Absent friends - some big names missing from Euro 2008
The European Championships will kick off this week without the likes of strikers Raul and Trezeguet.
Goalkeeper Timo Hildebrand was shocked to be left out of Germany's Euro 2008 squad, but he is not the biggest name missing from next month's tournament.
The Valencia keeper was convinced he had done enough this season to keep his place behind first-choice Jens Lehmann, and then take over in the Germany goal for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.
Other, more illustrious players were less sure they would be heading to the tournament in Austria and Switzerland. And for many the fears proved justified.
Not far away in Madrid, the writing was already on the wall for Real striker Raul Gonzalez, who despite form, experience - and the fact he is still one of the biggest names in European football - had been unable to convince coach Luis Aragones.
"I focus on the players, not the position of the team in the league," he said.
"There are many other players who, when you look at the number of minutes played, have scored more than Raul and they haven't made the squad either."
Raul, who has played 102 times for Spain, had not been picked by Aragones since October 2006, with the coach remaining stubborn despite the striker scoring 18 league goals this season and having a powerful Madrid press lobby behind him.
Football fans also looking forward to seeing Barcelona teenager Bojan Krkic in action for Spain will also be disappointed after the player said he did not feel physically and mentally at his best.
In neighbouring France, it was the fate of another big name in David Trezeguet to miss the tournament despite 20 goals for Juventus in Serie A this season.
Trezeguet, France's third all-time scorer with 34 goals in 71 games, scored the winning goal in the Euro 2000 final against Italy and was a member of the World Cup-winning squad of 1998.
The last memory of the striker at a big tournament may now be a penalty kick miss in the shoot-out defeat to Italy in the 2006 World Cup final.
"It's an organizational choice," said coach Raymond Domenech.
"There are four or five central strikers, you can't cram each position. You have to make choices."
Others to miss the France squad were defender Gael Clichy and midfielder Mathieu Flamini despite both having had excellent season with Arsenal, and Manchester United striker Louis Saha.
Proven goalscoring experience did not prevent Filippo Inzaghi from missing Italy's party. The 34-year-old Inzaghi has 11 goals in the Serie A for AC Milan this season, and 25 in 57 appearances for Italy.
"The choice doesn't have to do with his age," Italy coach Roberto Donadoni said. "It was exclusively a technical choice."
Other big-name players missing include Czech Republic midfielder Pavel Nedved and his teammate and captain Tomas Rosicky.
Nedved played in the Czech team that reached the 1996 final, but even Rosicky's injury could not tempt the 35-year-old back following international retirement after the 2006 World Cup.
Netherlands midfielders Clarence Seedorf and Mark van Bommel, Portugal midfielder Maniche and Turkey forward Hakan Sukur are also among top players who will be absent.
AC Milan's Seedorf withdrew to the surprise of coach Marco van Basten, saying "the right conditions have not been created to let me perform at my best and to effectively excel as the team member I always strive to be."
Seedorf, 32, capped 87 times, said he not retired from the international game, indicating he would be prepared to play under Bert van Marwijk who succeeds van Basten after Euro 2008.
Like Seedorf, the Bayern Munich midfielder van Bommel has had his problems with van Basten.
"Of course I don't talk much about that, but I really don't know why I'm being overlooked. The one thing I do know is that it has nothing to do with my qualities as a footballer," van Bommel said.
Meanwhile, England's stars are on the sidelines after the country's failure to qualify.
Ten English players were in the Champions League final between Manchester United and Chelsea, but it will be a European tournament without the likes of Wayne Rooney, Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard. Or even David Beckham - had he been picked.
(DPA - Expatica 2008)
Photos: Timo Hildebrand - Florian K