Sunday, July 14, 2019

Valencia sign Maxi Gomez / Mina and Abdennour leave

Valencia have made official the signing of Maxi Gómez. 

He joins on a 5-year contract with a 140 million release clause. Valencia identified the player as a signing back in April and hoped to get the deal done in time for the transfer window opening, but Celta delayed in order to see if he did anything at Copa America and then strong competition from West Ham, who were offering at least double the salary that we were, led to a drawn out transfer saga which has thankfully been resolved in our favour. As part of the deal Santi Mina leaves and rejoins Celta with Jorge Saenz also going there on loan and Valencia paying 14.5m, with a possible 1.5m more performance related. 

I called last year for Maxi to be signed, 

so I'm really happy about this signing.

There are a surprising number of our fans who seem to be against this. The main arguments seem to be
  •  Mina has better stats
  • The cost is too much, we'd have been better signing Borja Iglesias
  • Gomez doesn't do so well without Aspas
I think the cost is a fair price and as for Mina vs Maxi comparisons, those need to be seen in the context of Celta being fairly rubbish the last few seasons. Apart from Aspas, Pione Sisto and Wass were the only players capable of supplying chances. At Valencia he will have Guedes, Parejo, Soler etc providing chances. Time will tell, but after the Batshuayi fiasco the club has gone for a player proven in La Liga and the only players who have scored more in the last two seasons are Messi, Luis Suarez, Griezmann, Aspas and Stuani, all of whom are too old or unattainable. The fact that he has turned down a much bigger wage in England is a positive sign and already wins him points in my book.

The slight negative in this is the loss of Santi Mina, who'd proved himself a useful third option up front in recent times. Mina joined us at the start of July 2015 having impressed with Celta, leading Valencia to pay his buy-out clause of 10 million, with Mina refusing a new contract in order to sign for us, something which annoyed Celta fans as much as Alcacer's exit annoyed ours. Mina's early times at Valencia were really disappointing. Used up front either on the right or left of a 4-3-3 he struggled to make an impact and it wasn't until his 14th game that he scored, hitting a late equaliser against Barcelona. He repeated the feat later that season, scoring the winner at Barcelona, capping off a 22-pass move. (Incidentally, it got lost in the euphoria, but Valencia's first in the Copa final came after a 16-pass move, when it comes to tika-taka, Valencia can beat Barcelona at their own game.) That season also saw his best game in a Valencia shirt, scoring two and assisting three in a 6-0 rout of Vienna in Europe. He also scored what I think was one of his best, sprinting the length of the pitch to score the winner at Granada.   

Despite that, his stats and performances remained disappointing until the arrival of Marcelino. Like Rodrigo, he benefitted from playing more central, improving his performances and scoring more frequently, even overtaking Zaza in the pecking order at the end of 2017-18. However, last season saw him behind either Batshuayi or Gameiro to partner Rodrigo and ultimately it's understandable that he wants to head back to his boyhood club where he'll be guaranteed starter.

Lastly, the week just gone saw the departure of Aymen Abdennour. He arrived at Valencia on the back of strong performances with Monaco for 21.8 million as the replacement of Otamendi. It quickly became apparent that he was nowhere near that level as a series of horror shows gifted goals to opposition teams. It didn't help that his defensive partner was often the equally useless Aderllan Santos and together they made up what was probably Valencia's worst defensive duo this century. After 29 appearances in his first season, he saw injuries in his second but was gradually phased out under Voro. The only time he ever looked remotely useful was under Prandelli, but that was because there was a back three with Garay cleaning up after him. Valencia loaned him out to Marseilles, hoping to get back at least half of what we paid, but he also flopped there and in the end the club has just cut its losses and let him go to Kayerispor of Turkey on a free. Thus ends one of the worst signings of recent years. I think the signing of players like Gomez instead of such costly flops shows the progress the club has made. 

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Murillo leaves / Maxi Gomez deal close

Jeison Murillo's time at Valencia is at an end. We signed him as one of the centre backs for the 2017/18 campaign and he had a fair few starts in the early months, playing 8 of the 12 games after he signed before getting injured for 3 months.

When he returned he got a few games, but that was because Garay was injured and by that point, Garay and Gabriel were Marcelino's main choices. In 2018/19 he was mostly sidelined, playing in the home games against Juventus and Celta before playing his final game in the Copa at Ebro. He then joined Barcelona on loan as part of a joke with his agent. Sadly, it also didn't work out for him as he played just 1 full league game, another as a late sub and a couple of games in the Copa. The deal takes him to Sampdoria on loan, with them paying 2 million, which will mostly cover his wages. They then have an obligatory buy of 13.5 million. Many of us wanted him to stay as one of four defenders but given that Marcelino clearly doesn't count on him, this is for the best and at least Valencia make a small profit of 1.5 million on the deal.

