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NYCFC’s David Villa earns Spanish National Team recall

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A familiar face will be back in training with the Spanish National Team next week ahead of a pair of crucial World Cup qualifiers.

Spain manager Julen Lopetegui made the surprising selection of New York City FC Designated Player David Villa in his 26-man squad to face Italy in Madrid on September 2 and Liechtenstein on the road on September 5. It’s Villa’s first national team call-up since the 2014 World Cup.

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The 35-year-old has starred for NYCFC since joining the club in 2014 ahead of its inaugural season. Since then, he’s been tearing up MLS, scoring 60 goals in 87 matches and becoming one of the league’s most-feared attackers.

His goal-scoring acumen clearly was noticed by Lopetegui, who said in a press conference announcing the squad Friday that he believed Villa could offer something to the squad.

The call-up is a huge boost for MLS. Most European and South American national team coaches refuse to call in players playing in MLS, but Sebastian Giovinco’s recent Italy call-up and Villa’s Spain call-up may be the start of a new trend of MLS stars still keeping their national team status.

Iker Casillas to MLS? Real Madrid legend: “I would like to play in the United States”

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So, Iker Casillas fancies heading to the USA does he…

Alright. We’re listening, Iker.

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In an interview with the Wall Street Journal Real Madrid’s legendary goalkeeper, who has guarded the net for Los Blancos and the Spanish national team for well over a decade, spoke about potentially playing in Major League Soccer in the coming years.

Hot on the heels of David Villa, Kaka, Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard joining the league, Casillas is open to moving Stateside when the time is right.

“I have no problem in saying that I would like to play in the United States,” Casillas said. “I would like the experience of a different kind of football and if that happened tomorrow it would allow me to remember and value the time I’ve spent at Madrid.”

Hmm, interesting. Casillas also went on to say that the USA is a good option because he will never have to directly compete against his beloved Real.

[ RELATED: Casillas: “La Decima bigger than World Cup win” ]

Casillas, 33, is contracted to the reigning European champions until 2017 but in recent seasons his fluctuating form has seen plenty of criticism in the Spanish capital, an further afield, for the kid who came through the academy. During Jose Mourinho’s time in charge of Real he preferred Diego Lopez in goal over Casillas and recently the captain of the Spanish national team has had to battle it out with Costa Rican international Keylor Navas for the starting spot. Recent struggles aside, Casillas is still one of the finest goalkeeper to ever play the game.

The Spaniard has won three UEFA Champions League titles, five La Liga crowns and has played in over 700 games for Real and is the most capped player in Spanish national team history with 160 appearances for La Furia Rojo, as he has won the 2010 World Cup and European Championships in 2008 and 2012 with Spain. Yeah, his resume is pretty darn impressive.

But could Casillas really be heading to MLS any time soon? In 2017, when his current deal with Real expires, there will be new teams in Atlanta, a rebranded franchise in LA up and running and David Beckham’s (Casillas’ old teammate) Miami franchise could be sorted out by then. Plenty of new options for Casillas, as well as the likes of NYCFC, LA Galaxy and the other big spenders who would surely love to snap him up and bring him to MLS.

Watch this space.

Club vs. country: Cesc Fabregas out for Spain after aggravating hamstring injury

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Cesc Fabregas will not feature for the Spanish national team in their upcoming games against Belarus and Germany after aggravating a hamstring issue by playing for Chelsea against Liverpool last Saturday.

Following the pivotal clash at Anfield, which Chelsea won 2-1, Blues boss Jose Mourinho revealed that Fabregas had played with an injury and that he had “gambled” by playing the Spanish playmaker.

“Fabregas has a hamstring injury,” Mourinho admitted. “He is a fantastic professional. He gambled… I also gambled. He made himself available.”

Chelsea’s boss was then asked if Fabregas could link up with Spain for the international break and simply replied “he can’t. If he does, he will be back.”

And that is exactly what happened.

