siepod
6 years ago
19 hours ago
93
Premium
https://i2.wp.com/siepod.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/Valencia-Header.png


Valencia, historically one of the most successful clubs in La Liga, even enjoying a stint as one of the best in Europe during two back to back appearances in the Champions’ League final, in 2000 & 2001, losing to Real Madrid and Bayern München respectively. More recently, however, they have been forced to sell just to survive. Nothing indicates this more than the half built Nou Mestalla, begun in 2007 but left abandoned since 2009 as the club ran out of money to continue the project. Star players were forced to leave, with club legends such as David Silva, Juan Mata and David Villa all sold, just to balance the books.

When Singaporean billionaire Peter Lim took over as majority owner in 2014, it was supposed to signal a change in fortunes. However, since his arrival the club have continued to struggle, illustrated spectacularly with the failed appointment of Gary Neville as manager for 3 months during the 2015-16 season. Other appointments have also failed, such as Cesare Prandelli who resigned after just 10 games in charge, or Pako Ayestarán who was sacked after just 12 games in charge, losing 8 of them. During that time, players have continued to leave to balance the books, with talents including André Gomes, Shkodran Mustafi and João Cancelo departing for big money (although there have been a few big money incomings too over the last decade, not always living up to their price tags). And while rumours circulate the club may finally be heading to their new stadium, with work set to continue, speculation is also rife that Peter Lim is looking to sell the club. This summer the club invested nothing in the playing squad, while losing Rodrigo, Ferran Torres and Geoffrey Kondogbia all for big money, which has only fueled the speculation further.

Time to turn this ship around....

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Skinner_
6 years ago
2 days ago
1,334
Nice title!
Best of luck with the save!
siepod
6 years ago
19 hours ago
93
Premium
Straight into the hot seat, and it is definitely hot this time of year on the Spanish coast, I'm immediately both shocked and worried by the lack of staff at the club. There appear to be vacancies everywhere from coaching to the scouting team (with just 3 scouts on the books at present), and no Director of Football to help out either. Despite the current level of negativity in and around the club, on my arrival the staff are keen to remind me that just 2 years previously the club lifted the Copa del Rey, defeating Barcelona 2-1 in the final. As fantastic a result as that is, it's not the Champions League or La Liga is it, where they finished 4th in both 2017/18 and 2018/19 before limping home in 9th last season, and the media aren't overly convinced we will fair much better this time out. More worryingly, when negotiations began for me to take over, Geoffrey Kondogbia was still a Valencia player, and there was no mention of him potentially departing to Atlético Madrid, the side from the capital utilising the Spanish transfer market extension rule to bring him in to replace Thomas Partey.

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HockeyBhoy
5 years ago
1 day ago
861
Premium
If this is half as good as your Scarborough save @siepod then we will be in for a treat.

Take it the Scarborough one is now dead in the water?
siepod
6 years ago
19 hours ago
93
Premium
Still got the save so could be revived at some point. Had issues with my laptop, coinciding with an overload of work, so just felt a bit overwhelmed and needed a break. Got a new machine now though, and hoping time and energy will allow me to give this the same sort of impetus. Thanks for the kind comments/support though as always!
siepod
6 years ago
19 hours ago
93
Premium
Day One

No sooner had I checked into my hotel room than I was out the door again, off to meet the players themselves to see how they currently feel about the situation at the club, and more importantly to get us all on the same page regarding hopes and expectations for the coming La Liga season. Integral to getting them to buy into my aims and philosophy is going to be José Luis Gayà, club captain, Spanish international and arguably one of the best left-backs in the world (see, it’s not all doom and gloom). Gayà broke into the first team and at very young age, and has been there ever since making over 180 appearances for the club to date, despite many of the bigger teams from around Europe continually showing an interest. I know it could be a challenge to even keep him here, but if I can get him onside then that is half the battle won with the dressing room before a ball has even been kicked.

Despite its age, the Mestalla is still an impressive stadium, and one I have fond memories of myself having visited back in 2001 to watch the side, then under the guidance of Héctor Cúper, tear Leeds United apart on the way to their second Champions League final in succession, only to suffer heartbreak as they lost on penalties in the end. This time, however, I was the one in charge, and with an attempted air of confidence in my step I entered the stadium as manager for the first time, enthused by the opportunities that lay ahead.
siepod
6 years ago
19 hours ago
93
Premium
First meeting was with Zigor Aranalde, current assistant manager and somebody I remember putting in a real stint for Walsall back at the turn of the century. While the fact he speaks English is a positive, there is no doubting in our first meeting he is fiercely loyal to the departed Javi Gracia, and that is something that could be an issue moving forwards. The players themselves were definitely more engaging, with the clear dynamics in the squad visible to see from the off. Questions were thrown at me without hesitation around both my playing philosophy and also the direction I wanted to take the club. I was keen to point out straight away that one of the key areas I needed to deal with immediately was the level of staffing at the club, with the more experienced squad members such as Kevin Gameiro and Jasper Cillessen seemingly buoyed by my promises. Otherwise, as with any new employer/employee relationship, the players wanted to know where they stood, with me keen to ensure that the slate was keen and everyone would get a chance, including the youngsters at the club, and with limited funds at my disposal I’m likely to be counting on them more than they currently realise.