The other news is that the long drawn out saga of Maxi Gomez seems to be over. Valencia first expressed their interest in late May but Celta understandably decided to wait until Copa America was over on the off-chance that his value would rise. It didn't as he didn't play but when the tournament finished, West Ham had renewed their interest in signing a player that they first tried to get in January. While Valencia seemed the obvious choice, due to language and Champions league football, West Ham were able to put a much higher salary on the table. That a club that finished 10th, never gets near Champions league football nor challenges for anything is able to do that is a serious indictment of La Liga's lousy financial model in the last decade that has allowed C-list English clubs to outbid us.

Just yesterday, it seemed that West Ham had won the race but, credit to Celta, they were more interested in honouring their agreement with us and maintaining good relations than chasing the money. Of course, their motives are not all altruistic, they regain Santi Mina and get Jorge Saenz on loan for 2 years as part of the expected deal. I think this will be good business for Valencia when confirmed.

There are still many questions to be answered. Will Rodrigo and Piccini stay? If not, who replaces? Who will be the fourth defender? Who will Valencia sign as Parejo's understudy, if anyone? Who will take remaining unwanted players (Abdennour, Medran, Nacho Gil, Sobrino etc) off Valencia's hands? Plenty to do, but I think the Murillo and Gomez deals would be a good step forward.

Saturday, July 6, 2019

Valencia CF Preseason 2019

The preseason will start in 2 weeks. Those two weeks will be spent hopefully finishing all the transfer dealings so that as many of the players can participate in it as possible. One of the criticisms for last seasons transfers were the long delays and many players didn't participate in Marcelino's preseason sessions.

Of course, a similar criticism could be leveled at this season with only Cheryshev and Jason brought in so far. We are still lacking any concrete movement for our forwards. Maxi Gomez's signing is being contested by West Ham with a 3 million euro margin (commission for agents) being the point of contention. Rodrigo is still in limbo. Santi Mina looks certain to be on his way out regardless of what happens with Maxi Gomez. Sobrino will likely follow and Gameiro is uncertain.

For outgoing players, Neto, Vezo and Lato have been settled to Barcelona, Levante and PSV respectively. The first two are sales, the latter a loan deal. Roncaglia is uncertain, Murillo could very well be on his way out. Abdennour is being picky about clubs. We know require 2 center backs, a right back (really important) and a replacement left-back. Furthermore if Piccini leaves, we need another right back still.

I expect lots of movement in the next two weeks. With this many changes, the players need quite some time to gel and establish chemistry with the coach, tactics and fellow players. It is really important that they be there for the preseason. A good preseason is crucial to a healthy squad and to bring fitness to the required standard, avoiding injuries latter on. We had quite a few of those in the last season.

Some players have already started training. The remaining players, who were away on international duty, will join on the 15th of July. The preseason schedule is as follows:

It's a 6 game preseason, culminating with the annual Trofeo Naranja at Mestalla. The earlier games are relatively easy, and the last two especially challenging. Both Bayer Leverkusen and Inter Milan are around our level based on league standings last year as they both finished 4th in their respective leagues. We can build up confidence in the earlier games and get ready for them. The games are mostly in Europe, which will get us used to the Champions League travels. Some games are a short distance apart which will be challenging but again useful to prepare for the tight schedule of 3 competitions. Our first game of the season in La Liga, will be on the 18th, eight days after our last preseason match.

Monday, July 1, 2019

Valencia CF sign Jason

Valencia CF announced the official signing of 'Jason', who joins Valencia CF as a free player, having had his contract with Levante end this summer.

David Remeseiro Salgueiro or better known as 'Jason' signed a 3 year deal with Valencia CF with a transfer clause of 35 million euros. He is a right winger, though can also play as a right back as well, so a cheap cover for Soler with the option to play him as a right back if a need arises.

Valencia CF also signed Cheryshev, so we have two options on the wings now, assuming players like Kang in Lee and Ferran Torres are loaned out somewhere, otherwise their playing options might be very limited and will stifle their growth.

Saturday, June 29, 2019

Cheryshev in ; Vezo out

With the Neto/Cillessen swap deal done and solving Valencia's financial fair play problem, we are starting to see some movement in the transfer market.

While pending official confirmation, the first two deals are Cheryshev joining permanently and Vezo joining Levante permanently.

