This past week FC Barcelona keeper Victor Valdes decided through his representatives to sever negotiations for a contract extension with the Catalan club. In an earlier statement to the media Valdes had said that, “I’m not ruling out trying different cultures and a different type of football.” He also noted that he had been at Barcelona a long time, a club where “playing in goal is complicated” and the “pressure high.” It didn’t bother me that at the age of 32 he wanted to try new leagues or a different brand of football to test himself against a different set of players, something that Pepe Reina had done years ago, or even that he felt the need to release the information now just as Barcelona were heading into their usually difficult month of February and with a year and a half remaining on his contract, but it does trouble me that this incident has cracked the very well-constructed veneer of camaraderie and unity that FC Barcelona projects to the media.
It’s not a dig at the player really, he has earned the right to select his own course, but something clearly happened between the time that Sporting Director Andoni Zubizarreta announced the signings of Carles Puyol and Xavi Hernandez, then a week later was quoted that negotiations were ongoing between Valdes’s agents and the club, who noted shortly after that no talks had occurred. Then Valdes instructed the club that he would accept no offer and would leave next Summer when his current contract ended. I don’t profess to know what really went down, but it’s clear that there is more to the story than a failure to communicate terms of a mere contract.
Does Valdes feels under-appreciated? Despite all the awards and trophies he has won in the last 10 years behind the wickets are the scars he earned from criticism in his early years at the club still close to the surface? The Barcelona papers sure seem to think so. They hint at personality clashes with Zubizarreta and they float the idea that current President Sandro Rosell never rated him as a keeper when he was Vice-President under Laporta 10 years ago. In the end, it’s just sound and fury leading to nothing I think. He doesn’t need to break his self-imposed silence and show the reasons why negotiations broke down. He doesn’t owe the club nor the cules an explanation even. People want to make this a divisive issue, and maybe it’s because of the religious fervor with which the club is covered and supported that these incident becomes one, but players leave their clubs all the time; Raul Gonzalez Blanco left Real Madrid so why shouldn’t Victor Valdes be allowed to leave Barcelona?
He’s a top keeper and he’ll get offers from top clubs in Europe, but where will he go? England or Germany?
The first reports had Victor joining Pep Guardiola at Bayern Munich but Germany’s Mannschafft keeper Manuel Neuer is a mainstay there since leaving hometown club Schalke. Despite being a U-21 champion de Man Utd.’s David de Gea is not reacting well to the inherent pressures of patrolling the Old Trafford goals. It worked for Sir Alex when he gave up on Tim Howard but Valdes is no Edwin van der Sar. Manchester United is still a possibility however. Some would offer up Chelsea FC but he’s the same age as the Blues’ keeper Petr Cech so that’s not really reasonable. Arsenal, Tottenham and Liverpool won’t pay his wage demands for various reasons, so I’d say the most likely is Man U if pressed.
Barcelona will find a replacement who will do the job. Who will replace him?
The two names that come up the most is Atletico Madrid’s French keeper Thibault Courtois who is actually a Chelsea property and Liverpool’s ill-favored Spanish keeper Pepe Reina who is a product of Barcelona’s world-famous La Masia training ground. Reina has some supporter’s left among the board but he left for Villarreal right when that Valdes staked his claim. Other than a few select players it is rare that players who leave the Camp Nou easily. I think they should consider Vicente Guaita of Valencia. He’s young and athletic, plays the ball well at the back and is a good leader. Roberto of Zaragoza is also a good keeper as is Celta de Vigo’s Sergio.