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Alongside Gayà, Uruguayan striker Maxi Gómez is another key player whose performances will be vital in helping the club achieve our goals this coming season. The 23 year old joined last season from Celta Vigo in a player + cash deal, and hit 10 goals in 33 games in his first campaign with the club. With a whopping £128 million release clause, unless anybody comes close to matching that I have no intention of letting him move on. Younger prospects at the club include former Arsenal trainee Yunus Musah. The academy graduate also moved to Spain last summer, and at just 17 years old he looks like a real breakthrough prospect for the coming season. Although playing for the England youth set up all through his time with the Arsenal academy, Musah has now switched his allegiance to America, his country of birth. Of the more experienced heads, I’ll be relying a lot on experienced striker Kevin Gameiro, a player who I personally have a lot of time for. Although now in his twilight years, at 33, the French international is a player I’ve admired since his time with Lorient in France, performances which earned him a move to PSG at the time. He’s since featured for Sevilla and Atlético Madrid and so has plenty of La Liga experience, as well as an impressive honours list, which I’m hoping will help him bring some much needed determination to the team (and also bring on some of the younger strikers in and around the first team setup).
siepod
6 years ago
19 hours ago
93
Premium
First full day on the job and I’m at the training ground for the first real look at the playing squad, with a select First and Second XI set to go head to head. With no preconceptions about who should be in the starting XI yet, this match is a great opportunity for the players to show me what they’ve got, while also a chance to start building some fitness ahead of our pre-season camp and the coming season. With a solid 4-4-2 the preferred foundation, I look to build a unit across the back with Gayà, Gabriel Paulista, Diakhaby and Daniel Wass, former Barcelona goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen between the sticks. Further forward I’ve gone with club record signing Guedes on one wing and Soler on the other, Musah and Racic in the middle, and a front pairing of Gameiro and Maxi Gómez, which given the lack of depth is likely to be the front pairing most of the season.

In the Second XI, experienced players such as Mangala and Cheryshev are flanked by some of the younger stars at the club, including right winger Jason and centre-half Hugo Guillamón. The game itself is dominated by the first XI, but despite this it’s the second string who claim victory, goals coming from Denis Cheryshev and Manu Vallejo from the spot, definitely giving me food for thought in the coming weeks. Perhaps more frustratingly was the lack of goals from the first team, despite creating the far better opportunities in front of goal, Diakhaby the one positive note, looking very solid at the back.

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siepod
6 years ago
19 hours ago
93
Premium
Only a day into the job and it’s become obvious not only do I need heads for the first team squad, but I need even more for the sparse looking backroom staff. As things stand, we are short at least 3 coaches, and only have 3 scouts on our books, not the support setup I need to help me try and rebuild, whilst I also really don’t fancy some of the current personnel being the right fit for the way I want to play and develop the club either. A pool of staff with a wealth of experience looking for new opportunities gives me a perfect opportunity to get some key personnel through the door without too many complications, although with some big names out there I’m not the only one trying to sell them my project as a perfect career move for all parties.

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Having agonized overnight, and following a really difficult phone call, I had decided Zigor Aranalde was not going to be the right man to help me take the club the way I wanted it, and so it was with a heavy heart I let him know that we would be letting him go, having only recently arrived at the club himself with Javi Gracia. While nervous how the fans may react to that decision, I am hoping that the arrival of Dutch legend Marco Van Basten as the new right hand man will help alleviate some of the negativity. The former Milan striker needs no introduction, having been one of the legends of the game during his playing career, most memorably for Ajax and Milan. Since hanging up his boots, he has also earned a reputation and plenty of hands on experience in coaching, having managed the Dutch national team, Ajax, Heerenveen, and AZ, before his last role seeing him return to the Dutch set up as assistant. With his experience at the top table in Europe, as well as his footballing philosophy, Marco is an absolutely perfect fit for what I hope to achieve with the club, and so I was delighted he agreed to join.

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With a new assistant in place so quickly, rebuilding the back room setup felt far less daunting. My aim had always been to build a staff setup who shared the same visions, the same way of thinking, and ultimately wanting to develop the club into one of the best in Europe. Wanting to start the rebuild from the top down, it was a massive bonus managing to tie up the arrival of Antero Henrique as Director of Football. Hailing from Portugal, Henrique first made his mark as DoF at Porto, before spending the last couple of seasons with Paris St. Germain. At 52 years old, Antero brings both the experience and contacts to enable him to hit the ground running with the club, something that will be a great asset with our own aims. Another big coup also sees the arrival of Filippo Galli, to head up our Youth Development. Although I want to shift the ethos away from being a selling club, there is no doubt Valencia has been a production line for talent in recent years, and I wanted the right man in place to help us fully harness and realise that talent for the benefit of the club. Galli is well known throughout Europe, having been a key player for AC Milan in his heyday, with stints at Brescia and Watford among others during the twilight of his career. Galli then became part of the back room set up at Milan, first earning recognition as U-18 manager then Assistant Manager, before heading up the Youth Development for the Rossineri. Again, like Henrique, he is another who will be able to fall straight into his new role with minimal difficulty.

