Victor Valdes’ confession of a desire to move on from Barcelona may have come as something of a surprise, and much of that can seen in the way the Catalan media has reacted to his decision. What you have here is a case of a goalkeeper who has won it all, who maybe has reached the limit of what he can draw from Barcelona and has subsequently decided that his future and happiness lies elsewhere. Absolutely nothing wrong with that. As it stands, the only individuals in the wrong have been the media who’ve taken it upon themselves to call for a metaphorical beheading of a ‘traitor.’
What is the reverse for the Catalan media? They’re used to the best players wanting to join Barcelona, professing their admiration and even love for the dynasty that lays in the foundation planted by Johan Cruyff. And all of that is ok; after all, what is football without some form of ambition?
At this time, surely there is some praise to be sent Valdes’ way. Wouldn’t it be easier to remain content with what may seem like an easy life in the footballing world? Ok, Barcelona’s successes haven’t been an easy ride, and anyone who thinks as such needs to reassess the way they look at the game. He’ll never displace Iker Casillas as the No 1 for Spain unless something catastrophic happens, but he remains a model professional around the Spanish national team camp.
Valdes’ accomplishments with Barcelona is phenomenal, from three Champions League titles, five La Liga titles and many more domestic and UEFA honours. We all like the story of the one-club player: Francesco Totti, Paolo Maldini, Tony Adams. But in this case, how can we really sharpen the knives for a man who seeks out adventure? Valdes is by no means near the end of the playing career, as at 31 he still has much to offer as a goalkeeper. But such has been the length of time spent in Catalonia that maybe he is an exception to the rule; a Barcelona man through and through yet one who longs for a taste of a different life.
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Premier League clubs will surely be rubbing their hands together at Valdes becoming available. Yes, there will be a sense of anxiety knowing that Barcelona are on the hunt for Valdes’ successor, but what a player he is to receive in a potential swap deal.
There have been suggestions that Valdes has felted disrespected at Barcelona, something bordering on neglect. Maybe so; let’s not discredit him from Barcelona’s fabulous football. How important is he in their need for ball retention? How well does he use the ball? Almost acting as another defender in the back line. To go along with all those cups, he has also won the last four Zamora trophies, further giving evidence of his importance to this team. It’s incredibly easy to throw the joke out there that anyone could play in goal for Barcelona, but once again, those who follow that line of thinking need to do a once-over at how they look at the game, and specifically that of Barcelona.
You get the sense that there are parallels to Valdes and Cristiano Ronaldo’s “unhappiness” at their respective clubs. Both feel undervalued in a way, and yet taking them out of their teams would heap a great deal of pressure on the clubs to replace their quality. Don’t get me wrong, it will be easier for Barcelona to replace Valdes than it will for Real Madrid to replace Ronaldo, but even with a monstrous talent pool of fantastic goalkeepers in Germany, there is no guarantee that another good goalkeeper will provide exactly what Valdes did. For that, it should take a great deal of planning as to who will eventually replace him in goal at the Camp Nou.
It’s also worth pointing out that Valdes hasn’t quite been on top form for a while now, making costly errors—there was one incident of note in the Spanish Super Cup this season where Angel Di Maria was able to capitalise on Valdes’ mistake and in turn help Real Madrid to victory after two legs. Perhaps this is very much a case whereby an improved contract from Barcelona won’t be enough. As mentioned, maybe this really is just the end of the road for Valdes’ time in La Liga.
The Catalan media should certainly give a rethink to how they approach this, as the story has legs to run for at least the next six months. Valdes has been an incredible servant to the club and one who deserves much more than the Luis Figo treatment—because lets be honest, that’s exactly what it is.
The 2006 Champions League final was by no means the springboard to the successes under Pep Guardiola, but what then if Valdes wasn’t the last line of defence to prevent Thierry Henry driving Arsenal to victory? For that game alone, Barcelona should be eternally grateful for Valdes’ performances.