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Ander Herrera: I thought first Spain call-up was a David de Gea prank

The Man United midfielder was included in the Spanish senior squad for the first time this week.

Image: Nigel French

ANDER HERRERA HAS admitted that he originally believed his first-ever Spain call-up was an elaborate hoax by team-mate David de Gea.

The Manchester United midfielder has joined up with Julen Lopetegui’s side for the first time at senior level this week and was an unused substitute in Spain’s 1-1 draw with Italy last night.

In an interview with Goal, Herrera revealed that he wasn’t convinced by Old Trafford colleague De Gea’s initial phone call to inform him he had been selected.

“I was in Madrid, staying at a hotel in Paseo del Prado for a couple of days with my daughter and my girlfriend to enjoy the city and climate, which we missed a little bit [in England]!

“David de Gea called me unexpectedly and I thought he was calling me for something else,” Herrera explains.

“He said, ‘Come over here.’ ‘Here? But where’s here?’ I replied. I didn’t realise at that moment. ‘Lopetegui told me that you will come with us,’ he said. I thought it was a joke, and even asked him if it was.

“I packed my suitcase really quickly, and then Lopetegui called me. I took a taxi to come to the Spain training centre as soon as possible as I didn’t want him to turn to another player who could come sooner than me!”

London Olympic Games - Pre-Games competitons - Thurs Herrera representing Spain at the 2012 London Olympics. Source: EMPICS Sport

Despite Herrera never having previously received a Spain call-up, he insists he will feel at home in the squad thanks to his previous experiences with his national team-mates, including De Gea.

He continued: “Aside from meeting him at Manchester United, I was with him (De Gea) also for a long time in the Spain under-21 team and the Olympic team… we are close friends!

“He has been a bit of a guide here, but the group is very normal anyway as I know lots of players from the youth teams and the reception has been very natural. They make you feel part of the group very quickly and I am happy to be here with them.”

The 27-year-old also added that he had never given up hope that a Spain call would eventually arrive one day.

“The hope of representing your country and your national team is never lost! It is true there were moment of disappointment because I’ve been playing for a long time and I think I’ve been at a good enough level,” he said.

“I know that Vicente del Bosque had me in his plans, but I never got to be on the list.

“Now I have the opportunity and I am the one who must prove I want this and I have to continue. I am very grateful to Julen Lopetegui. I know him well from the under-21, Olympic and under-20 teams, and it is a pleasure to be here to prove I can make it with Spain.”

Herrera has seen increased his playing time at club level recently following Jose Mourinho’s arrival at Old Trafford.

And the former Athletic Bilbao man believes it is in the pivot role in which the Portuguese has used him that he can thrive most at national level too.

“I think I have come to the national team to play in the position where I am now playing, as a central midfielder right ahead of the defensive line,” said Herrera.

“Perhaps it is a more defensive role than I have played until now, but I feel very good in that role. I think I can find some consistency there and Mourinho likes me playing there, as do I, and I think I can contribute a lot also with the national team.

“While it is true that here I will be competing with the best in the world in that position, Sergio Busquets, I have come to contribute and to help the team.”

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