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Week 38 in review
As the season concluded, with many eyes on the title battle being played out to the wire, there was also still the matter of a Europa League place up for grabs, while at the bottom several sides went into the day staring a potential drop to the Segunda. Real Madrid retained their title with a solid 0-0 draw away to Valladolid, the solitary point seeing them break the hearts of Valencia, who had lead for most of the season to this point. The league leaders coming into the day, Valencia struggled to close out the title and a penalty from former player Ivan Rakitic was enough to condemn them to a 3-2 defeat against Sevilla, which saw the title return to the capital.
Athletic Bilbao did enough to claim the final European spot with a 2-0 win at home to Elche, who having already secured safety had little to play for at San Mamés. Villarreal, who had been hoping to snatch the final spot, also closed out the season with a win, a 3-0 triumph over Alavés drawing the curtain on their season, but it wasn’t enough as they finished a point behind Bilbao in the end.
Barcelona finished their season with a flourish as they hammered Europa league qualifiers Real Sociedad 4-0, taking an early lead just 3 minutes into the game through Coutinho. Meanwhile Eibar, already relegated, ended their season with a 2-0 home win against Osasuna, who finished in relative mid table safety. Eibar must now prepare for life in the Segunda again, alongside Cadiz who ended their campaign with a 0-0 draw away at Granada.
Celta Vigo secured their safety with an impressive 3-0 win away at Real Betis, another side who had already secured European qualification and so had little motivation going into the final day. That left all eyes on the matches in Madrid where Atlético Madrid hosted Levante, and a real 6 pointer between Huesca and Getafe, to see who would face the drop. With Atlético taking a lead 19 minutes in, Levante found themselves immediately up against it, and when that was doubled 7 minutes later it all but confirmed the Valencian side would be going down. In the other game, Getafe ensured their survival taking a 2-0 lead into the break, Victor Mollejo grabbing a hat-trick in the end in a 4-1 win, with Huesca, although on the end of that hammering, also surviving by a point as Atlético added another 2 goals in the second half to see off Levante 4-0 in the end.
Isak lands rookie award in breakout season
Long term Valencia target Alexander Isak capped a fine season as he was last night named as the Spanish Young Player of the Year for the 20/21 season, just days before it reaches its conclusion with the title race still set to go down to the wire. Isak himself will travel to the Camp Nou on the final day to face Barcelona, with his side Real Sociedad having already secured qualification for the Europa league next year, although the young striker would no doubt love to add to his impressive tally against the Catalunya giants.
The award, given in recognition to younger players enjoying a breakthrough season, has been picked up in the past by such illustrious names as Sergio Ramos, Lionel Messi and Gerard Pique, while more recent incumbents include Marco Asensio and Alvaro Odriozola. There has been no doubt the 21 year old, who Valencia have cast a longing eye over since the early stages of the current campaign, has stood out for his side, ruthless in front of goal and showing consistency regardless of opposition. With no award given the previous 2 seasons, Isak ironically takes over the award from Gonçalo Guedes of Valencia, who picked up the honour in 2017-18, and who Los Che would love to see paired with Isak in coming seasons.
Isak began his career back in Sweden, playing for his home town side AIK where he made the breakthrough back in early 2016, scoring in a 6-0 victory despite being just 16 years old. Unsurprisingly, he progressed rapidly into the first team set up at AIK, eventually scoring 13 goals in 29 appearances in his first season. This led to the now well trodden path for promising youngsters of a move to the Bundesliga to join Borussia Dortmund, Isak moving to the German giants in January 2017.
Staring for Dortmund II, he scored 5 in 11 in the 2018-19 season before making the switch to the Netherlands to join Willem II on loan. In the Eredivisie, he once again found goalscoring form easy to come by, becoming the first foreign-born player to score 12 goals in his first 12 Eredivisie games, eventually ending his time in Holland with 14 goals in 18 appearances, a fantastic return. This led to the switch to Sociedad, where the young Swedish international signed a long term deal, finding the net 16 times in his first season.
This season he continued to prosper in front of goal, netting in the opening fixture against Celta Vigo, before grabbing another 2 in 4 games in October, including a goal in the Europa League. November proved even more prosperous as he grabbed another 5, followed by 2 more in December. Four more goals followed at the turn of the year, before a Europa League hat-trick against Wolfsberger AC and another in February continued the run. March was lean by the youngster’s standards, finding the net just twice, but this was followed up by scoring in 5 out of the 6 games in April, including a double against Osasuna.
Going into the final game of the season he currently sits on 21 goals in La Liga, while also having 7 in the Europa league this year. He also grabbed a double for his country in a 5-1 win back in March. His long term contract, and the current financial situation at Valencia, makes any move, at least in the short term, highly unlikely, but if he continues to show the form which has seen him earn this latest accolade, it won’t be long before many other of the top European clubs start sniffing around.
Gutted to lose it in such cruel circumstances.Bouncebackability needed, and knowing you here you’ll have already identified where to strengthen and improve the squad.
Yeah, although funds once again proving the obstacle, so looking more around “freebies” for the here & now and some youngsters that can either eventually break through or be sold for a profit to ease the financial crisis. Gutting to lose (cold light of day I've massively over achieved though). Think I came unstuck with fatigue at the end of the season, players tiring more and more due to my tactics, physios telling me to rest certain stars, then them getting the pet lip out when I did. Definitely need to look at trying to rotate a little more next season (especially with Europe on the cards) to try and keep them more naturally happy, and perhaps reducing the training slightly more too, especially during the run in (had a mental run of fixtures, on a par with the covid scenario some clubs are facing in reality right now).
Still, first season, no money, two cups and 2nd in La Liga is a massive achievement. Icing on the cake would be for Lim to finally find a buyer, but the game keeps teasing me with speculation then nothing happens.
Season Review 2020/21: The New Arrivals
Despite the disappointment of missing out on the title, there is no doubt this has been a sensational season for Valencia, and below we look at the arrivals this season.
There is no doubting the signing of the season was the arrival of Uruguayan winger Nicolás De La Cruz in the winter transfer market. The 23 year old wide man, signed from River Plate for £2.3 million in January, hit the ground running with his new club, and became a key fixture on the left hand side of midfield for the remainder of the season, making 25 starts for his new club and weighing in with 4 goals and 9 assistances during his first 6 months in Spain.
Veteran defender Antonio Valencia, who arrived on a free transfer last summer, was also an integral part of the first team set up, making 11 starts and another 19 appearances from the bench in a twilight season of his career, the 35 year old looking set to depart in the summer. As expected, the loan signings were used mainly as squad rotation players, emphasised by Emile Smith Rowe, on loan from English side Arsenal, making 29 appearances from the bench but just 3 starts. Joshua Zirkzee, on loan from Bayern, also found game time limited although he did find the net 4 times for Valencia in a total of 25 appearances. Boško Šutalo, meanwhile, found it almost impossible to break into the preferred back line at the club, with just 2 starts and 9 appearances from the bench, much to the anger of parent club Atalanta.