Cheryshev completed his second loan spell with us last season, netting 4 goals with 5 assists on top. Valencia's buy option rose from 7.5 to 10 million as a result of Champions league being achieved, but we'd been clever enough not to make it compulsory. As a result, with the player wanting to continue with us and Villarreal wanting him off the books for FFP reasons, it looks like the amount will be around 6 million.

He was a solid alternative to Guedes and is a back-up option for the forward line, as he showed in the game against Celtic. He also led the way in "key passes" being second only to Messi among the top 6.

Of course, the elephant in the room is his injury record, which affected both his loans with us. He was unavailable for 17 of the 61 games last season, so it will be ok, if he stays fit.

The second piece of business is the departure of Ruben Vezo. As he's only 25, it's hard to believe he's a grizzled veteran of Valencia. Only Parejo, Jaume and Gaya have been with the team longer. Djukic signed him in the autumn of 2013, with the transfer going through the start of the following year. His opportunities at Valencia were always limited and he remained a back-up player. He did get more playing time in Marcelino's first season, as the coach used him as a right back in the away games, but he featured less and less this season, with Marcelino using Wass instead at right back. Following a successful loan at Levante, it looks like they'll pay us 5m plus a possible 1m more for the permanent transfer. His previous club gets 25% of that.

The signing of Cheryshev almost certainly means that Denis Suarez won't be joining and it looks like he'll join Celta instead. Rafinha, however looks likely to be coming and that's similar to Cheryshev: a good player but dogged with injury issues.

Valencia are still negotiating with Celta for Maxi Gomez, with West Ham still offering competition. There are reports that a deal could be struck but the figures seem unacceptable. 15 million plus Mina, Jorge Saenz (with a buyback option) and another player (Racic or Villalba) on loan. I've said many times that I think Gomez would be an excellent signing, but he's not worth that much. Maybe a swap of Mina and 10 million absolute maximum.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

The curious case of Norberto Neto (starring Jasper Cillessen)

Various sites are now reporting what has been clear for a week. Jasper Cillessen has signed for Valencia after passing a medical, with Neto going the other way to Barcelona, where he will earn up to three times more.

For Cillessen, the move makes perfect sense. He will earn the same as he did at Barcelona and get a lot more game time than he would as second choice to Ter Stegen, one of the best keepers in the world.

The mystery remains, though, what went through Neto's head to prompt this change? Sure, he will get more money, but the whole point of him joining us in the first place was because he was fed up getting little game time at Juventus. Going to Barcelona seems a bit like Alcacer going there, a backward step in his career.

Neto was the first signing of the Marcelino era and, predictably, it led to a lot of grumbling from our fans, just see the post and the subsequent comments here. His early period didn't dispel that, as he seemed too static with some goals he conceded. but he improved greatly over time to the point of being a key player. If I ever get around to writing player ratings for the season just gone, Neto would certainly have been one of my top three, along with Parejo and Gaya. Some of our fans seem to have an obsession with bringing back past players and coaches, but the name of Diego Alves was quickly forgotten.

The stories doing the rounds are that it all blew up over the Copa del Rey. Marcelino confirmed that Jaume would play the final, as he had every game in the tournament. Having made that call, Marcelino then decided that Jaume should get the last two league games of the season to sharpen him up and get him ready for the cup final. It could all have backfired, with Jaume producing a ropey performance, like the questionable one away at Betis, but it didn't. Good decision from the coach.

It all seems to have gone down badly with Neto, though. There are various stories. One that he was annoyed because that meant that he was not in goal to celebrate either the league 4th place or cup successes. Another that he felt that this cost him a place in the Brazil squad for the Copa America. The last is that he had a fall-out with Marcelino. The last seems plausible. Neto's last game for us saw him concede four goals at home to Arsenal, a bit of a sad way to go out. It's entirely possible that Marcelino, annoyed by that coming after Neto had conceded nine goals in the 4 previous games, decided to bench Neto anyway.

So while it's sad it's ended this way, good luck to Neto. He'll get three times as much money for doing a quarter of the work. Who wouldn't say yes to that?

Unlike in previous cases, the replacement seems perfectly fine.

Cillessen is the same age and actually does better on most metrics than Neto. Does better in the air and better at playing the ball out from his feet. Some of our fans are grumbling as usual and I don't see why. I'd have preferred to keep Neto for continuity reasons but if he wants to go, the club has found a very good replacement.

