Victor Valdes is a player that had it all. Over 500 appearances for one of the world’s biggest clubs, numerous caps for his international side and silverware spilling out of his ears.
But after everything, he is reportedly close to a season-long loan move to Belgian outfit Standard Leige. So how did it all go so badly wrong for the former great?
Little did anyone know how quickly it would go wrong when he moved to Manchester United in October 2014. He was offered a contract in January, signing an 18-month-deal to primarily act as back-up to number one stopper David De Gea.
But it was here where his career nose-dived – and quickly. He seemingly fell out of favour, and after a reported incident where the former Barcelona man refused to play in the U21s, he was immediately placed on the transfer list and banished to the reserves.
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His exile didn’t end there – Valdes wasn’t in the 2015-2016 team photo, nor was he given a squad number. In September he tried to force through a move to Turkish side Besiktas and with plane tickets in hand at a hotel next to the airport, everything was ready.
But the move broke down and Valdes remained in footballing purgatory.
He attempted to lead a dressing-room revolution, unhappy at manager Louis van Gaal’s training methods and overall management. Whilst respected squad members Wayne Rooney and Michael Carrick tried to reason with the Dutchman, Valdes whispered and disobeyed.
Van Gaal ruthlessly expelled the Catalonian from the first-team, but this was a relationship that begun to break down years earlier.
The Dutchman gave Valdes his first break in 2002, but they clashed when the then young Valdes didn’t show up to a vital training session.
Van Gaal branded it as a “refusal to work” and they badly fell out. Fortunately for the youngster, his manager was sacked before the end of the season and he quickly established himself as one of Spain’s best goalkeepers, without van Gaal’s help.
This must have been hugely satisfying for Valdes, who back then had boyband-esque hair and a determination to make it to the top.
Fast-forward nearly 15 years and Valdes has not been seen at Old Trafford since August. His locks have been replaced by a hairless-head which could have been the result of the past year alone. He has ranted on social media, demanding an explanation of his manager’s actions, with football fans all over the world sympathising with his situation.
But as he prays a loan move to the Belgian Pro League’s seventh placed side comes to fruition, there will be a lot of reflecting to be done on the outward plane journey. How did a three-time Champions League winner end up training alone, even with De Gea expected to sign for Real Madrid back in May?
It’s a curious footballing story and one that will probably never be answered until a predictable autobiography is released when either man retires. Who will nibble at the other first though?