Another who failed to break into the defensive set up was Kevin Sibille, signed before Barlow took over. The 22 year old centre half was used predominantly with Valencia B, while also enjoying a loan spell with Extremadura. Rodri, the promising 21 year old midfielder signed from Real Betis, was also sent back out on loan, staring heavily for Melilla in the Segunda division, making 26 starts and scoring 7 times from an advanced midfield role.
Free transfer arrival Daniel Sturridge made just one appearance before injury curtailed his season, and the former Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester City striker will be let go in the summer after failing to prove his fitness. Veteran utility man Vieirinha is another who could be set to leave, the 35 year old being drafted in to provide cover in the winter transfer window for just £400k, and making 3 starts and 9 appearances from the bench during the second half of the season, in which he also picked up a Copa Del Rey winners’ medal. At the other end of the career spectrum, 22 year old German striker Janni Serra was bought to develop, and he only made one appearance from the bench in the latter stages of the season, with the club likely to loan him out next year to continue his development.
Season Review 2020/21: The Departures
With the precarious financial situation at the club presently, Valencia once again found themselves having to sell several key players during the summer just as an attempt to balance the books. Many key departures happened prior to the arrival of new manager Sie Barlow, and with extremely limited funds, he was left with the inevitable challenge of really struggling to replace some of the core squad from recent years.
Without doubt the biggest loss was the departure of promising youngster Ferran Torres, who headed to England to sign with Manchester City in a deal thought to be worth around £20 million for the Spanish side. Since breaking into the first team set up from the Mestalla side, Torres has featured more frequently each passing season, with 44 appearances and 6 goals during his final season. The 21 year old exciting winger was just 3 shy of 100 appearances for the first team, extremely impressive for such a young player, when he opted to make the switch to the Premier League to join Pep Guardiola’s men. Perhaps more surprising was the decision then taken by City themselves, allowing him to join rival club Chelsea on loan for the season, despite having initially made the City first team and indeed opened his scoring account in a 2-0 win over Leeds. He has struggled to cement a place during his loan switch, with just 6 starts and 16 from the bench, although he did score twice also in the FA Cup for his new side.
Another double figure transfer fee was that commanded was that for midfield general Geoffrey Kondogbia, who made the switch to the Spanish capital to sign for Atlético Madrid as a direct replacement for Thomas Partey, who headed to London to sign for Arsenal. The transfer of Partey, in a roundabout way, may have led to Arsenal allowing Smith Rowe to join Valencia on loan for the season, but there is no doubt the departure of Kondogbia, who had been a stand-out player for Valencia since arriving from Internazionale, initially on loan, led to youngster Yunus Musah been thrown into midfield. Since his move, the 28 year old former Sevilla and Monaco man was used mainly as a squad player, making just 8 starts in the league for his new club.
Another transfer with links to Arsenal was the departure of Francis Coquelin, another midfielder, who headed to fellow La Liga side Villarreal for £6 million, again a relatively low fee driven in large by the economic situation at the Mestalla. The former Arsenal stalwart, who spent 10 years with the North London side, has been a regular fixture for his new club, with 33 starts and 2 goals as the club finished 8th. One move Barlow did sanction was the sale of Rubén Sobrino, the former Manchester City forward returning to England to sign for Newcastle United in a £4.1 million transfer. With the form shown by both Gameiro and Gómez, and Barlow needing funds to spend elsewhere, it seemed logical to allow Sobrino to move on as he was highly unlikely to feature, with no guarantee he would even have been registered in the squad. Since moving to the North East, he has faced a similar challenge with just four appearances in total, 2 coming from the bench, and a solitary goal in a 3-1 defeat at home to Leicester, with his new side, although he has scored 22 times for the reserves, where he has played the majority of his football.
The other big loss from the dressing room was that of the experienced Dani Parejo, the former Real Madrid man also making the switch to Villarreal alongside Coquelin, on a free transfer after the expiration of his contract at the Mestalla. Like his compatriot, he has become a regular with his new side, making 28 starts in the league and 6 in the Europa League. After nearly 400 competitive appearances for Valencia during a 9 season span, his influence off the field as much as on it have been missed, with the club now looking to several other of the more experienced squad players to step up and fill the void.
Other departures included several of the younger players who Barlow felt would be better served forging a career elsewhere, while the transfer fees, minimal as they were, and reduction of the wage bill would at least help slightly as the club bid to stabilise their finances further.
Season Review 2020/21: The Loanees
In an attempt to both secure playing time for some of the fringe players, and also with an eye on finances share some of the wage bill, several players spent time away from La Mestalla with varying success last season.
Without doubt the biggest, in terms of both stature and performance levels, was Manu Vallejo, who spent the season on loan with fellow La Liga side Villarreal. The 24 year old, who can play across the front, enjoyed great success during his time out on loan, with 11 goals in La Liga and a further 8 in the Copa Del Rey for Unai Emery’s side, who may now have one eye on making a permanent deal for the former Spanish Under-21 international.
Another who enjoyed plenty of game time away from the club was young midfielder Rodri, signed from Real Betis and then loaned out to Melilla, where he made 27 starts for the Segunda B side, and scored 7 goals and claimed 3 assists during a productive loan spell. The 21 year old returns to his parent club hoping he will have done enough to force his way into the first team squad for the coming season.
Italian full back Cristiano Piccini found minutes harder to come by during his time back in his country of birth, making just 8 starts in Serie A for Atalanta, with another 6 appearances from the bench. He also managed one start and 2 substitute appearances in the Champion’s League. With such a meagre return, it is unlikely Atalanta will look to take the deal any further, while it is also hard to see if and where he would fit into Valencia’s plans in the coming season, so it may be that the 28 year old Italian international is moved on in the summer.
Others enjoying time away included the promising 22 year old winger Alex Blanco, who racked up 16 appearances and 2 goals during a brief spell with Rayo Vallecano, while young centre half Guillem Molina made 14 starts during his 6 month spell with Numancia. 16 year old goalkeeper Andrés Céspedes made a solid start to his senior career, with 15 starts for Hospitalet, and with the potential departure of Jaume Doménech, he may find a few opportunities within the first team set up next season as a result. During his time with the Segunda B club, he kept 3 clean sheets for the struggling outfit.
Season Review 2020/21: The line-up
With no European competition, and relatively few major injuries, Valencia were lucky enough to have a fairly stable preferred first XI line-up as they claimed 2nd in La Liga. With several players offering some versatility between positions, Barlow had the option of mixing it up, although especially at the back he tended to rely on the pairing of Gabriel Paulista and Mouctar Diakhaby, both who had great seasons, as much as possible. In fact the centre half pairing made the most starts during the year, closely flanked by shot-stopped Jasper Cillessen just behind them as number one.
