El Centrocampista

Mundo! – The story of a Valencia Legend

Although Roberto Soldado may have missed out on a place in Vicente del Bosque’s Spain squad that will attempt to defend its European crown in the upcoming European Championships, few people will disagree that the Valencia star is among the most gifted strikers currently playing the game.

The Mestalla faithful are well-aware of the 27-year-old’s ability of course and Soldado has achieved cult status among the thousands of fans that come to watch Valencia each week.

Soldado is merely following in the footsteps of a number of other lethal goalscorers to have played at los Che however; the most recent being David Villa who scored over 100 goals during his five year stay at Valencia before leaving for Catalunya in 2010.

Perhaps the most famous of all was Mario Kempes. The Argentine World Cup winner spent a total of six years at Valencia, either side of a season back at native River Plate and netted a remarkable 116 goals in just 184 appearances. El Matador lifted the World Cup and the Golden Boot at the end of his third season with Valencia in 1978.

However his record is dwarfed by the legendary Edmundo Suárez, a Basque striker born way back in 1916. Although originally under contract at Bilbao giants Athletic Club, Suárez found his calling at Valencia following the close of the Spanish Civil War in 1939.

Suárez was the spearhead of the Valencia attack for just over a decade and helped the club win three league titles and two Copa del Reys during his time at the Mestalla, writing his name in the history books in the process.

Fate decreed Suárez would not gain the international recognition is ability so richly deserved however, as Spain were shunned by many in the immediate post-war years and played just a handful of friendlies against similarly-politically-aligned opponents.

Suarez represented his country on just three occasions, despite being one of the greatest players of his generation, and the vast majority of people outside Spain were unable to witness the devastating finishing and sublime skill possessed by the player.

A quick glance at the goal scoring record of Suarez  reveals some truly phenomenal statistics with Suarez scoring 195 goals in just 231 appearances,  while winning the Pichichi on two separate occasions in 1942 and 1943.

That impressive record ranks Suarez at eighth on the overall list of La Liga goalscorers, behind legends such a Telmo Zarra, Alfredo di Stefano and Hugo Sanchez. However only Zarra manages to better Suárez’s goal ratio of 0.81 per game.

As Suarez approached the end of his career, opportunities at Valencia became fewer and he made the move to fellow Valencian outfit RCD Alcoyano where he spent one season.

He retired in 1951 and went on to pursue a career in management, which although relatively disappointing did bring some success during an intermitant four year spell at the club where he made his name..

Suárez took over at Valencia in 1963 and immediately lead them to the final of the Inter-City Fairs Cup where they beat Dinamo Zagreb of Yugoslavia 4-1 over two legs. He was then fired after his second season at the club, only to return the following year when his replacement failed to deliver.

In 1967 Valencia won their fourth Copa del Rey title, with Suárez at the helm; it was his third Copa with the club and he would go on to coach Los Che for one more season before moving on. He died aged 62, in 1978.

Edmundo Suárez will always have legendary status at Valencia, but it is one of history’s sad anomalies that a player of such undoubted ability was unable to exhibit his skills to a much wider audience. War robbed him of this opportunity but there are probably few people who saw Suarez play that would deny he fully deserves to be mentioned among the greatest goalscorers to have graced football in Spain.

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