Malaga goalkeeper Willy Caballero’s outstanding performance against Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu has reopened the debate, if it ever closed, of why Argentina Coach Alejandro Sabella has never considered him for the national side. The 32-year-old made at least a dozen world class saves against some of the best strikers in Week 9’s game, showing all the attributes of a top ‘keeper with quick reflexes, one-on-one stops, great handling of high balls and some impossible stretches. There was even a close-range save with his feet from Cristiano Ronaldo and it took a penalty of dubious origin in the final minutes for the Portuguese to finally beat Caballero and seal a 2-0 victory.
“I can’t do any more, which is to play like this and send a message [to Sabella]”, Caballero told Onda Cero Radio after the game. While Malaga fans have been used to this level of performance since he joined the club in February 2011 from Elche, where he had spent the previous seven years, the Madrid game has certainly made the Argentine and European media wonder what he has to do to earn a place in Sabella’s World Cup squad for next year’s tournament in Brazil.
His omission is all the more surprising given Sabella is believed to not completely trust any of the two ‘keepers he has mainly relied upon since his appointment as national team Coach, following Argentina’s early exit at the 2011 Copa America. Monaco’s Sergio Romero and Mariano Andujar of Catania have been the mainstays of his squad, while Boca Juniors’ Agustin Orion, Almeria’s Oscar Ustari and Cristian Alvarez of San Lorenzo have also received call-ups. Sabella’s first choice for the No 1 spot has inevitably been Romero, who holds 42 caps, yet following a loan move to Monaco from Sampdoria this summer he has still to make his Ligue 1 debut, boss Claudio Ranieri preferring Croatian Danijel Subasic in his starting line-up.
It is not as if Caballero lacks international experience, albeit at a lower standard than the demands that would be expected of him in Brazil. As a youngster he represented his country at Under-20 level, where he helped the nation win the 2001 FIFA World Youth Championship by playing in the competition’s last two games, and acted as back-up to German Lux for the gold medal triumph at the 2004 Summer Olympics. In addition, he has since demonstrated his credentials during last season’s run with Malaga to the quarter-finals of the Champions League, while two years ago he entered the club’s history books by keeping a clean sheet for 480 minutes and beating the previous record of 429 set by Pedro Contreras in the 2001-02 campaign.
Reports in Argentina this week have it that Sabella and Claudio Gugnali, one of his staff, are in Europe to speak to fringe players such as Porto’s Nicolas Otamendi, Fiorentina pair Gonzalo Rodriguez and Facundo Rocaglia, and Lucas Orban of Bordeaux. All four are rumoured to be on a list of names drawn up for scheduled November friendlies against Ecuador and Bosnia-Herzegovina in the USA, although Sabella and Gugnali are understood to have no plans to visit Malaga. Nonetheless, they may do well to take heed of Real Madrid and Argentine midfielder Angel di Maria, who admitted he was impressed with Caballero after the defeat of Malaga and backed his countryman to win a call-up.
“We were up against a ‘keeper in fine form. He showed how good he is against a great opponent. I hope Willy gets the chance to play with Argentina and I think it will come,” Caballero’s compatriot offered.