Favouring a 4-4-2 system with natural wingers, early season it was Denis Cheryshev and Gonçalo Guedes who tended to get the nod on the wings, although the arrival of Nicolás De La Cruz in January saw the Uruguayan become a key man in the system, while the long term hip injury to Kevin Gameiro also saw Guedes utilised up front more often, with Jason stepping in to take over duties on the right. There was a similar switch in the middle of the park, where Uros Racic and Carlos Soler began the season before rookie midfielder Yunus Musah forced his way into the reckoning, going on to make a fantastic 29 starts at just 18 years old, also earning full international honours for the USA during the season.
Next season is likely to see a similar tactic employed, although with the fatigue becoming a factor as the season wore on, and the addition of Champion’s League football the coming year, it is likely some tweaks in both personnel and style may need to be made to carry the team through the season.
Season Review 2020/21: The Accolades
With the club exceeding all expectations for the season as they lost out narrowly on the title to reigning champions Real Madrid, while also picking up both the Copa Del Rey and Spanish Supercopa, the only surprise is that they didn’t feature more heavily in the accolades throughout the season. Barlow, in his first year of management, didn’t pick up the Manager of the Month award until January, despite his fantastic start with Los Che, although he followed this up immediately by reclaiming the award in February, while his peers also saw him with the Manager of the Year award for his achievements with the unfancied club.
Both strikers enjoyed a wonderful season at the club, with 24 year old Maxi Gómez earning the plaudits from the supporters as he picked up the Fans Player of the Season and the Young Player of the season. He was also top goalscorer overall, with 26 goals for the club. His strike partner, the experienced Kevin Gameiro, missed a large chunk of the season through injury, but still did enough to finish top scorer in La Liga with his 21 goals, pipping Alexander Isak to the award courtesy of a better goal per game ratio (Maxi Gómez finished 3rd on 20).
Few could argue that 23 year old wide man Nicolás De La Cruz was signing of the season, the winger arriving from River Plate for £2.3 million back in January and immediately forcing his way into the side. During the run in he made 21 league starts, with 3 goals and 9 assists, a fantastic return for such a young player in a new country and system. Goal of the Season went to midfielder Carlos Soler, who actually had two contenders in consecutive games with his long range strikers, also earning himself a call up to the Spanish national team. Most assists came from versatile full-back Daniel Wass, who was also deployed in a central midfield role occasionally but was definitely most effective when marauding down the right hand side, where he contributed to 10 goals.
Jasper Cillessen enjoyed a fine season between the sticks, and with the help of the solid centre-half pairing in front of him, his 20 clean sheets were to be a new record for the club, who also tasted defeat just 3 times during the campaign.
Valencia Under 19’s smash the records but miss out on title
The Valencia Under-19 side enjoyed a sensational season under Miguel Angel Angulo as they smashed goalscoring records left, right and centre but ultimately fell just short of winning the title in a highly competitive play-off. In the season regular, Valencia dominated group 7 where they won all 38 games of the regular season with an eye watering 246 goals scored and just 18 against, over 100 goals better than their closest rivals Albacete, who finished 13 points behind with 2 draws and 3 defeats during the year.
Such dominance, unsurprisingly, also saw them clean up in the record books, where their phenomenal 16-2 victory over Murcia was both the biggest win and highest goalscoring match in the competition, although Barcelona topped them for consecutive wins. Dario Serra scored 7 goals in the thrashing of Murcia, also a record which saw him finish joint second in the top goalscorer charts with 38 alongside team-mate Àlex Olmedo, with Loren Zúñiga of Malaga hitting an even more impressive 48 goals. Valencia also dominated the passing stats during the season, including most key passes and best pass completion recognition, Hugo Montañana and Facundo González respectively earning the honours.
In the quarter-finals, Real Betis proved no match, with Valencia winning 5-1 against their counter parts, a double salvo from Pedro Alemañ among the pick of the bunch. However, they were to come unstuck in the semi-final against the equally impressive Barcelona, although a thrilling encounter between two sensational attacking sides went to extra time before a winner could be found, with both sides also scoring an own goal before Moussa N’Diaye grabbed his second of the game to hand Barcelona the win in El Ejido.
Barcelona went on to triumph in the final 2-1 against Celta Vigo, meaning they took the record for most consecutive wins with 41, after also enjoying a faultless season just like Valencia. With the club heavily reliant on bringing players through, the form of the Valencia youngsters will be a very welcome boost to the club hierarchy, with several potentially set to be given their chance in the senior ranks during the coming season, although there will also be one key departure with Pedro Alemañ heading to England to join Premier League side Tottenham Hotspur in the summer. The 19 year old featured for both the Under-19s and Valencia B, where he made 13 appearances, during the season, and the club are devastated to be losing him abroad for no fee when his contract expires in the summer.
International round-up (Summer Part 1)
Valencia youngster Koba Lein failed to make an impact in his first appearance of the Toulon Tournament, as he came off the bench just before half-time for hosts France, only to see his country fall to a 2-1 defeat after being in front against Wales in the opening game of the tournament.
There was a better start to the tournament for Spain, who swept aside Australia 4-1 in their opening game. Fran Pérez was among the scorers, with a close range volley as he played just over an hour before being replaced. Meanwhile, Hugo González played the full game on the left, while there was also a full 90 minute role for both Joseda and Ivan Muñoz at the back for the Spanish Under-20 side.
Hosts France finally got a win under their belt in the second game, as they defeated Syria 3-0. Koba Lein again appeared off the bench, this time setting one up during his time on the pitch with a far more comfortable performance. Away from Toulon, youngster Yunus Musah continued his meteoric rise as he made another appearance from the bench for the full US men’s national team, getting around 20 minutes run out in a 3-2 defeat against Canada in a key World Cup qualifier.
Denis Cheryshev had a solid game as his country beat Montenegro 2-1 in a friendly match, the Russian winger playing the whole game, while fellow wide man Gonçalo Guedes played around 80 minutes on the left for Portugal in a 0-0 draw against Germany, a match which saw Cristiano Ronaldo miss a penalty for the visitors. Jasper Cillessen came on for the final 10 minutes as the Netherlands had a comfortable 2-0 win over Albania in their friendly, replacing young Feyenoord keeper Justin Biljow.
Spain continued their fine form in Toulon as they hit another 4 goals in their second game, this time beating their Costa Rican counterparts 4-0. Fran Pérez set one up as he and fellow winger Hugo González played around an hour each, while Ivan Muñoz and Joseda were once again relied upon throughout at the back, both impressing with a clean sheet.
Koba Lein was again given a half hour run out in the final group game for France, which saw them beat Algeria 4-0, which was enough to see them qualify for the latter stages of the tournament despite losing their opening game. The young midfielder showed a good range of passing during his 30 minute cameo in the victory. Elsewhere, Yunus Musah was handed a start and repaid the faith after just 5 minutes with the opening goal as the USA bounced back from their defeat against Canada with a far more comfortable 2-0 win over Curacao in their latest World Cup qualifier.