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The final arrival in the senior leadership team is 38 year old Irishman Darragh Connolly, who comes in as the Head of Sports Science, having recently held a similar role with Juventus for the last 5 years. He will be joined in the new Sports Science department by Roberto Sassi, who joins for his second stint at the club having previously been part of the coaching setup under Claudio Ranieri, also undertaking roles with Chelsea, Fiorentina, Parma and Juventus among others, and Nuno Matias, who makes the switch to join the staff from Benfica. At just 36 years old, Matias began coaching with Sporting before moving across the capital to join Benfica.

Heading up the Scouting team, I brought in another man I knew very well, as former Arsenal head scout Steve Rowley joined the club. Having been chief scout at Arsenal since way back in 1996, Steve’s ability to recognize both talent and value in the game is second to none, and will be a perfect fit for what we are hoping to achieve in the transfer market as we look to develop the club moving forwards. He’s joined in the scouting team by a former player he knows well, in Gilles Grimandi, who will give us some knowledge and opportunity to pick up some of the younger French talent, in a similar mould to the legendary Arsene Wenger. Former Danish legend Søren Lerby, another with an exceptional playing career and knowledge of Europe, joins to head up our Scandinavian recruitment, while Pini Zahavi, Josep Boada, Giuseppe Dello Russo and Franz-Josef Reckels also agree to come on board.

Perhaps more excitingly, club legend Vicente also agrees to return to the club in the capacity of scout. The former Spanish international, who was born in the city, was part of the superstar team at the turn of the decade, enjoying success in both La Liga and Europe with the club, before finishing his career with Brighton. Having previously been part of the scouting team during a previous regime, I was delighted to be able to offer him the opportunity to return, not least because his presence around the club will be a boost for us all. Joining him will be another legend, David Villa, who is taking his first steps into coaching with our Under-19s set up. Like Vicente, David is another player who enjoyed some of his finest moments in a Valencia shirt, earning him a mainstay spot in the Spanish national team. A glittering career then saw him move to Barcelona, before heading to Atlético. David finished his career with spells in Australia with Melbourne City, USA with NYCFC and Japan with Vissel Kobe. Again, having him around the club will only be a bonus.

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siepod
6 years ago
19 hours ago
93
Premium
Three New Faces on Trial

With resources extremely limited, and the playing squad relatively light, I was delighted to secure the arrival of 3 new faces on trial, each of them bringing a wealth of experience and some much needed quality into the club. Hopefully over the coming weeks, there will be enough desire, commitment and quality still in the tank from these 3 to secure a longer term contract with the club. First in is a player I first saw playing with the youth team and Manchester City, where there was no doubting he was one of the stand out players of the group. Since then, Daniel Sturridge has gone on to play for 3 of the biggest clubs in England, breaking through at City before then forcing a move to Chelsea where he felt he could increase both his honours and recognition further. During his time at Stamford Bridge, he also had a successful loan spell at Bolton, scoring an extremely impressive 8 goals in 12 games. While at Chelsea, he picked up 2 FA Cup winners’ medals, a Premier league title and also the UEFA Champions League. At the beginning of 2013, Sturridge was on the move again, heading back north to join Liverpool in a deal worth around £12 million. An outstanding first full season saw him named in the PFA Team of the year, but then once again injuries began to blight his career, and he would make just 12 PL appearances the following season, and 14 the season after. Eventually, in January 2018 he joined West Brom for the remainder of the season, but again suffered an injury setback, making just 6 appearances with the Baggies. Back at Liverpool, he was again back in the goals in both the league and Champions’ League, culminating in another winners’ medal, although he didn’t appear in the final. A few days after the historic win, becoming the first player to lift the famous trophy with 2 different clubs, he was released by Liverpool. Last season, he spent the year in the Turkish Super League with Trabzonspor, initially signing a 3 year contract with the club but eventually being released in March 2020, having scored 7 goals in 16 games for the club. This was followed by news that he had received a 4 month worldwide playing ban for breaching betting rules, an infringement which led to his release from the Turkish side. Without a club since, I’m hoping he will show the same desire and hunger from his earlier career to earn a longer term deal.

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Joining him on trial is former Internazionale left back Kwadwo Asamoah. Asamoah first came to recognition at Udinese, making his debut in the Italian cup. Representing the club over 100 times, he eventually earned a switch to Italian giants Juventus in a co-ownership deal. It was here he would earn both recognition and honours, picking up a Serie A winners’ medal in each of his 6 seasons with the club, as well as 4 Coppa Italia and 3 Supercoppas. During his final season, he decided to run down his contract with the club, and in the summer of 2018 agreed a deal with Internazionale, making his debut in August that season in the opening game against Sassuolo. In total he would spend 2 years with the Milan based club, finishing runner up in the Europa League in his final season, before again finding himself out of contract. With over 70 caps for Ghana, Asamoah is a versatile, intelligent player, who if he can stay fit could prove to be the ideal backup for Gaya at left-back.

