By Richard Clarke
Manuel Almunia is getting close to a Spanish call-up, according to the "noises" being heard by Arsène Wenger.
The 30-year-old keeper has been holding down the No 1 spot with Arsenal for over three months now. In that time, the side have established themselves as the Premier League pace-setters and qualified in the Champions League. In fact, before Tuesday's 3-0 defeat at Sevilla, Almunia was averaging a miserly one goal conceded every other game.
Iker Casillas (Real Madrid) and Pepe Reina (Liverpool) will take some shifting as Spain's top two keepers but a third will be needed at Euro 2008 next summer. Apparently Alumunia is not far from a call.
"He is not," Wenger told "I know that. There [are] always noises coming out of the camp so I know that this is thought about."
It would be a 'Cinderella man' tale if the Pamplona-born keeper was selected. Before signing for Arsenal, his career had been spent at the likes of Osasuna B, Cartagonova, Sabadell, Eibar, Recreativo Huelva and Albacete.
"It is a little bit like the Gregory Coupet story in France where he came late to Lyon and then the national team," said Wenger. "But overall goalkeepers careers can start late. Sometimes it is down to getting the right chance and the right moment.
"I feel as well he was here in an environment with top-class keepers around him in the team like Lehmann who test you and push you. Certainly Gerry Peyton has helped him as goalkeeper coach as well.
"The conjunction of all these qualities has made him a better goalkeeper. But first of all, he has a fantastic attitude and wants always to improve."

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Richard Clarke 29 Nov 2007