Valencia B secure promotion
Valencia B enjoyed a fine end to their season as they secured promotion back into the Segunda division after initially winning their group and then progressing through the play-offs. During the regular season, the former Mestalla side were beaten only once, a 5-2 defeat against local rivals Levante, although they managed an impressive 13 victories during the campaign which saw them finish 10 points above closest rivals Ibiza at the top of the Grupo B3 table. Despite failing to have anyone at the top of the goalscoring charts, they did still manage an impressive 42 goals, conceding just 12 during the regular season. Of the standout players, youngster Jesús Vázquez, who can play anywhere down the left, enjoyed a great campaign with 12 assists, closely followed by Fran Pérez, who spent some of the campaign out on loan.
The youngsters also dominated the pass completion charts, an indication of how well they adopted the style of their senior colleagues during the season, while between the sticks Cristian Rivero enjoyed most clean sheets, with 10, while Andres Céspedes, on loan with Hospitalet, conceded only 20, also a record.
The fine form continued into the B3 promotion stage, as the side chalked up another 30 goals, drawing just once, as they ensured they would reach the play-off stages to shoot for promotion, once again finishing top with 11 points more than Barcelona heading into the final games.
Facing Atlético Baleares, a 2-0 victory away in the first leg gave them the advantage, before finishing the job off 3-2 at home to book a place in the final play-off game. Nacho Muñoz scored 3 times over the two games, wile Lee Kang-In and Janni Serra also chipped in with a goal. In the second round, they were initially on the road again, Lee Kang-In again scoring before picking up a knock in a 2-1 victory in Burgos, the hosts pulling one back very late on. It was more comfortable at home, where they took a 3-0 lead before eventually winning 3-1, Nacho Muñoz with another double, to secure promotion.
International round-up (Summer Part 2)
Jasper Cillessen once again had to settle for another spot on the bench, coming on for the last 15 minutes, as Bijlow kept another clean sheet in a 2-0 victory over Slovenia. Gonçalo Guedes only faired slightly better, with a 19 minute run out in a 2-1 victory over Russia, where his team-mate Denis Cheryshev was consigned to a place on the bench. Spain suffered a 1-0 defeat against Italy, an early penalty the only goal of the game, with José Gayà left on the bench and Carlos Soler only getting a run out for the final 12 minutes in Rome. One man who did get a full game was full back Daniel Wass, but he could do little to prevent his side falling to a 2-0 defeat at home against Croatia.
Back in Toulon, the Spanish Under 20 side ensured they topped their group with a 2-1 win over Ghana in their final group game, Joseda and Ivan Muñoz once again playing the full game at the back, while Hugo González also played the full 90 on the left hand side, having a fairly useful game in the win. Fran Pérez came off the bench for the final half hour in the final group game.
Yunus Musah earned his 6th cap for the US as they fell on the road in their latest qualification game against Mexico, 2-1 the final scoreline. The defeat, the 2nd in 3 games so far, sees the USA sit 4th at present in the qualification group, currently topped by Mexico who have won all 3 games so far.
Spain ensured their progress to the final of the Toulon tournament with another impressive display as they beat Croatia 2-0. Young keeper Andres Céspedes was brought in to the defence that once again contained team-mates Joseda and Ivan Muñoz, and they was again proved imperious. Meanwhile Fran Pérez and Hugo González both came off the bench in the win. Koba Lein, meanwhile, played just under an hour from the bench in a 3-1 revenge victory over Wales in their semi-final, enjoying a 94% pass rate in an accurate passing display in the heart of the French midfield.
Yunus Musah was back on the bench as the USA won 3-0 in their latest qualifier, coming on for the final 20 minutes in a comfortable win over Panama, in which Barcelona full-back Sergiño Dest was among the scorers, while Boško Šutalo, who spent the season on loan with Valencia, could do nothing as Croatia were beaten 2-0 by their French under-21 counterparts.
The Toulon final saw a meeting of team-mates, as Koba Lein made his first start of the tournament and played the full game as his country, who began the tournament with a defeat, beat their Spanish rivals 2-0 in the showpiece final. It was a fine victory for the youngster, which came at the expense of no less than 5 of his club colleagues. Céspedes was again handed the role between the sticks behind Joseda and Ivan Muñoz, while wide man Fran Pérez also played the full 90 minutes in defeat, with Hugo González unable to change the tide of the game when he came off the bench.
Valencia reject PSG move for Gayà
News broke last night that cash strapped Valencia had rejected a bid from French champions PSG for club captain José Gayà. Valencia fans were still reeling from the disappointment of just missing out on the title, despite having a season exceeding all expectations, when news broke that the French giants were set to come in for their star player, who has been at the club since a youngster and is considered a key component of the current Valencia side. Although details are a little sketchy, it is believed the side from the French capital had made a take it or leave it offer of around £42 million for the full back, hoping to capitalise on the fact the Spanish side were in financial difficulties.
Valencia were quick to rebuff the offer, as they look to stabilise and rebuild for another shot at the title next season, albeit made difficult by their current economic situation, although they do hope that will be boosted somewhat by the return of Champion’s League football following their impressive campaign last season. During a breakout season for rookie coach Sie Barlow, which saw the club lift both the Super Copa and Copa Del Rey aside from la liga heartbreak, Gayo was a stalwart at left-back. The skipper started 33 games in the league, with 2 goals and 9 assists to his name, while making another 3 appearances in the Copa Del Rey, and also being a regular for the Spanish international side during the season, adding to his previous caps for his country. The 26 year old has, to date, been the ultimate one club man, albeit with a spell at the Mestalla during his development into one of the best left backs in world football.
Although fans will be boosted by the news Valencia have rejected the bid, with other global superstar clubs such as Manchester City, Liverpool, Chelsea and Internazionale also sniffing around, the future of the full back may not yet be as clear cut as some would help, although it does at least seem clear it will take a substantial offer to eventually prise the left back away from the Mestalla.
It's a real kick in the teeth to lose La Liga like that but you still had a very sucessfull season
I'm eager to see how will you assemble your squad for the new challenges
Hope the financial situation is a bit better for you this season #AmuntValencia
It's a real kick in the teeth to lose La Liga like that but you still had a very sucessfull seasonI'm eager to see how will you assemble your squad for the new challenges Hope the financial situation is a bit better for you this season #AmuntValencia
Thanks. Yeah, gutting but in the cold light of day I can look back and be proud. Think fatigue, as much as anything else, did us, which worries me with the added fixtures European football will bring. Trying to build the squad and do a bit of wheeler-dealing (feel like the Spanish Harry Redknapp) and hopefully we can kick on the coming season and maybe have a bit more luck!
Finances are still woeful, but hopefully European bonus money will help a bit, and maybe then we will attract better sponsors too, etc, to help improve the situation.