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The final new face on trial is a man who is no stranger to the fans and the club, legendary Argentine centre-half Ezequiel Garay. Garay is held with massive respect at the club, having agreed to leave back in February after suffering a long term injury, so that the club would be able to bring in a replacement. Actions like that transcend ability on the pitch, and I felt it only right now that he is fit again to give him the option and opportunity to try and win a new deal. Even if he doesn’t manage to do enough, or look better than what we already have, it is a win-win from the perspective of the club and the player, a reward for his loyalty but also an opportunity for him to get some training and games under his belt to earn a new contract somewhere. Having previously featured in La Liga with Real Madrid and Racing Santander before his 4 year stint with the club, he also starred at both Benfica, picking up a league title, cup, 2 league cups and finishing runner up in the Europa League twice, and Zenit St. Petersburg, where he won the league, cup and Russian Super Cup. Part of the team that also lifted the Copa Del Rey back in 2018-19, the fans have a lot of time and love for the 33 year old, which I’m hoping will also help their respect for me.

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siepod
6 years ago
19 hours ago
93
Premium
First Win of Pre-Season

Back on the pitch, the club were in proper action for the first time on Thursday as we travelled to face Girona at the Montilivi, the Catalonian club currently playing in La Segunda División, finishing 5th last season, despite having strong backing as part of the global City Football Group portfolio. Looking for improvement from the training game, winger Jason was brought into the starting XI, with Carlos Soler moving inside to partner Yunus Musah in the middle of the pitch. Other than that, the line-up remained unchanged, so we started with: Cillessen - Wass, Diakhaby, Gabriel Paulista, Gayà - Jason, Soler, Musah, Guedes - Maxi Gómez, Gameiro. On the bench as well as many who featured in the intra-squad match last week, trialists Asamoah, Garay and Sturridge were also included. Dominating the early play it was no surprise when we eventually took the lead, Kevin Gameiro with a fine finish from range to give us our first goal of pre-season, after just 16 minutes of the encounter.

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The French international striker was then on target again, adding a 2nd from the spot after 33 minutes to send us in 2-0 up at the break. The second half was a similar affair, with us dominating both the possession and shots as Girona struggled to break through our well marshalled defence. Wholesale changes were made on the hour mark, including a first run out for the trialists, but it was transfer listed Rubén Sobrino who wrapped up the game, on hand to finish from close range in the 82nd minute against his former team, to underline our dominance. Creating 23 opportunities and 14 on target, there is still some work to be done in the final third, although we slightly outperformed our xG stats, but I'm more than happy with the defensive performance from what I suspect will be my mainstay line-up at the back. Unsurprisingly, with his 2 goals Gameiro was named man of the match, but Gayà, Cillessen, Wass, Gabriel Paulista, Cheryshev, Sobrino, Garay and goalscorer Rubén Sobrino also put in solid performances.

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siepod
6 years ago
19 hours ago
93
Premium
Wass set to miss 5 weeks

Just one day after turning in a solid performance in an impressive 3-0 victory against Girona, it was confirmed that first choice right-back Daniel Wass looks set to miss the next 5 weeks after picking up a knee injury. The versatile 31 year old Danish international sprained his knee ligaments during a training session with the club, and will now undergo a period of physiotherapy and rehabilitation before being fit again for selection. Wass has been a mainstay in the Valencia team since joining the club from Celta Vigo for just over £5 million back in July 2018, making over 60 appearances for the club to date since his arrival.

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With the right hand side already an area of concern for the club, this latest blow could see Valencia forced to look at an emergency signing to provide cover for the opening weeks of the new season. At present, the only real back up is in the form of 21 year old Portuguese under-21 international Thierry Correia, although with just 4 first team appearances under his belt he currently lacks La Liga experience since his switch from Sporting Lisbon 2 seasons ago, although there is no doubting his potential, which was enough to see Valencia pay over £5 million to bring him to the club last September. Centre half Gabriel Paulista could also provide cover if required. Further forward, winger Jason also suffered a pulled groin, although he will hopefully be back in contention for the next pre-season friendly against Penafiel next week.

Meanwhile, in the transfer market the club confirmed the departure of 2 youngsters on loan for the coming season. 17 year old attacking midfielder Samuel Maciá will spend the year with Third division Basque semi-professional side Sestao River, where he is likely to feature heavily for the first team in Group 4. Fellow youngster Víctor Esquerdo, whose brother Vicente is also at the club, heads to the Segunda B2 with a loan switch to Navarre based club UD Mutilvera. Left-footed Víctor is also an attacking midfielder, and will be hoping to shine during his loan spell so he can follow in the footsteps of his older brother and represent the first team. Vicente made his debut for the first team back in November last year after impressing regularly with the B team in la Segunda.

