Outside of the Galacticos of Real Madrid and the new “Dream Team” at Barcelona La Liga is full of teams who’ve flattered to deceive. The fact that a mediocre Mallorca team are challenging for a European spot is indicative of this; they’re well-disciplined but not actually good enough for Europe, instead they’ve been aided by the fact that all the other teams in Spain seem content in their mediocrity. At the start of the season it looked like Sevilla could challenge Real and Barca but they’ve trailed away with plenty of losses, including to some of La Liga’s poorer sides. Valencia meanwhile never threatened a challenge on Real and Barca but yet Unai Emery’s side find themselves the best of the rest and the most likely to finish in third place this season. It’s not surprising, the club possesses the universally-wanted David Villa – who continues to score constantly – David Silva, and Juan Mata. They’ve contributed to Valencia’s good position but Valencia’s inspiration has come from an unexpected source; Argentinian midfielder Ever Banega.
Banega is a man who Valencia were desperate to get rid of, and that’s not just a result of their financial crisis. Banega’s poor attitude and performances since arriving in Spain in 2008 failed to impress anyone in Spain. He’d been loaned out to Atletico Madrid and failed there, now Valencia wanted to shift him once again but after a move to Everton collapsed Banega found himself staying with Los Ches and the young man has turned himself around. There was always going to be a place in Valencia’s midfield available with Ruben Baraja and David Albelda on their last legs and Banega has taken initiative and made himself first name on the team sheet for Valencia.
His passing and dribbling has been immense this season and he’s created a lot of Valencia’s good play from the heart of midfield, finally living up to the billing as Baraja’s long term replacement. Banega’s form has not gone unnoticed; Valencia sporting director Amadeo Carboni declared
“Banega is the most important player in the squad. He dictates the pace of the game, he gives assists, he organises the play from deep, he runs the game.”
Pretty big praise considering that this squad also contains Mata, Silva and Villa, all of whom have shown good performances this season. Banega’s addition to the list of Valencia’s key performers brings hope to the club – with him, Silva and Mata excelling in midfield Valencia have a midfield that could rival their title winning midfield with Baraja, Pablo Aimar and Vicente all suitably replaced. They also have the deadliest striker in the league. In essence, if Valencia had a better defence and goalkeeper then they would be real title contenders.
Their financial problems will complicate that though as they are more likely to sell important players than bring in essential defenders. Valencia have done well to hold out and only sell Raul Albiol so far but they cannot keep interest at bay forever with their debts as crippling as they are. Villa and Silva remain the talk of the tabloids but now they risk being usurped in those most wanted – Mata’s already being touted as a better prospect than Silva for a host of big clubs whilst plenty of clubs are looking up and realising what Banega is capable of and there will be plenty of interest in him from around Europe.
Linked with the likes of Stuttgart and Everton last summer after being deemed a failure in Spain, Banega has turned his career around. He’s matured remarkably in his time in Spain, though that change appears to have only taken place this summer, and with maturity a much better player has arrived. Banega was raw potential at Boca and now, at Valencia, he’s become the player they hoped he would – the deep-lying playmaker who controls midfield. Banega’s lift into grace is sure to attract lots of interest and now Valencia have another star to try to hold onto.
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