Doménech heading for Greece
Valencia keeper Jaume Doménech has agreed a deal to join Greek Super League side PAOK Salonika next month. The 30 year old shot stopper had previously made clear his intention to head for pastures new, as he looks to secure first team football after serving as understudy for Dutch international Jasper Cillessen at Valencia the last few seasons. A deal has been agreed with the potential to rise to £7,250,000 for the experienced keeper, who made 3 starts in La Liga this season for Los Che, a club he has represented over 50 times in total since joining, while also enjoying a long spell as number one with La Mestalla.
His new side finished runners up once again to Olympiakos in the Greek super league, for the second season running, and the fourth time in 6 seasons they have been second, whilst also lifting the title back in 2018/19 with a side that featured current Valencia utility man Vieirinha, who spoke highly of his former club when discussing the potential move with Doménech. He looks set to battle it out with former Godoy Cruz goalkeeper Rodrigo Rey for the number one spot, while amongst his new colleagues will be Andre Ayew, Tomer Hemed, Oumar Niasse, Giampaolo Pazzini and Giovani dos Santos at the club who boast a wealth of experience. Doménech is set to join his new side at the start of July.
Euro 2020 (Group Stages – Part One)
The flagship UEFA competition finally got underway in Rome, albeit a year later than originally planned due to the pandemic, but Italy could only manage a 1-1 draw with Finland in a disappointing curtain raiser on Friday evening at the Stadio Olimpico. Brentford striker Marcus Forss gave the visitors a shock lead inside the opening 20 minutes, before Nicolò Barella hit back just a minute later in what proved to be the last action of note.
There were at least more goals in the opening game the following day, as Denmark secured a 3-1 victory against the Ukraine in their opening fixture in Group B, with Daniel Wass having a solid game and claiming an assist before being replaced with 10 minutes to go. Elsewhere, Austria overtook Finland and Italy to take top spot in Group A following a 1-0 win over Turkey, Xavier Schlager with the only goal, while a double from Daniil Lesovoy gave Russia a 2-1 win over Poland in their opening Group B game, with Denis Cheryshev an unused substitute.
Group C also began with a draw, as France were held 1-1 by Bosnia Herzegovina, Barcelona star Antoine Griezmann giving the former champions the lead in Romania, before former Manchester City star Edin Džeko pulled Bosnia level. England thought they had done enough to get their campaign off to a win as another Manchester City man, Raheem Sterling gave them the lead at Wembley, but Mainz striker Robin Quaison scored deep in stoppage time to give Sweden a valuable point. It was a better start for Sterling’s former team-mate Divock Origi, as he scored the only goal as Belgium handed the Netherlands a 1-0 defeat at the Amsterdam ArenA, with Jasper Cillessen once again having to make do with a place on the bench.
If there was any disappointment about a failed move to PSG, it didn’t show as José Gayà put in an outstanding man of the match performance in the opening game for his country at the Euros on Monday evening, during a 2-0 win over Switzerland. Team mate Carlos Soler was on the bench, but not needed in the comfortable Group E victory. The other group game saw Czech Republic run out comfortable 2-0 winners against shock qualifiers Kosovo, while back in Group D holders Portugal were rampant as they brushed aside Scotland 4-1 at Hampden Park, with Valencia star Gonçalo Guedes coming off the bench to score twice in stoppage time to complete the rout.
The final games off the opening round of fixtures kicked of in the Allianz Arena on Tuesday evening, with Germany registering a comfortable 2-0 victory over Hungary. Later that evening, over in Hungary, the Puskás Aréna played host as Croatia matched Germany with a 2-0 victory of their own against Wales, to take them joint level at the top of the table, Ante Rebic and Ivan Perisic with the goals.
International round-up (Summer Part 3)
Away from the European football championships, it was a case of better the devil you know as three of Los murciélagos squared off against each other in Montevideo as Uruguay hosted the USA in an international friendly. Young midfielder Yunus Musah was once again handed a starting role for the visitors, his 8th cap at just 18 years old, while the hosts named both Maxi Gómez and Nicolás De La Cruz in their starting XI.
Visitors USA raced into a 2-0 lead at the Estadio Centenario inside the opening 10 minutes, with Christian Pulisic opening the scoring before Gyasi Zardes doubled the lead. This seemed to spur Uruguay into life, and on the half hour they pulled one back, before on the stroke of half-time Valencia winger De La Cruz found the net for his country to make it all square. It proved to be the last goal of the game, as they second half was played out at a less explosive pace, Maxi Gómez also being replaced on the hour mark.
Elsewhere, veteran defender Antonio Valencia also found himself on the scoresheet as Ecuador lost 3-2 against Ireland at the Aviva Stadium. In a game that flowed back and forth, Patrick Bamford gave Ireland the lead before Campana leveled for the visitors 6 minutes later. After the break, Troy Parrott scored his 4th international goal in just 5 appearances, before Antonio Valencia once again pulled Ecuador level from the spot. The last word was left to John Egan, the Sheffield United defender grabbing the winner for the hosts in the last 20 minutes of the game.
Euro 2020 (Group Stages – Part Two)
The second round of group stage games got underway in Baku on Wednesday evening as Austria maintained their 100% start in Group A, ensuring qualification along the way, as they dispatched Finland 2-1 thanks to goals from David Alaba and Marko Arnautovic. The other group game saw Italy record their first win as they made easy work of Turkey, handing them their second successive defeat, as they cruised home 2-0.
Denmark are another side who are enjoying a great start, a 1-0 win against Poland seeing them have 2 wins from 2, Jacob Bruun Larsen of Hoffenheim with the only goal, while Valencia defender Daniel Wass sat out the victory.
Thursday began with the Belgians in action over in Bucharest, and the Group C leaders won their second game and ensured passage to the knockout stages with a 3-1 win in Romania, beating Bosnia comfortably with Leandro Trossard of Brighton among the goalscorers on the evening. Back in Group B, Ukraine pulled themselves level on points with Russia following a 1-0 victory, Sergiy Kryvstsov with the only goal although Junior Moraes also missed a penalty early on in that game.
Group C, dubbed the group of death by some, then saw the Netherlands and France play out a 1-1 draw in Amsterdam, both sides now chasing the second qualification spot behind Belgium in that one. Manchester United forward Anthony Martial had given France the lead before his former team-mate Memphis Depay pulled the hosts level late in the game to ensure a point, which sees them move 3rd above Bosnia in the table.
A packed Wembley saw England pick up their first win on Friday evening, the 2-1 victory over Portugal enough to see the hosts move to the top of Group D. Cristiano Ronaldo had given Portugal the lead just before the break, but the visitors were then dealt a blow when Valencia star Gonçalo Guedes had to be replaced, suffering a bruised thigh just shy of the hour mark. Minutes later England found themselves level through Tammy Abraham, before Marcus Rashford grabbed a vital winner 2 minutes from time to give England every chance of reaching the knockout stages.
