MADRID — Veteran striker David Villa was summoned by Spain on Friday for the first time since the 2014 World Cup, and became the first Major League Soccer player to join the national squad.
The 35-year-old New York City FC striker was included in a 26-man squad by coach Julen Lopetegui that will host Italy on Sept. 2 and visit Liechtenstein on Sept. 5 in another World Cup qualifier.
The high-profile match against Italy in Madrid will help decide the teams’ qualifying fate for the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
The teams are tied for the Group G lead after six matches. Only the group winner automatically qualifies. The runner-up will have to go through a playoff.
Villa is the top scorer in the MLS with 19. He is Spain’s all-time record scorer with 59.
“I’m moved,” Villa said on his social media accounts. “Thanks to everyone who have faith in me and gave me this opportunity to wear this jersey again.”
Villa has 97 international appearances for Spain and played in the last three World Cups. He has been with New York City since 2015.
He announced he would retire from international competition after the World Cup in Brazil, but later left open the possibility of continuing.
“We believed he was needed now,” Lopetegui said. “We saw him with the right attitude.”
Villa fills the void among the strikers left by Diego Costa, who hasn’t played for Chelsea and is in his native Brazil after being told he is not part of the English team’s plans.
Lopetegui said Costa was left out because he was “unable to practice.” He will continue to be monitored.
“We always try to create solutions for everyone, but right now (Costa) is going through a unique situation and there is nothing we can do about it,” Lopetegui said.
One of the players picked by Lopetegui was Gerard Deulofeu, who was re-signed by Barcelona in the offseason. Borussia Dortmund defender Marc Bartra was also called up, as was newcomer Suso, a winger with AC Milan.
Spain will host Italy at Real Madrid’s Santiago Bernabeu Stadium.
“It will be a beautiful game,” Lopetegui said. “We will need to play a great match and do things very well so we can win at the Bernabeu.”
Spain and Italy drew 1-1 when they met in their qualifier in Turin last year.
Goalkeepers: Kepa Arrizabalaga (Athletic Bilbao), David De Gea (Manchester United), Pepe Reina (Napoli).
Defenders: Jordi Alba (Barcelona), Cesar Azpilicueta (Chelsea), Marc Bartra (Borussia Dortmund), Gerard Pique (Barcelona), Dani Carvajal (Real Madrid), Nacho Fernandez (Real Madrid), Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid), Inigo Monreal (Arsenal).
Midfielders: Francisco “Isco” Alarcon (Real Madrid), Marco Asensio (Real Madrid), Thiago Alcantara (Bayern Munich), Sergio Busquets (Barcelona), Andres Iniesta (Barcelona), Gerard Deulofeu (Barcelona), David Silva (Manchester City), Suso (AC Milan), Saul Niguez (Atletico Madrid), Jorge “Koke” Resurreccion (Atletico Madrid), Pedro Rodriguez (Chelsea).
Forwards: Iago Aspas (Celta Vigo), Alvaro Morata (Chelsea), Victor “Vitolo” Machin (Las Palmas), David Villa (New York City).
AP Sports Writer Steve Douglas contributed to this report.
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