The old club vs. country debate will rumble on around this one as Fabregas clearly put his club side before that of his national team. Is that right? Fabregas’ Chelsea teammate Diego Costa was left out of the latest Spain’s squad so he could recover from injury but Mourinho went ahead and put Fabregas’ fitness in jeopardy for an important league match.

Spanish national team boss Vicente del Bosque was probably less than happy with that, but with a winnable European qualifier against Belarus and then a friendly against Germany next week, Spain should be fine without Fabregas.

In a statement released on Tuesday, the Spanish Football Federation gave the following assessment of Fabregas’ injury:

“The Chelsea midfielder has been ruled out for the games against Belarus and Germany following tests and an evaluation of his condition that was carried out this morning by the medical staff of the Spanish national team.

“The MRI done this morning in the Sanitas Clinic in La Moraleja (Madrid) showed a clear improvement with respect to the one done by his club on Sunday.

“Although the MRI discards a hamstring tear, the player continues to have discomfort and the medical team considers that his involvement in the next games would not be advisable for his complete recovery.”

Vicente del Bosque to stand down as Spain boss after EURO 2016

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The Spanish national team have gone through some growing pains recently. Maybe this has something to do with it.

On Friday legendary Spanish national team manager Vicente del Bosque said he will leave “La Furia Roja” after the 2016 European Championships in France.

Del Bosque told Spanish newspaper AS “my intention is to continue until France 2016 and then leave after.”

The 63-year-old manager led Spain to its first-ever World Cup title in 2010, as well as the 2012 European Championship crown. However, after their dismal display during the 2014 World Cup in Brazil (Spain were knocked out at the group stages) and a slow start to their EURO 2016 qualifying campaign, del Bosque and Spain have come under increasing criticism.

The former Real Madrid boss took charge of Spain in 2008 after Luis Aragones guided the Iberian nation to its first-ever major tournament trophy at EURO 2008. Del Bosque’s men have dominated international soccer ever since but cracks are beginning to show and with plenty of experienced players now coming towards the end of their career, now seems like the right time for del Bosque to move on.

Last week Spain lost their first qualifier in over eight years as Slovakia beat them 2-1, but del Bosque was always likely to step down after the 2016 tournament as that’s when his current contract runs out with the Spanish Football Federation.

Diego Costa set to miss Champions League final, World Cup in doubt

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Atletico Madrid look to have suffered a huge blow ahead of the UEFA Champions League final against Real Madrid this Saturday in Lisbon: top scorer and talisman Diego Costa is reportedly out through injury.

Costa, 25, hobbled off during Atleti’s title-decider against Barcelona last Sunday and although his team pulled through and won the La Liga title thanks to a 1-1 draw in the Nou Camp, Costa’s hamstring injury was in the back of everyone’s minds.

Atletico head coach Diego Simeone tried to stay positive when asked about the injury but it is believed that Costa’s chances of making the final are slim.

If it turns out that the 35 goal hotshot will not be fit to face Real in the UCL final and the severity of his hamstring strain could also rule him out of  Spain’s World Cup squad. Only time will tell how long it will take to recover but Atletico confirmed that Costa has suffered a “a grade I injury to his femoral biceps muscle” in his right hamstring. That type of injury takes at least two weeks to recover from. Our friends over at Soccerly state that Costa should be okay to compete at the World Cup this summer but his reoccurring hamstring issues will worry Spanish boss Vicente del Bosque.

The Brazilian born striker, who has scored 54 goals in 87 appearances for Atletico, has been pivotal in the success of Simeone’s side and is now set to miss the chance to hand Atletico Madrid their first-ever European title in club history. Bitter rivals Real will be rubbing their hands with glee as news of Costa’s injury filters through.

Other Atletico players have stepped up to the plate this season with David Villa and Raul Garcia adding 26 goals between them but Costa’s important to Atleti is about more than goals. When you watch his tireless performances closely as their lone forward, you appreciate just how much effort he puts in off the ball. His runs into the channels draw defenders away and allow midfielder such as Garcia, Turan and others to find pockets of spaces to score and cause problems.

If Costa, as expected, does miss the UCL final then Atletico’s chances of winning the crown have diminished substantially.