Over in Bilbao at the same time, a 2 minute double salvo by Álvaro Morata at the San Mamés saw Spain reach the knockout stages with 2 wins from 2, the Czech Republic the unlucky recipients of the defeat, although they still find themselves second in Group E following their opening round win. Valencia skipper José Gayà played the full game, while team mate Carlos Soler remained an unused sub in the win.
The day ended with Scotland, in their first major tournament since 1998, picking up their first point with a2-2 draw against Sweden, although they remain at the foot of the table. Hampden Park was the location, and Sweden were in front inside 3 minutes before Callum McGregor pulled the Scots level 7 minus later. The hosts then took a surprise lead through James Forrest before Sweden then equalised just before the break, both sides knowing it will be tough to get out of the group stages ahead of England and Portugal.
Saturday saw Kosovo and Switzerland both pick up their first point, the first ever for Kosovo, as they played out a 1-1 draw in Bilbao, Lazio striker Vedat Muriqi grabbing the first goal of the tournament for the Kosovans to bring them level. The round came to a close with a double stalemate in Group F, as first Croatia and Germany played out a 0-0 draw in Munich, and then Hungary registering the same score against Wales in Budapest. Croatia and Germany both sit top of the group on 4 points, with the draw at the Puskás Aréna meaning Hungary and Wales now both also have a point.
Sassi & Zahavi call it a day
Off the playing field, Valencia will be called into recruitment action again with the news that both Roberto Sassi and Pini Zahavi have opted to call time on their roles with the club. Roberto Sassi, who turned 70 just a few weeks ago, had an immediate impact within the backroom setup after agreeing to join the club as a Sports Scientist, his 3rd spell at the Mestalla.
The Italian, born in Valmorea, had enjoyed a somewhat journeyed career before his third stint with the club, including having coaching roles across some of the biggest clubs in Europe. Most recently, before his return, he had been part of the setup at Juventus, to whom he had moved from Dinamo Moscow back in 2011. The “Prof” was also at fellow Serie A clubs Parma and Sampdoria following his second departure from Valencia, where he had arrived with Claudio Ranieri back in 2004 from Chelsea. A loyal lieutenant of the tinkerman, his initial spell at the club had also been with his Italian compatriot, along with spells at Fiorentina and Atlético Madrid. Sassi will be dearly missed by all at the club, as will his coaching methods and knowledge which have had a huge impact at the club throughout his three spells.
Another calling time is Israeli scout Pini Zahavi. Once dubbed the “Israeli Superagent” Zahavi was another who joined the setup after the arrival of Barlow a year ago, joining the scouting network to offer increased coverage across Europe and Russia. Having also worked as an agent, including some big brokerage deals such as the record-breaking transfer of Rio Ferdinand, and also being involved in the ownership deals at both Chelsea and Portsmouth, the 77 year old is widely respected in the game, with close friendships with Roman Abramovich and Alexandre Gaydamak among those he can call on. Valencia will now move to replace both men during the summer, with a hope to hit the new season with both a full playing squad and complement of staff as they look to improve on their 2nd place finish this season, their first under the stewardship of Barlow.
PSG now set sights on Gómez
Not content with having their move for José Gayà rejected, French giants PSG have once again reached out to Spanish club Valencia, this time with the in-form striker Maxi Gómez firmly in their sights. The French champions had bid around £42 million earlier in the summer for Spanish full-back Gayà, making a take it or leave it deal which the club opted to ignore. The same tactic has once again been employed as they look to add the 24 year old striker to their ranks, in an attacking line up that already boasts the likes of Mauro Icardi, Moise Kean, and global superstars Neymar Jr and Kylian Mbappé.
Uruguayan striker Gómez was in fantastic form for Valencia as they narrowly missed out on the La Liga title last season, ending the season with 20 goals in the league and another 5 as Los Che lifted the Copa del Rey. He proved pivotal, especially when strike partner Kevin Gameiro was out injured, in keeping the side at the top of the table for a large stretch of the season. The take it or leave it bid, of just under £50 million plus add-ons, although a welcome cash boost to the cash strapped club, would nowhere near allow the club to replace him, leaving them extremely threadbare up front, and with Gameiro now 34 his playing time this coming season is also likely to be more restricted.
Former Celta Vigo striker Gómez, himself, is thought to be unhappy that the club look set to reject the offer, although talks between himself, his representatives and the club have tried to underline what would be considered a reasonable fee to allow the Uruguayan international to leave La Mestalla and head to the French capital, where he would be under the stewardship of German coach Thomas Tuchel. Whether PSG will come back with an improved bid, or indeed other clubs may take it as a sign that the club may be open to Gómez leaving remains to be seen, but one thing for sure is that Barlow, who is already struggling to boost the squad for the coming season, would find it impossible to replace him with such limited funds, largely to the detriment of the potential on field success for the club, who also have European football to look forward to once again the coming season.
Euro 2020 (Group Stages – Part Three)
Italy ensured they finished top of Group A as they beat Austria 2-1 in the Stadio Olimpico on Saturday evening. The Austrians had already qualified for the knock-out stages, but found themselves 2-0 down inside the opening hour to hosts Italy, with Federico Chiesa scoring for the second success game to send the Italians top, with Marcel Sabitzer grabbing a consolation goal. The other group game saw Turkey and Finland play out a 1-1 draw in Baku, Turkey picking up their first point of the tournament as a result, but neither side doing enough to progress to the latter stages. Norwich City striker Teemu Pukki came off the bench to give Finland the lead before Ahmed Kutucu ensured the Turkish didn’t finish the tournament without a point.
Monday saw the conclusion of Groups B and C. With Denmark looking to have already ensured qualification after winning their opening 2 games, all eyes were on who would potentially join them, and it was Russia, who in turn topped the group, defeating Denmark 1-0 in Saint Petersburg, who made it through to the next round. A goal just 7 minutes in by Zelinkhan Bakaev was enough for victory, Daniel Wass of Valencia playing the whole game but unable to prevent his country slipping to the defeat. Ukraine, who had also hoped to progress, were beaten 1-0 by Poland, who picked up their first win, in Copenhagen, seeing them end up bottom of the group.
France were looking to find a path out of the challenging Group C, and did so with an impressive 3-2 victory over a Belgian side who had won both games and already looked like worthy group winners. Bucharest played host as the two European heavyweights squared off in an encounter that would have been worthy of the final. Belgium took the lead from the spot through Romelu Lukaku, but France found themselves level just 6 minutes later. The Belgians again took the lead before the break, but after half time France showed greater resolve, scoring twice to secure the win and progress alongside the Belgians. It proved a tournament to forget for the Netherlands, however, as they were once again beaten in Amsterdam, this time crashing to a 1-0 defeat against Bosnia thanks to a last minute goal from Deni Milosevic.
