El Centrocampista

MARCH OF LOS CHE – Valencia look to break La Liga’s duopoly.

By Richard Thorburn

As we enter the month of November something strange is happening in La Liga – Real Madrid and Barcelona have company at the top end of the table.

Currently sitting just four points behind leaders Real Madrid and just one behind Barça are Unai Emery’s Valencia,  a team so often ‘the best of the rest’ in recent seasons rather than serious title contenders.

And although the familiar position of third is one in which they still currently occupy, Saturday night’s two nil derby win over surprise package Levante has seen the club take pole position in the challenge to the duopoly come the end of the season.

Having lost David Villa and David Silva in recent times, when Juan Mata decided to swap the Mestalla for Stamford Bridge in the summer, it is fair to say that even the most optimistic of Valencia fans may have entered the season with a certain degree of trepidation.

Fast forward a couple of months however and something within Unai Emery’s relatively young team has clicked.

Having to rebuild after seeing the departures of their talented trio, Emery has done a remarkable job in helping to improve Valencia’s financial stability while also finding bargain’s that have helped maintain the club’s high profile.

This summer saw Emery raid his former club Almeria for the signatures of attacking midfielder Pablo Piatti and Brazilian shot stopper Diego Alves.  Costing a combined seven million euros, the pair have already paid dividends with some impressive performances, although Alves has only been used in the Champions League thus far.

Added with the arrival of Sergio Canales, a player who was once lauded as being a ‘boy wonder’ before a move to Real Madrid’s seemed to halt his progression, and you have the foundations of a very young and very talented squad.

With France international Adil Rami moving from Lille along with fellow centre back Victor Ruiz, a seven million pound capture from Napoli, it is fair to say that both have enjoyed good starts to their Valencia career.

In the summer transfer window, Valencia brought in no less than eight new faces and while there must have been the fear that it would take time for the new look team to gel, these have quickly been dispelled.

The fact that all of those eight signings cost less than what was generated by the sale of Juan Mata speaks volumes for the outstanding business that Emery has conducted.

Perhaps the bigger challenges are still to come and perhaps when push comes to shove the inexperience of the young team will come to surface, but as it stands Valencia are keeping up with the ‘Jones’s’ in La Liga.

Whether Barcelona and Real Madrid have anything to be concerned about this season is unlikely but what it does go to show is that Valencia are a team who rather than mourning the sale of their heroes, have looked to rebuild from almost scratch.

The financial burden of their dream move to the Nou Mestalla still hangs over the club, but with this new look team the thought of having a third team challenging for honours may not seem too far away.

It also goes to show that teams don’t necessarily always have to spend ‘big’ and ultimately beyond their means to compete. The most expensive purchase of Unai Emery’s three year spell at the Mestalla has been the eight million capture of goal scoring machine Roberto Saldado.

With 24 goals in just 44 starts in La Liga for Valencia, he has proved one of the bargains of recent years.

Whether Valencia has the strength in depth compared to both Real Madrid and Barcelona is questionable – can they cover Canales recent injury? – and while there is little doubt that they will have to be clutching four leaf clovers all the way to May if they are hoping to competence they certainly have the talent to do so.

At odds of 80/1 bookmakers aren’t taking Valencia’s chances too seriously at the moment, but if they carry on their fantastic start to the season and prove that they can last the distance, then those odds will quickly tumble.

The next round of fixtures sees Valencia host Real Madrid in what will be the biggest indicator of their credentials so far. A win and they would be right on their opponent’s tail, and while to the neutral this may seem unlikely, it certainly isn’t beyond possibility.

With a nine o’clock kick off under the lights at the Mestalla and a partisan crowd right behind their team, Madrid will have to be at their very tantalising best if they want to carry on their determined march on a title that they so desperately want to prize from rivals Barcelona.

It may all be ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’ at the moment, but one thing is for certain –  La Liga needs another team competing for the title well into the New Year.

There is little doubting that the league is technical far superior than its peers, but has often been accused of being uncompetitive.

Could Valencia then be the team to finally break the monotony of Real and Barcelona’s dominance, enhancing the league that they compete in, in turn?

Let’s hope so.

One Comment

  1. Los Che Jon

    7 November, 2011 at 09:30

    Richard – nice article and a must for every che fan but you say Alves form has been partly responsible for the team having ”one of the best defensive records in La Liga” however the truth is that Alves has yet to play in La Liga this season, Vicente Guaita has occupied this spot for the League games whilst Alves has played every minute of every Champions League game.

    Also although I admire and laud what Emery has and is achieving at Valencia (and boy is he delivering when you think of the constraints) more credit for the business end of any transfer dealings has to go to Manuel Llorente (President) and Braulio Vazquez ( Technical Secretary) who both oversee and make any potential transfers happen.

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