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Víctor and Vicente: The two brothers both came through the Valencia academy
siepod
6 years ago
19 hours ago
93
Premium
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AS: Front page confirms arrival of Ecuadorian international Antonio Valencia


La Liga side Valencia today confirmed the signing of former Manchester United full-back Antonio Valencia. The 35 year old Ecuadorian international joins on a free transfer, having been without a club since his departure from LDU Quito in the summer. Valencia is no stranger to Spanish football, having originally arrived in La Liga back in 2005 as he signed for Villarreal. However, failing to break into the first team he then spent the season on loan with Segunda division side Recreativo, helping the Andalusian side secure promotion back to La Liga as they finished top. The following season, Valencia featured heavily again, the club finishing an impressive 8th in their first season back in the top flight. His performances were enough to attract the attention of English Premier League side Wigan Athletic, whom he joined again initially on loan. The club performed above expectation as they avoided relegation in his first season, seeing the loan extended before he eventually made the permanent switch in January 2008.

Continuing to impressive on the right wing despite his side struggling, he allegedly turned down the chance to return to Spain in January 2009 as he turned down a switch to Real Madrid, but would eventually move just a few months later as he joined fellow north west club Manchester United for an undisclosed fee, thought to be around £16 million. During his time with the Red Devils Valencia was a key figure for the club, making over 240 appearances in total and picking up 9 trophies (including 2 Premier league titles and an Europa League winners’ medal). In his final season, despite becoming club captain, the Manchester side decided not to take up the option to extend his contract for another year, bringing his decade with the club to a close. Following his release, Valencia returned to Ecuador to sign with LDU Quito, winning the Copa Ecuador in 2019.

His arrival back in Spain, signing a one-year deal with the club, comes just days after Valencia announced first-choice right back Daniel Wass was set for a spell on the sidelines with a knee injury. Despite his age, with 99 international appearances, Valencia brings the kind of experience that should enable him to slot into the setup without issue, boosted further by the fact he already knows the country and Spanish being his mother tongue. The deal represents great value and minimum risk for Valencia, who with minimal funds must try and build a squad capable of competing with the best in the country whilst not risking the financial stability the club continue to seek.

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Valencia: Returns to La Liga after just one year back home in Ecuador
siepod
6 years ago
19 hours ago
93
Premium
Pre-season gathers pace

The pre-season campaign for Los Che continued to gather pace with another convincing 3-0 victory, this time at home against Penafiel. As the Mestalla played host for this pre-season encounter, Portuguese 2nd division side Penafiel, who finished a lowly 15th last season, will have been hoping for a little more than just building up their fitness as they took on the Spanish side, but in the end simply found themselves dominated throughout and limited to just 1 shot on goal in the entire game as the La Liga side looked every bit like their far superior ranking suggested. With Wass injured, there was no real surprise when new arrival Antonio Valencia was drafted in a right back for his debut, while Jason was passed a late fitness test, and so the rest of the starting XI unchanged from last time out, lining up with: Cillessen – Valencia, Diakhaby, Gabriel Paulista, Gayà – Jason, Soler, Musah, Guedes – Maxi Gómez, Gameiro.

The hosts dominated play from the off, and eventually took the lead in the 21st minute, new arrival Antonio Valencia playing a fine through ball to split the Penafiel back line, with Kevin Gameiro again on hand to fire home his 3rd of the pre-season campaign. 11 minutes later, strike partner Maxi Gómez also getting in on the act, as he found space in the box to head home a pinpoint cross from skipper Gayà. The game was over as a contest 6 minutes after the break, when despite the keeper doing well to deny Gameiro his second of the game, winger Jason was superbly placed to react first and volley home the rebound, ensuring the hosts enjoyed their second 3-0 win in succession. On the hour mark, once again changes were made throughout, but there was to be no further score as Valencia comfortably saw out the game with ease. With an international break scheduled, the final pre-season game of the season against Espanyol in just 5 days time will undoubtedly include a much changed line-up as the club will hope to finish their pre-season with a win, before kicking off the season proper on Friday evening as they travel to face Real Betis.

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siepod
6 years ago
19 hours ago
93
Premium
Two new faces in on loan

Valencia yesterday confirmed the arrival of two new faces on loan as they look to continue to bolster their first team squad ahead of the kick off against Real Betis in La Liga in just one week’s time. First through the door is Croatian under-21 centre-half Boško Šutalo, who joins on a season long loan from Italian side Atalanta. The 20 year old, who can also play full-back, originally broke through the ranks at Croatian club NK Osijek, featuring for the 2nd string before eventually making his debut back in October 2018, in a 4-1 victory over NK Rudeš. Less than a year later he was also featuring in European competition, as he started in the Europa League qualification round against CSKA Sofia in summer 2019.