Another big advantage of the deal is that Valencia gets the cash to clear their accounts by 30 June. If we hadn't done this, we'd have been forced into a big sale, probably of Rodrigo and for a lesser price than the club hoped for. As it is, we can play hardball on Rodrigo until the end of the transfer window.

What do you think of this deal?

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Valencia v Barcelona (15 June 2003)

Today is a special anniversary for me. It was exactly 16 years ago that I finally got to visit Mestalla. Valencia at that time had been on a roll. Two unsuccessful Champions league finals in a row in 2000 and 2001 had been followed by the first league title in over 30 years. After all that excitement, the 2002-2003 season was a let down.  In the Champions league, after negotiating the two group stages (this was the last to feature two group stages) Valencia went out in the quarters to Inter Milan on away goals. In the Copa, Valencia's rotations didn't work and after a 3-3 draw at now defunct third level Alicante CF, we lost on penalties in the round of 32.

In La Liga, Valencia had struggled, dropping from third to the fringes of the Champions league places in spring. The biggest problem was one that had been clear the previous season. Even when we won the title, Ruben Baraja had been our top scorer with a risible 7 goals. Strong defence had saved us. (Sound familiar?) This season had been the same, with the team really struggling for goals. At the time of this game, John Carew was the leading scorer, with a disappointing 8 goals.

A 1-2 defeat to Real Madrid in the previous game at Mestalla in the 35th round of games had allowed Celta to overtake us for fourth. So this game, the 37th of the season, was crucial to our Champions league hopes.

Our rivals, Barcelona, had their own issues. The arrival of a certain little Argentinian guy was a few seasons in the future and they had missed out on the top three in the previous three seasons and were languishing in seventh place. With both cup finalists not in the top six, Barca were in serious danger of missing out on Europe altogether. They came into this game hoping to avenge Valencia's 4-2 win at the Camp Nou in January.

The positions at the time of the game were:

1. Sociedad 73 pts
2. R. Madrid 72
3. D. Corunya 69
4. Celta Vigo 58
5. Valencia 57
6. A. Bilbao 52
7. Barcelona 50

Real Sociedad were chasing their first title since 1982 and would ultimately be unsuccessful.

The day of the game itself had been baking hot, the season started a bit later then and went on a month longer, finishing on 22 June with the cup final a week after that. I was looking for work in Valencia at the time so had to settle for the cheaper seats "in the clouds" at 42 euro a go.

Valencia lined up with a 4-2-3-1. Canizares and a defence of Carboni, Marchena, Pellegrino and the on-loan Reveillere. Screening them were Baraja and De Los Santos. The attacking midfield was made up of Kily Gonzalez, Aimar and Rufete, supporting the lone striker, Carew.

Barcelona's line-up was Valdes ; Gabri, Puyol, De Boer, Reiziger ; Enrique, Mendieta, Cocu, Overmars ; Kluivert, Javier Saviola.

Luis Enrique, of course, would go on to manage Barcelona and Spain, while Gaizka Mendieta was making his first return to the Mestalla since his transfer two years earlier.

The game itself proved a baptism of fire for me. Strangely enough, despite it being a relatively unimportant league game in the pre-YouTube era, the full game is online. I only recommend it if any of you are feeling masochistic, though.

The first half saw Barcelona have the better chances and Canizares had to make a couple of saves. The dynamic changed just before half-time. Marchena brought down Mendieta and then Carew lost it a bit, body checking the referee and then getting in his face to get a debatable straight red card. Mendieta scored to make it 1-0.

Those events put Valencia on the back foot for the second half. Juan Sanchez came on for Rufete, with youth player Borja Criado later coming on to make his third and final appearance for the first team. Those attacking changes failed to produce the equaliser and, in the 73rd minute, the first half repeated. Barcelona countered, Luis Enrique dribbled past two of our guys and was brought down by Carboni just before he could shoot. A clear penalty, but the double punishment of a red card for Carboni seemed harsh. 0-2 down, with 9 men and news coming in that Celta were 2 goals up against Sociedad spelled the end of Valencia's Champions league hopes. Marc Overmars added a third for Barcelona before Juan Sanchez gave us a late consolation goal.

Sociedad's defeat at Celta cost them the title. Carew's season had ended on a low note, he was loaned out the following season and never kicked a ball for Valencia again. Mista took over as main forward and produced a better following season.

Valencia went on to finish fifth, qualifying for the UEFA Cup which we won as part of a league and European double. For me, it was a sign of things to come: harsh and dubious refereeing decisions favouring Barcelona and disappointing seasons would feature quite a bit in the next 16 years but those just make the wins even sweeter.

How was your first game at Mestalla?