Bilbao striker became the first player in history to score five goals in a UEFA Europa League match on Thursday evening.
Lopetegui had previously overlooked Aduriz since assuming the reins in mid-2015, but picked him for the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ qualifier at home to FYR Macedonia on Saturday, 12 November and the friendly against England at Wembley three days later.
"I have been following Aduriz for some time and I know that he is playing very well at the moment,” said the 50-year-old former goalkeeper. “I can assure you that the five goals he scored in the Europa League didn't influence my decision, because I had already decided that he would be part of the squad.
"Aduriz gives us alternatives and other options in attack. I think that he can be a very good player for us."
*Defensive reshuffle *
Lopetegui will be without Sergio Ramos, Gerard Pique and Jordi Alba – mainstays of the Spain backline – for the upcoming matches, but believes they have capable cover.
“We have a lot of absences and we can't stop to mourn them,” he said. “They are what they are and we can't change them.
“Clearly we are low on numbers in defence and we have had to reconstruct this department, bringing in players who are versatile and capable of playing a number of positions such as Nacho [Monreal] and [Cesar] Azpilicueta. We have full confidence in all of the players who have been called up. Now we will look at how will we set up defensively in the absence of Ramos and Pique, but all of the players in the squad are capable guys."
Sevilla left-back Sergio Escudero, 27, won his maiden international call-up, while Villarreal goalkeeper Sergio Asenjo – like Aduriz – was summoned by Lopetegui for the first time. There was no place in the squad for Chelsea pair Cesc Fabregas and Pedro.
Spain sit top of Group G in European qualifying for Russia 2018, above Italy on goal difference, with Albania and Israel a point behind.