In total, Šutalo made 12 league appearances his first season with the first team squad, then another 16 during the 2019-20 season, before eventually sealing a move to Serie A side Atalanta in January 2020, for a fee of around €5 million. Making his debut in July 2020 in a 2-0 win against Napoli, he would go on to feature 6 more times during the remainder of the season with his new club. Despite this, the Bergamo based club were still willing to allow him to head out on loan this season, in a bid to aid his development and gain more experience, and with Valencia having restricted funds with which to build a competitive squad, the Spanish side felt this would be a great opportunity to bring in an extremely promising young defender with no real financial outlay for the club, other than picking up the players’ wages during his time in La Liga.

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Šutalo: Talented young defender joins on loan from Atalanta for the season


Joining him at the club is exciting Arsenal youngster Emile Smith Rowe, who has also agreed to sign for Los Che for the coming season. Also 20, the England youth star can play across the middle and as well as further forward, offering his new club plenty of versatility when it comes to squad depth. London born, Smith Rowe began his career with the London club, initially signing for the academy back in 2010, at the tender age of just 10 years old. Since then, he has continued to develop through the ranks, pushing on to become a regular fixture for the Under-23s side, before eventually gaining initial first team recognition during a pre-season tournament, scoring his first goal in a 1-1 draw against Atlético Madrid while just 17 years old. He also featured against PSG, where he claimed an assist in a 5-1 thumping, on his 18th birthday.

There was no surprise to see Smith Rowe eventually making his competitive debut with the club, his first appearance coming off the bench as a second half substitute against Vorskla Poltava in the Europa League, which incidentally was the first professional debut from a millennial at the London club. He was handed a start in the next Europa league game, this time away against Qarabag, and duly scored in a 3-0 victory, becoming the youngster scorer for Arsenal since Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, and once again the first millennial to score for the Gunners. His first goal at the Emirates came against Blackpool as he starred in a 2-1 victory in the EFL Cup. In total he would make 6 appearances, scoring 3 times during his breakthrough season, before then heading off to Germany for the remainder of the 2018-19 campaign, joining RB Leipzig on a 6 month loan deal. After still suffering a groin injury on his arrival, he would make just 4 appearances in the Bundesliga during his time with the club.

The beginning of last season saw Smith Rowe once again in and around the first team set up at the Emirates, making 6 appearances in all competitions, before once again heading out on loan, this time dropping down a division to join English Championship side Huddersfield Town. Despite the former Premier League club’s troubles, which would eventually see the manager who brought him in sacked, Smith Rowe managed 19 appearances and 2 goals during his time in West Yorkshire, a spell which was considered a success given the environment.

With Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta keen to see Smith Rowe continue his development with more European experience, the youngster was again made available for loan for the coming season, which initially alerted Valencia to the prospect of bringing him in. Having featured for his country at every level from Under 16’s to Under 20’s to date, including being a part of the impressive England U-17 side that won the World Cup and finished runner-up in the European Championships, and again with the club only forced to pick up the cost of his wages, it was again a deal that represented fantastic value for the Spanish side. Smith Rowe will be expected to feature heavily during the course of the season, in a large part due to his versality where he can provide cover and options on both wings alongside his preferred position in the centre.

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Smith Rowe: Exciting Arsenal youngster follows Šutalo into club


With just a week until kick-off, the Spanish side look set to continue scouring the market for more new faces ahead of the new campaign, although one name who now looks set not to join is promising Dutch centre half Timo Zaal. The 16 year old rookie, who is currently on the books of Heerenveen, was rumoured to be the subject of several bids from Valencia prior to the arrival of Šutalo, although it appears both parties were vastly apart in their valuation of the youngster, who has yet to make his professional debut for the Eredivisie side, where he is currently a part of the Under-19s set-up. While Valencia may look to revisit this deal if further funds become available, the loan capture of Sutalo is likely to mean that any available money will now be used elsewhere on the pitch, with the club still thought to be keen to bring in another attacking option, although that could ultimately depend on the potential departure of transfer listed Rubén Sobrino.

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Zaal: Barlow confirms any deal for the young Dutch defender now unlikely
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Third new face in 4 days

Valencia welcomed their 3rd new arrival in just 4 days as they announced the confirmation that young Dutch striker Joshua Zirkzee would be joining the club on a season long loan from German giants Bayern München. Zirkzee becomes the 3rd player to join on a season long deal, with the Spanish side clearly keen to utilise the loan market wherever possible due to the current financial stability at the club. The arrival of the 19 year old means that any deal to sign current trialist Daniel Sturridge longer term may now not be considered, with the youth international now expected to provide back up and cover to the front pairing of Gameiro and Maxi Gomez.

