For those amongst the Premier League elite looking to recruit another goalkeeper this summer, there aren’t too many candidates around likely to boast a résumé that can hold a candle to that of Barcelona’s Victor Valdes.
Following Valdes’ recent announcement to not renew his contract at the Camp Nou past 2014, it’s thought that the Catalan club are happy to listen to offers for a keeper who has won just about everything there is to win within European football.
Since breaking into the first team back in 2003, the 31-year-old has gone on to win a staggering five La Liga titles, three Champions League trophies and victory in two Fifa Club World Cups – not to mention five Zamora trophies, the award handed out to the keeper with the lowest goals-to-games ratio in the Spanish top flight.
And considering the current dearth of goalkeeping quality that seems to exist within the Premier League, you get the impression that Valdes might not have anything in the way of a lack of suitors, should he wish to face a fresh challenge within the realms of English football.
With a host of the league’s top clubs experiencing more than a touch of difficulty between the sticks this term, Valdes couldn’t have picked a better time to seek a ‘new challenge,’ in the near future.
Indeed, while Valdes has publicly gone on record as fancying a change of scenery after winning everything there is to win in Spain, there is a school of thought suggesting the one-time Tenerife trainee is unhappy at his failure to be offered contractual parity with his fellow top-earning countrymen at the club. Such financial issues shouldn’t be much of a problem should he move to one of the Premier League’s big hitters.
With the likes of Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester United having to deal with their fair share of inconsistency in the goalkeeping department, you would have thought they’d be jumping through hoops to try and attain a goalkeeper with the sort of trophy haul that Valdes has attained.
Yet despite being a mainstay in a team widely regarded as one of the greatest club sides of their generation, Valdes’ individual standing within European football sits in stark contrast to that of his trophy haul. In fact, his talents seem to be viewed with such suspicion within some quarters of English football, attaining Valdes’ signature has even been described as something of a relative gamble.
It’s fair to say that Valdes’ stock within Spanish football has always been devalued somewhat, often unfairly, by the remarkable achievements of his great El Clasico rival and Spanish national captain, Iker Casillas. Valdes isn’t without his faults as a goalkeeper, but having to spend the bulk of his career being compared to one of the greats of his generation, is a comparison that would bathe most goalkeepers in a negative light.
Likewise, there’s an argument to be made that the unparalleled success of the very team that in which he’s played a part of for near on a decade, has in fact unfairly harmed his own reputation.
Bar the likes of a Casillas or a Gianluigi Buffon, there are very few goalkeepers around that could boast something approaching the equivalent talent – if that is indeed possible – of the sort of outfield talent on show at the Camp Nou.
When supporters see the sort of unworldly talent Barcelona usually exhibit in the final third, even though that sort of expectation can’t be realistically applied to a goalkeeper, eyebrows have often been raised at some of the cheap goals that Valdes has conceded over the years. When things have gone awry for the Blaugrana, fairly or unfairly, Valdes has been the easy scapegoat for both supporters and the media alike to turn to.
But for all the often-unfair stereotypes that are thrown Valdes’ way regarding flakiness, his reptutation as something of a weak-link within this Barcelona team isn’t without foundation.
Because should a Premier League team or anyone else in Europe for that matter, fancy trying to tempt Barcelona’s hand, had he left in January he’d have departed La Liga as statistically one of the poorest keepers of the league so far.
Statistics may only tell half of any story, but with a 1.7 saves per goals conceded ratio, only Deportivo’s Daniel Aranzubia can claim to have a worse ratio within La Liga. Again, while Valdes may have less shots to deal with than your average stopper, a save percentage of just under 65% is one bettered by another 17 goalkeepers in the Spanish top flight.
For all his outstanding ability in the one-on-one and gifted set of reflexes, too often Valdes’ concentration has gone astray and while it’s not easy for a goalkeeper to have to deal with such long period of inactivity as he has to at Barcelona, too often we’ve seen him cost his side valuable points. Certainly last season, Valdes did more than most to cost his side success in both domestic and European competitions.
A move to the Premier League may ultimately prove to be a real roll of the dice for both Victor Valdes and any club that potentially decides to put their faith in the 31-year-old.
For those looking to address a shaky presence within their rearguard, signing Valdes could well prove to only maintain their current status quo between the sticks. For the player, leaving one of the safest goalkeeping spots in European football for a far more physical and volatile league could be a very risky move indeed. Those who dare may ultimately win, but for all the medals that Valdes has attained, he still remains a gamble.