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Page last updated at 14:39 GMT, Friday, 1 May 2009 15:39 UK

Wenger backs Almunia England bid

Manuel Almunia
Almunia has been in fine form for Arsenal this season

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has lent his backing to keeper Manuel Almunia's potential claim to play for England.

The Spaniard, who has said he would consider playing for England, will be eligible to apply for citizenship this summer having signed in 2004.

And that would enable the 31-year-old, who has never represented Spain, to play for England under Fabio Capello.

"If it is possible legally, why not? I believe he is not only good enough, but he is the best," said Wenger.

"There are international rules which have to be respected and then it is more a choice left to the English Football Association or to Manuel Almunia's desire."

Almunia, who joined Arsenal from Spanish side Celta Vigo, has previously expressed interest in representing England, saying: "They [Spain] have never, never called me.

"If other people want me, I have to study my situation and take a decision because it is good for me - I will not close myself to anything."

The Arsenal number one produced a fantastic display in goal against Manchester United in Wednesday's 1-0 Champions League defeat at Old Trafford.


And that was just one of a number of fine displays this campaign from the Spaniard, who overtook Jens Lehmann as the club's first-choice keeper last term.

It has raised questions of him possibly being called up by England, especially with Capello apparently yet to settle on a firm long-term fixture in goal.

David James is the current number one but, at 38, is arguably approaching the twilight years of his career, while the likes of Paul Robinson, Chris Kirkland, Robert Green and Ben Foster are also in contention.

But Wenger believes turning to a naturalised replacement such as Almunia is a viable option.

"It is down to what you expect morally and mentally from a national team," said the Frenchman. "I believe at some stage you have to observe just the rules and decide what you want.

"On the English side, for the national team, it is not so much a problem because if the guy decides to become English, he has had to observe and respect the rules like anybody else.

"Why should he then not be qualified to play for the national team?

"It is more a moral problem maybe for Manuel Almunia, because does he consider he has a chance to play in the Spanish national team or not?"

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see also
Man Utd 1-0 Arsenal
29 Apr 09 |  Europe
Almunia agrees new Arsenal deal
03 Apr 08 |  Arsenal
Almunia open to England call-up
25 Dec 07 |  Arsenal
Wenger to keep faith with Almunia
05 Nov 07 |  Arsenal

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