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Zirkzee arrives: Exciting youngster who should provide vital cover for the front two


As a child, Zirkzee played youth football with several clubs before eventually finding himself in the Feyenoord youth academy in 2016. He was to spend just one year with the Rotterdam side in his native country before heading across the border to join Bundesliga giants Bayern. Continuing his progression with the German side, he eventually broke through into the second team, earning all the plaudits as he scored a hat-trick in his debut for the club in the Regionalliga. One day later he was back in the Under-19s, and scoring again as they won 2-1. Following the promotion of Bayern II, Zirkzee would make his professional debut for the club in July 2019, coming on in place of fellow promising youngster Oliver Batista Meier. At the end of that calendar year, he would then make his debut for the first team, in the final group stage match of the Champions’ League against English side Tottenham Hotspur. A week later he made his debut in the Bundesliga, coming on as a 90th minute sub before almost immediately scoring the to put his side back ahead in what eventually became a 3-1 victory against Freiburg. Just 2 days later he was at it again, coming off the bench to score another key goal, this time the winner as Bayern overthrew Wolfsburg. He would end the season with an impressive tally of 4 goals in just 9 appearances in the Bundesliga, also picking up medals in the Bundesliga, DFB-Pokal and Champions League come the end of the season.

Given his impact and talent, there is no surprise he has featured heavily throughout the youth ranks for his national team, currently representing the Netherlands at Under-19 level, where he has 8 goals in 9 games. With a Nigerian mother and Dutch father, he could have opted to play for either country, but opted to represent his home nation. Arriving on a year long loan, Valencia will be hoping that Zirkzee can continue the fine ability he has shown in his career to date, to help fire the club up the table. Given his ability to come off the bench and nick a goal, he could hopefully become a key arrival at the Mestalla in the coming months.

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Zirkzee: Already looking like a hot prospect for the future
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International Round-Up (Part 1)

Lee Kang-In was undoubtedly the stand out performer in the recent wave of international fixtures, scoring the opening goal for his country in a 2-1 win over China in the World Cup qualifiers. The 19 year old, one of 19 Valencia players currently away with his country, played the entire game for Korea in their impressive victory, also chalking up 6 key passes and a solid 7.5 match rating.

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Kang-In: Firing home from close range in 2-1 win over China


Elsewhere, new arrival Boško Šutalo is another who had a good game, playing the full 90 for Croatia Under-21s in a fantastic 4-0 win against Belarus, while fellow young centre half Ruben Iranzo looked solid at the back for Spain Under 19’s in their 0-0 draw with the Netherlands, in a squad that also featured 10 of his colleagues, Ivan Munoz also standing out during a 51 minute appearance.

In the Spanish Under-21 qualification match against Bosnia, Hugo Guillamón started and played an hour before coming off in a 6-1 win, while club captain Jose Gaya managed just 13 minutes off the bench for the full national team, having little chance to make an impact in a 1-0 defeat against Denmark in the Nations League. Also earning full honours, Antonio Valencia played the full game in a 1-0 loss to Chile, while Jasper Cillessen kept a clean sheet for the Netherlands in a 2-0 victory over Italy. Maxi Gomez came off the bench for Uruguay in a World Cup qualification match against Argentina, but had little impact as the visitors ran out 5-1 winners, including 2 goals from former Valencia centre-back Nicolas Otamendi. Last to feature was Yunus Musah, but the young midfielder was given just 8 minutes off the bench to make an impression for the USA Under-23 side against Saudi Arabia.

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International Round-Up: All 19 players featured during first round of fixtures
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Winning end to Pre-Season

Valencia ensured they finished pre-season on a high as they ended their warm up campaign with a well-fought 2-1 win away to Espanyol. With several players still away on international duty, and many having only just returned, there was little surprise when Barlow opted to field a massively changed starting XI for the clash, against the Barcelona based side who suffered relegation from La Liga last season. Among the changes of note, triallist Daniel Sturridge started up front, while former skipper Ezequiel Garay, also on trial, started at the back alongside young defender Kevin Sibille. There was plenty of youth on the bench too, as Barlow looked to have a last look at some of his squad before the season proper.

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Espanyol started brightly against the La Liga side, and so there was no real shock when they eventually took the lead, although Valencia will be disappointed as the goal came directly from their corner. A poor delivery allowed the home side to directly counter, and winger Óscar Melendo did superbly to carry the ball forward before firing beyond Jaume Doménech, starting ahead of Cillessen for this one. Valencia forward Manu Vallejo had a great chance to equalize just minutes later after finding himself in space, but he fired straight at the keeper. Just 6 minutes after the break, Valencia were level, captain José Gayà breaking down the left before cutting the ball inside for Carlos Soler. The young midfielder took a touch before trying his luck from 20 yards, his shot beating the outstretched reach of Diego López before nestling in the top corner.

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Soler: Picks out top corner from range


On the hour mark Valencia made 10 changes, only Daniel Sturridge staying on as Barlow looked to freshen things up and give a few of the fringe players an opportunity to gain some match fitness. Espanyol thought they had reclaimed the lead in the 72nd minute, as Nico Melamed swiveled and fired home, but his joy was short lived as the assistant referee flagged for offside. As the game entered the final stretch, Valencia were dealt a blow when young full-back Thierry Correia seemed to go down heavily, Mangala coming on to replace him. With a draw looking the likely outcome, Valencia were then handed a penalty in stoppage time as substitute Denis Cheryshev showed great trickery down the left before being felled in the box. Trialist Daniel Sturridge stepped up, smashing his penalty straight down the middle to hand the La Liga side a late winner.