Tuesday saw Group D reach it’s conclusion, and as expected England topped the group, following up their impressive victory over Portugal with a 2-0 defeat of Scotland at Hampden Park. Goals from Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Tammy Abraham were enough to beat their near neighbours on their own turf. Portugal ensured they would be joining England, bouncing back from that defeat to beat Sweden 2-1 at Wembley. Manchester City midfielder Bernardo Silva, no stranger to the national stadium in England, gave Portugal the lead, which was confirmed by Diogo Jota before a late consolation goal from Sweden, who finish 3rd in the group.
The Group stages concluded on Wednesday evening with the final games in Group E & F, with only former European and World champions Spain having ensured qualification. The Spanish ensured a perfect qualification round, making it 3 wins from 3, with a comfortable 2-0 win over Kosovo. With qualification guaranteed, several players were rested, meaning Valencia midfielder Carlos Soler played the full game in San Mamés, while José Gayà sat out. The Czech Republic ensured they would be joining them, a 2-1 victory over Switzerland thanks to a double from West Ham star Tomas Soucek enough to carry them through, Switzerland being reduced to 10 men in Dublin after Granit Xhaka received a red card.
Group F still had both spots up for grabs, and it was Germany and Croatia who did enough to progress. Germany chalked up a 2-0 victory against Wales, who finished bottom of the group with just 1 point, in Munich, while over in Budapest a solitary goal from Ivan Perisic was enough to give Croatia the win over Hungary to see them also reach the knockout stages.
The pick of the second round ties sees France take on Italy at Wembley, while San Mamés in Bilbao will see Russia square off against Finland in what is sure to be a feisty encounter. Tournament favourites Spain head to Scotland to face Poland, while England, considered by many as an outside threat, hop just over the Irish sea as they face Croatia.
Lee Kang-In completes Premier League switch
Valencia announced this evening that highly rated wonderkid Lee Kang-In would be making the switch to join Premier League side Arsenal. The 20 year old struggled to feature for the first team last season, with no natural place in the tactics employed by incoming coach Sie Barlow, and with the club struggling financially a move was felt to be in the best interests of all parties. The lucrative switch, thought to be worth in the region of at least £20 million and rising, will see the South Korean international potentially team up once again with Emile Smith Rowe, who also returns to parent club Arsenal this summer after a successful loan spell with Valencia.
Kang-In, who can play across midfield and in more attacking roles, initially joined Valencia way back in 2011 as an academy trainee, eventually progressing to the B team in 2017, making his debut that December. His first start came just a few months later, with his first goal a few months after that. In late October 2018 he made the switch to join the senior set-up, appearing in a Copa del Rey tie, in turn becoming the youngest Korean footballer to debut professionally in Europe. In early 2019, Kang-In then also made his La Liga debut, becoming the second youngest player to debut that season, as well as the youngest ever non-Spaniard and first ever Asian league debutant for his club.
In the curtailed 2019/20 season, Kang-In was considered a first team regular, including appearances in the Champions League and also grabbing his first ever La Liga goal against Getafe. His fine form saw him also break into the national team ranks with Korea. However, since the arrival of Barlow opportunities have been limited, with Kang-In making just 7 appearances in La Liga, all from the bench, scoring once. He also featured for the B team once more, chalking up 7 goals in 14 games, form which kept him on the radar of some of the bigger clubs around Europe. With Valencia looking to try and rebuild this summer, the club set to compete on more fronts following qualification for Europe, allowing Kang-In to move made sense, and the player himself will certainly be keen to flourish in the Premier League. The relationship between both clubs, cemented by the loan deal for Smith Rowe last season, also helped an agreement being reached.
Vieirinha follows Kang-In to London
Just a day after the announced departure of youngster Lee Kang-In, the club also confirmed that veteran utility player Vieirinha would also be heading across to England, to join Championship side QPR for next season. The former Portuguese international only joined Valencia in October last year, making the switch from Greek side PAOK. Although appearances were limited, his experience around the squad was definitely of benefit as the club lifted both the Copa del Rey and the Spanish Super copa, while narrowly missing out on a league title.
Vieirinha, now 35, made just 1 start in La Liga for Valencia, with another 8 appearances coming from the bench, as well as 2 starts in the successful cup campaign for the club, adding to an already impressive list of palmares the former Porto man can boast of. With playing time become increasingly limited, and the club looking to promote several youth players into the first team squad for the coming season, it was felt a move for Vieirinha would be best for both parties. Several clubs around Europe initially showed interest in the squad player, who is equally comfortable anywhere down the left or right, but it was QPR who made the first concrete bid, thought to be around £250k. Following an initial delay, while the club applied for, and were successfully granted, a work permit, the move was eventually confirmed to the media, with Vieirinha joining fellow compatriot Pedro Marques at the London club.
Euro 2020 (Second Round – Part One)
Another packed out Wembley Stadium played host as the knockout stages of the European Football Championships began with a mouthwatering clash between European giants France and Italy. The French took the lead 3 minutes before the break through Anthony Martial, who repeated the trick three minutes after half time, claiming his second from the spot. A late Andrea Belotti goal with 10 minutes to go was not enough, meaning the Italians now head home.
Attention then switched to Amsterdam for the second game of the day, when the Johan Cruyff ArenA saw Denmark and Austria meet. Denmark, with Daniel Wass of Valencia in the starting XI, took just 18 minutes to have a 2 goal advantage, first through Pione Sisto, then Jacob Bruun Laarsen. It got better still just after the half hour mark, as Andreas Christensen of Chelsea scored, before the rout was complete 2 minutes into the second half thanks to Yussuf Poulsen. Austria did grab a late consolation strike through Michael Gregoritsch of Augsburg.
Bilbao was the location Sunday as Russia booked their progress into the quarter finals with a narrow 1-0 win over Finland at San Mamés. The only goal of the game came 15 minutes in, courtesy of experienced Zenit striker Artem Dzyuba. Over in Budapest, the Puskás Arena played host to the biggest shock as Sweden dumped out one of the tournament favourites Belgium, scoring twice before half-time to secure an impressive 2-0 victory in front of over 68,000 fans. In a game in which Belgium had the better chances, Sweden were gifted the lead when they were handed a penalty after 38 minutes, Marcus Berg duly converting from the spot before Juventus youngster Dejan Kulusevski added the second minutes before the break.
Euro 2020 (Second Round – Part Two)
The focus shifted to Copenhagen on Monday evening, as the Second Round continued with Portugal squaring off against the Czech Republic at Parken. A solitary goal on the hour mark from talisman Cristiano Ronaldo was enough to send Portugal through to the quarter finals, with Valencia winger Gonçalo Guedes playing the full 90 minutes in the victory. Ronaldo also scored as Portugal recorded victory by the same scoreline against their opponents back in Euro 2012.
