Gabri García and Juanito Gutiérrez have been selected for Spain's UEFA EURO 2004™ squad.
By Iván Modia
Real Betis Balompié centre-back Juanito Gutiérrez has received a surprise call-up for Spain's UEFA EURO 2004™ squad.
The defender has been included in Iñaki Sáez's 23-man squad as cover for Carlos Marchena, Iván Helguera and César Martín, with the coach explaining: "I have a lot of experience in tournaments like this, and I think I'll need more central defenders because they get red cards and have to be replaced."
Juanito was delighted with the news of his selection, but made it clear that he wanted to see action in Portugal. "There had been rumours, but I didn't know anything about my inclusion and that's why I'm very happy," he said. "I want to play in the finals, I don't just want to be a substitute."
However, with so many talented players at his disposal, Sáez has been forced to make some major omissions from the list, with Arsenal FC's Premiership-winning striker José Antonio Reyes and Valencia CF's UEFA Cup hero, Mista, both missing the cut. "There are a lot of players who deserved to be here, but I can only choose 23," he said.
The absence of Reyes and Mista will leave Spain with just five attacking players for the tournament: Fernando Torres, Fernando Morientes, Joseba Etxeberria, Albert Luque and Raúl González. "Raúl is an example for the other players," said the coach. "Besides, he wants to add a title to his collection."
Sáez, who led the Spanish Under-20 side to victory at the FIFA World Youth Championship in 1999, has picked five players who were involved in that tournament, in Iker Casillas, Carlos Marchena, Xavi Hernández, Gabri García and Daniel Aranzubia.
"I've chosen Gabri because he can play in many different positions, and I always said I needed a young third goalkeeper, like Aranzubia, who is willing to get some experience," explained Sáez, who has left out more experienced goalkeepers José Manuel Reina and Víctor Valdés.
There were no surprises in midfield, though, where Betis's Joaquín Sánchez would appear to be the in-form player. "He has reached his best level in the final games of the Primera División season," said Sáez. "This was the type of reaction I demanded from him."
Iker Casillas (Real Madrid CF)
Santiago Cañizares (Valencia CF)
Daniel Aranzubia (Athletic Club Bilbao)
Carlos Marchena (Valencia CF)
Carles Puyol (FC Barcelona)
Raúl Bravo (Real Madrid CF)
César Martín (RC Deportivo La Coruña)
Iván Helguera (Real Madrid CF)
Míchel Salgado (Real Madrid CF)
Juanito Gutiérrez (Real Betis Balompié)
Gabri García (FC Barcelona)
David Albelda (Valencia CF)
Rubén Baraja (Valencia CF)
Vicente Rodríguez (Valencia CF)
Joaquín Sánchez (Real Betis Balompié)
Juan Carlos Valerón (RC Deportivo La Coruña)
Xabi Alonso (Real Sociedad de Fútbol)
Xavi Hernández (FC Barcelona)
Joseba Etxeberria (Athletic Club Bilbao)
Fernando Morientes (AS Monaco FC)
Raúl González (Real Madrid CF)
Fernando Torres (Club Atlético de Madrid)
Albert Luque (RC Deportivo La Coruña)