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Sturridge: Trialist grabs late winner from the spot in what could be his final game


After the game, Valencia confirmed Correia had suffered a twisted ankle, with the young Portuguese right back now set to miss between 3-6 weeks, a further blow for Los Che who are already without regular first choice Daniel Wass. The club also confirmed that left-back Kwadwo Asamoah, who had been at the club on a short term trial, had signed for fellow La Liga club Real Betis. Despite offering the Ghanaian a contract, Asamoah opted to join Betis instead, and could be set to face his old club immediately as the two square off in the opening game of the La Liga season on Friday. Former Juventus and Inter star Asamoah also turned down deals from Brighton, Braga and several other clubs along with Valencia to join the Seville club.

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Valencia: Finish pre-season proper with 3 wins out of 3
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Valencia land Rodri (no, not that one...)

Valencia completed their 5th signing since new manager Barlow took over, as they announced they had agreed a deal to sign young midfielder Rodri from fellow La Liga rivals Real Betis. With the two sides set to meet on Friday evening, the game already had an edge with Betis swooping in to sign full-back Kwadwo Asamoah, who had been on trial with Los Che, but the reverse transfer of Rodri, for a fee thought to be around £1 million, is bound to add further spice to the clash.

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Rodri: Valencia meet release clause to bring young midfielder to the Mestalla


As a youngster, Rodri began with local side Talayuela, before also having a sting with Real Madrid where he represented their academy back in 2011. He then spent time on loan with fellow Madrid based side CD Canillas, before making a switch across the capital to sign for bitter rivals Atlético Madrid in 2012. A season later he was on the move again, this time switching to Barcelona to join the youth set-up at Espanyol. Clearly unafraid to make controversial moves, in June 2014 he was moving cross city again, this time to join the famed la Masia set up at Catalan giants Barcelona. Further moves then saw him also spend time with Deportivo de La Coruña before eventually settling at Betis in 2016. After 2 years in the youth setup with the Sevilla based club, Rodri eventually made his debut with the B side in August 2018, coming on as a second half substitute. He grabbed his first goal a few months later, scoring in an 8-0 thrashing of CD Gerena.

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Becoming a regular with the B side, there was no real surprise when the club extended the young midfielders contract until 2022 the following summer. In total he made 29 appearances with the B side last season, scoring 6 goals and leading to interest from several clubs as a consequence. With Real looking to bring him into the first team setup, Valencia made their move, activating the 20 year old’s release clause before then agreeing a 3 year contract with the left-footed midfielder, who can also play down the left if required, although he prefers to play in an attacking central role.

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Rodri: Former Barca, Real & Atlético midfielder joins Valencia
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International Round-Up (Part 2)

The Valencia youngsters featured heavily for the Spanish Under-19 side as they played their 2nd game in 4 days, this time defeating Hungary 3-1. Stand out performer was undoubtedly Andrés Garcia, who helped himself to two goals against the Hungarians before eventually being subbed off after 74 minutes. Fran Pérez and Pedro Alemañ also claimed assists in the comfortable win, with a line-up that featured no fewer than 7 Valencia academy players from the start, Andres Cespedes, Joseda, Cristhian Mosquera, Iván Muñoz, and Hugo Montaña also started, while Jesús Vázquez came off the bench for 8 minutes in the win.

Meanwhile club captain José Gayà played the full 90 minutes for the full national team, as they drew 3-3 against Switzerland in a Nations League clash, also claiming an assist as he slipped in Marco Asensio as the Spaniards came back from 3-0 down thanks to an own goal from Vargas, that strike from Asensio and a late Sergi Roberto goal. Manchester City midfielder Rodri also missed a penalty as Spain almost claimed a dramatic win at the death.

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Gaya: Slips through Asensio in Spanish comeback


Loan signing Boško Šutalo was again impressive at the back in a 2-0 win, also against Switzerland, as he made his second appearance with the Croatian Under-21 side since joining the Valencian club, where he has yet to actually train since his arrival coinciding with the international schedule. Lee Kang-In was unable to repeat his goal scoring feat of the previous game as he featured for South Korea, who fell 1-0 away to Iraq in a World Cup qualification game, while also on the losing side was Antonio Valencia, who played 90 minutes against Brazil in a 3-1 defeat, also in the World cup qualification, Everton, Gabriel Jesus and Firmino doing the damage.

Jasper Cillessen will have been disappointed to concede in a 1-1 draw against Sweden in a Nations League match, while Maxi Gómez and Yunus Musah both had minimal impact, with just 6 and 8 minutes to play respectively for Uruguay in a 2-0 defeat against Colombia, and USA Under-23s in a 1-0 victory over Saudi Arabia.

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International Round-Up: Garcia scores twice as Valencia feature heavily in Under 19s
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