Aragnoes and Raul unite to end speculation
MADRID, Feb 21 (Reuters) - Spain coach Luis Aragones and Raul joined forces on Thursday to call for an end to the debate over whether the Real Madrid striker should be included in the national squad ahead of Euro 2008.
Raul is the country's leading all-time scorer with 44 goals, and with 102 caps has made more appearances than any other outfield player since debuting as a 19-year-old in October 1996.
He has not featured for Spain in a year and a half since being dropped by Aragones at the beginning of the Euro 2008 qualification campaign, prompting a steady clamour of protest from the Madrid-based sports media in particular.
'We want to end the speculation for the good of Spain, for the Federation, for the player and for me,' Aragones told a news conference.
'His behaviour with me has always been exemplary and I hope mine has been with him.'
Raul, 30, last played for Spain on Sept. 6 2006 in the 3-2 defeat to Northern Ireland at Windsor Park in a Euro 2008 qualifier.
He was left out of squad for the following game in Sweden -- the first time he had been dropped for reasons other than injury in 10 years.
Raul has not been included since, while the side went on to finish top of their group. Local media have blamed a reported dispute between the two at the World Cup in Germany in 2006 for his continued exclusion.
'It hurts me every time the debate blows up before a Spain game with a lot of things said that aren't true,' said Raul.
'The Spain team should be above all this. The coach should be supported in his job, I want the best for Spain. We spoke about it and decided this was the best way to move forward.
'Nothing has happened of a serious nature between us. Aragones has my utmost respect.'
Raul, who has scored 11 league goals for Real this season, said he thought it would be difficult for him to make the side for Euro 2008 but had not given up hope.
Aragones has always maintained the door was open for Raul's return but has favoured Valencia's David Villa and Liverpool's Fernando Torres as his first choices up front.
Raul Tamudo and Luis Garcia of Espanyol, and Real Mallorca's Daniel Guiza have been fighting it out for the supporting roles recently.