Víctor Valdés: Time to say goodbye?

January 22, 2013 in La Liga, Transfers by Kevin Rendall

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Goalkeeper Víctor Valdés’ decision to decline a new deal with FC Barcelona has shocked and surprised those – both players and management - close to the club. Under contract until the summer of 2014, Valdés 31, was born and bred just outside the city and has spent his entire senior career with the Blaugrana. First choice stopper for more than ten years, his decision to call time on the club –  negotiations on an extension to his present deal hadn’t even got under way – now gives the Catalan giants a little over eighteen months to find a replacement.

Victor Valdes

By way of explanation for his decision, some weeks ago, Valdés cited a determination to play football in another country before retiring, thus immediately ruling out a move to another Spanish club, a highly unlikely prospect anyway. With money not a motivating factor – the player’s advisers, on his instructions, didn’t even get as far as listening to the first Barcelona offer – Valdés will see out his final year and a half at the Camp Nou before moving on a free transfer. Known as something of a complicated character, the player is on record as feeling under-appreciated at the club, emotions exacerbated, despite the best efforts of Tito Villanova, by the departure of Guardiola to whom he was very close.

Doubtless, conspiracy theories will now abound, but the truth is probably altogether simpler. Valdés has been first choice at Barcelona for approaching ten seasons, during which time he has collected five Zamora trophies for the best Primera División goalkeeper, including the last four. (By contrast, Iker Casillas, who Valdés understudies for the Spanish national team, has managed the feat just once). Add to those accolades five Spanish titles and three Champions League winners medals and it may just be that Valdés feels he has nothing more to prove after a decade of every small mistake being minutely dissected by fans and critics alike.

This school of thought is given added credibility by the player himself, who, in the past has admitted finding it difficult coping with the pressure of playing at the very highest level. In the recent Press conference in which he outlined his intentions, he brought up the high level of pressure at Barcelona, conceding somewhat cryptically, “I’ve been in goal here for eleven years, which is complicated in many ways.” Where then, assuming he does actually continue playing and isn’t contemplating a surprising retirement, might the six foot goalkeeper continue his career?

On the face of it, Valdés hooking up again with Guardiola has sound logic, the only fly in the ointment is Manuel Neuer, present incumbent at the Allianz Arena and number one on merit for both Bayern and the German national side. To complicate that scenario still further, the 26-year-old Neuer is under contract with the Bavarians until 2016. Given that top goalkeepers seem to go on and on, for a decent signing on fee, the player will still represent great value. The question is, will it be a Premiership side taking advantage? Thus far, Valdés has given nothing away.

The custodian at Manchester City - Joe Hart, like Neuer at Bayern, is number one in the country, Spurs recently spent big on Hugo Lloris and with another Spaniard, Pepe Reina, apparently firmly established on Merseyside, London it could well be. Petr Cech, post-head injury isn’t the force he once was, so Chelsea are sure to be in the frame and why not Arsenal? Their back four could certainly make use of a little better organisation and for Wojciech Szczęsny, a little competition wouldn’t go amiss! In the red half of Manchester, getting on for two years after his move from Atlético Madrid, the jury is still out on David de Gea, meaning Sir Alex Ferguson may fancy a punt.

The obvious problem with all that conjecture, of course, is the fact the Premiership is no less of a goldfish bowl than La Liga and a player of Valdés’ stature is going to be box-office wherever he plays, especially in Europe. With no reason whatsoever to doubt the veracity of his words, any move, when it eventually comes, is going to be mighty interesting. In the meantime, he has handed Barcelona something of a hospital pass as they get to work on finding an adequate replacement.