Joining them will be Germany, who enjoyed a comfortable 2-0 win over Bosnia & Herzegovina over in Saint Petersburg in the other game of the day. The attention was back in Western Europe on Tuesday as the final two games got underway. The first game of the evening, at Hampden Park in Glasgow, was decided by a solitary goal just 2 minutes from time. Poland had done brilliantly to hold off Spain, who were on top for large periods, but a mistake with just 2 minutes remaining handed the Spanish a penalty, which Real Madrid skipper Sergio Ramos duly converted to ensure Spain would progress into the quarter finals. José Gayà again played the full game in the victory, while it was less enjoyable for Carlos Soler, who came off the bench but lasted less than 20 minutes before picking up ankle injury. After the game it was confirmed the Valencia midfielder had sustained pulled ankle ligaments, which is likely to see him sidelined for around 2 weeks, which effectively put an end to his tournament regardless of his nation’s progress.
The final team in the hat for the quarter finals were England, who looked impressive again in their 3-1 win over Croatia across the pond in Dublin, a repeat of the 2018 World Cup Semi Final. The Aviva stadium saw one of the main hosts take the lead through Marcus Rashford 6 minutes into the second half. Croatia hit straight back, albeit somewhat fortuitously with a goal eventually chalked off as an own goal for Aaron Ramsdale. The lead was restored just after the hour mark through Raheem Sterling, before Harry Kane ensured the win just 2 minutes from time with a trademark finish to ensure revenge for England again, after that 2-1 defeat in Moscow.
Loren completes Valencia switch
In a busy July 1st at La Mestalla, Valencia were keen to welcome their new arrivals, with much of the business of the club being done prior to the transfer window opening, and only now being able to be officially unveiled. First new face through the door is that of 27 year old forward Loren, who arrives on a free transfer having most recently been with Real Betis.
Lorenzo Jesús Morón García originally represented UD Marbella in the youth ranks, having been born in the area, before moving down the coast to join Estepona in 2012, making his debut in September of that year. Following a brief return to Marbella, where he won promotion with the B side, he joined fellow 3rd division outfit Vélez on loan for the season, where he enjoyed his best spell to date scoring 14 goals in 21 league games. This attracted the attention of Real Betis, whom he joined in January 2015, being farmed out to their reserve squad. Despite scoring 13 league goals in the 2015-16 season, he was unable to prevent his side slipping into the Tercera, although he himself continued his fine form with another 14 goal season at the lower level, earning himself a new contract with the Sevilla based club in the process.
Promotion followed, and another 16 goals in the Segunda B was enough to see Loren earn himself promotion to the first team squad, being promoted to the setup in January 2018 after agreeing another new deal. His debut came the following month, as he started and scored twice in a 2-1 victory over Villarreal. He was to score another 5 in the final few months of the season. Featuring more heavily in the 2018-19 campaign, goals proved harder to come by as he found the net just 6 times in the league, before returning to previous form, where he netted 10 times during a campaign which saw Betis finish 15th in La Liga, and Loren himself being scouted by several big European sides.
Despite the interest, he remained at the Estadio Benito Villamarín for the 2020/21 season, where he found first team appearances harder to come by again, making just 10 starts in the league and another 6 appearances from the bench, scoring just 3 times, his worst return to date. With chances limited, the 27 year old striker rejected a new contract, keen to move on in a hope to rediscover his previous form, and with Daniel Sturridge being released and Joshua Zirkzee returning to Bayern Munich following his loan spell, Valencia were on the lookout for an additional attacking option to add some depth to the squad, and his availability on a free transfer also fit in with the clubs current difficult economic climate. With an ageing Kevin Gameiro, and some of the biggest clubs in Europe still sniffing around Maxi Gómez, Loren will hope to feature heavily for his new side this coming season.
Valencia pull off coup as Otávio arrives
Valencia completed one of the deals of the summer when they were able to guarantee the signature of midfielder Otávio from FC Porto this week. The club had been in talks with the Brazilian since January, when he made it clear he was open to leaving the Portuguese giants, and the eventual agreement on a free transfer represents another fantastic piece of business by the Valencia board, looking to add depth to the squad with limited funds.
The attacking midfielder is no stranger to European football fans, initially arriving in Portugal back in 2014 after 2 years with Internacional back in Brazil, where he joined the academy at just 15 years old, before making his debut as a 17 year old. He would go on to score 7 times in 62 appearances, helping his side win the Campeonato Gaúcho 2 years running, before completing his switch to Porto on a free transfer, signing a 5 year contract with his new side which featured a whopping 50 million euro buyout clause. Beginning with the Porto B side, he would make just 6 appearances before being loaned out to fellow Primeira Liga side Vitória SC, making his debut in February 2015.
Making a great impression during his 6 month loan spell, the deal was extended for another 12 months, seeing Otávio remain in Guimarães, where he would make a total of 35 league appearances, again scoring 7 times, during his time with the club, before a return to Porto and a competitive debut at the start of the 2016-17 season. His second season with the first team saw the club reclaim their place as the top club in the country, picking up the Primeira Liga title, with the midfielder featuring 15 times. The 2019-20 season saw even more success for the Brazilian international, as he featured in 48 games as the club won their second league title during his time with the club, as well as picking up the cup to complete a double. His talent was recognised by his peers as he was also named in the Best XI that season, also picking up the individual player of the month honour on the final month of the season.
His final season at the Estádio do Dragão saw them retain their league title, with Otávio once again proving integral, with 26 starts and 3 goals for the club. He also featured heavily in the Champion’s League, making 9 appearances, experience which will be key for his new side and their return to European competition this coming season. Agreeing a 5 year deal with his new side, the addition of such experience and quality should give the Valencia squad a real boost as they look to add to last seasons two cup victories this coming season.
Valencia land second attacker
Valencia announced the arrival of a second striker, less than 24 hours after confirming the arrival of Loren, as they announced the arrival of Turkish youngster Ali Akman. The 19 year old full international has signed a 4 year deal with the Spanish club, another bosman signing as he joins the club from Bursaspor.
Starting his career with the Süper Lig club, Akman originally broke through in the Under 21 team back in 2018, before becoming part of the first team set up and featuring on the bench several times for the first team. He made his full debut the following season, in a 3-1 defeat against Karagümrük, coming off the bench for the last 13 minutes, before starting and scoring the following weekend in a 2-1 win over Akhisarspor. He went on to make 20 appearances and scored twice in his first full season with the seniors. Last season he was once again heavily involved, making 31 appearances and scoring an impressive 15 goals in the league, form which was enough to see him called up for the national team, making his debut against Bosnia & Herzegovina in March. He featured in the following two games in the same international break, grabbing his first senior international goal against Finland in a 2-0 win in the World Cup qualifiers at the end of the month.
His arrival at Valencia has increased speculation that the club could be prepared to let Maxi Gómez leave should another big offer be made for the Uruguayan striker. However, having only recently turned 19 Akman has clearly been signed with one eye on development, with the potential to ease into the first team setup over the coming seasons.
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