Tuesday, January 19, 2021

The "where are they now?" of the Lim era part 2: midfielders

Continuing our trip down memory lane of players who had competitive minutes with the first team since Lim took over but have left us. Obviously some of these guys played in more than one position. 

Left wingers

Bakkali a flair player who won over the Mestalla faithful, but his defensive contributions were lacking and as a result he only started 5 of the 40 games he played for us. After a loan at Depor, returned to his native Belgium at Anderlecht in 2018 and played half the games in his first season. Injury sidelined him for most of 2019-20 and since returning, he’s been out of favor, only playing 2 games this season.

Sito. Made his debut in the last game of the 2015-16 season, replacing the injured Piatti in the 38th minute. (That would be Piatti’s last ever Valencia game, more on him in a minute.) Sito played a single minute the following season and that was it for him. Loaned to Lorca and then released on a free to join his current club, Asteras Tripolis of the Greek top division where he’s begun to establish himself.

Piatti. We hotly debated his merits for ages on this blog. Valencia sold him for the usual scandalously low price to Espanyol. Debuted with a goal and 2 assists and had a sensational debut season ending with 10 goals and 11 assists. Saw reduced returns after that, though, and injuries recurred. Another injury February 2019 kept him out for most of that year. In January 2020 he was released and now plays for Toronto in the MLS.

Nacho Gil. Made his debut in February 2017 and then began to see some game time and starts under Marcelino. Doubts crept in and he was part of the controversial experimental line-up which flopped badly away to Las Palmas in January 2018. That would be his last game. Joined Elche on loan the following week before being released in the summer to join second level Ponferradina. After 2 seasons there he joined Cartagena who had been newly promoted to the second level. Has been a regular as they fight relegation. 

Central midfielders

Bruno Zuculini. Joined us on loan from Man City in Nuno’s first season but only played half a game. Loan was cancelled mid-season and a series of loans in Spain, England and Greece followed. Permanently joined Hellas Verona of Greece in 2017 but only lasted a year before returning to his native Argentina with River Plate.

Felipe Augusto. Represented by, you guessed it, Mendes. Nuno brought him with him from Rio Ave. After a few sub appearances, started his only game, a disastrous 3-0 defeat at Depor and was subbed off at half time. (That game also ended the Valencia career of Yoel.) After a couple of sub appearances in December he never played another minute the rest of the season. Returned to Portugal and was loaned out to Braga before a permanent move to Benfica. They in turn loaned him to Turkish top flight side Alanyaspor. He was then sold back to Rio Ave where he was a regular until dropping out of the team last month.

Carles Gil. One of the first to depart under Nuno, joining Aston Villa in January 2015. He had a decent enough spell there but returned to Spain in summer 2016 for two years at Depor. Then moved permanently to the MLS to play for New England Revolution, where he’s a regular.

Fran Villalba. Attracted a lot of buzz after emerging in 2015 but never made it. His last game was the dead rubber Copa 2nd leg vs Barca (incidentally also the last game for 3 others on these lists.) After spending all of 2018-19 on loan at Numancia, he joined Birmingham City permanently, though with Valencia reserving half his rights. After an ok season there he’s been back in Spain since summer 2019 on loan at Almeria , who have a buy option.

Enzo Perez. One of many expensive busts for 25 million. He started well, but there were always questions over his fitness and after 2 years, Valencia cut their losses and transferred him on the cheap to River Plate where he’s a regular.

Danilo Barbosa. Controversial Mendes addition for the 2015-16 season where he was a regular, playing 32 games. Valencia rightly declined the 15 million buy option. Returned to Braga who loaned him out to Benfica and Liege. Surprisingly, Braga did get a decent fee of 10 million for him from Nice in 2018. He was a regular for them in the first season but gradually fell down the pecking order, being used as emergency cover at central defence and has only played 4 games this season with talk of a transfer.

Wilifried Zahibo.

Broke through in the Neville era and got 7 games, starting 6 of them, even managing a goal in the Copa against Granada. But the Copa 2nd leg against Barcelona with Valencia well eliminated already would be his final game. Left after one season and played at the second level with Gimnastic. After 2 seasons there he moved to the MLS with New England Revolution for 2 seasons. Spent last season with Houston Dynamo, but only played 4 games. His contract there expired last month and was not renewed, so he is now a free agent.

Tropi. Mestalla player who made his La Liga debut, and his only top flight appearance in the 89th minute at Elche in March 2015. Got a couple of late sub appearances under Neville in Copa and Europa league the following season. Has had a journeyman existence since then. Year-long loans at Alcorcon and Lorca. Signed by Recreativo Huelva but released after the 2018-19 season. Atletico Madrid reserves signed him for 2019-20 before he joined third level UCAM Murcia last autumn, where he is a regular.  

Andre Gomes. The transfer to Barcelona, though it brought in 37 million ultimately, really stung, especially since the 2 guys that follow on this list were not up to the task of replacing him. Had a torrid time at Barcelona before a loan at Everton became permanent. Was a regular at Everton in his first season, even after overcoming a horror injury but has struggled for game time this season being used more as a sub.

Alvaro Medran. Bought in summer 2016 as a very cheap replacement for Andre Gomes. Though he showed some early promise, lacked the consistency to be a regular, making 19 appearances and scoring 3 times. Started in Marcelino’s first game in charge in 17/18 but that would be his final appearance. Went to Alaves on loan where a managerial change proved disastrous for him, leading to him infamously breaking down in tears in a post-match interview. After another loan at Rayo, he joined Chicago Fire on a free, where he’s a regular.

Mario Suarez. As I said in the previous post, if Simeone says you’re past it, you are. Joined on loan from Watford in summer 2016 with a buy option to replace the departed Fuego. Was a regular for the first half of the season without convincing. With Voro taking over and Soler’s emergence he was deemed unnecessary and didn’t even play a single minute after February 2017. Joined Guizhou in China that year before returning to Spain with Rayo in 2019. Was a regular the first season but now struggles for game time, used as a sub mostly.

Javi Fuego. After 3 ok years with us, joined Espanyol. 2 seasons later spent a single season at Villarreal where he featured rarely as he spent most of the season injured. Released by them, he dropped down a level to join Gijon where he’s ever present. Considering he turned 37 earlier this month, that’s not bad going for a midfielder.

Maksimovic. Was a good pick-up on a free from Astana but got frustrated at lack of game time behind the next 3 guys on this list and left to join Getafe where he’s done very well. It’s a shame because with the current state of our midfield, he’d be a useful player to have.

Parejo. His departure for no money and the manner of it: tossed out as if he was no one when he was actually a loyal, long time club servant, still annoys. Has been a regular at Villarreal this season.

Coquelin. Not going so well for him up the coast. Has really struggled for game time, with brief sub appearances the norm since October and for the last 5 games he’s played 4 minutes and hasn’t even been in the match squad the other 4.

Kondogbia. I hope he gets more money at Atletico because he’s certainly losing game time. Hasn’t played more than 27 minutes in a league game since joining them and didn’t even play the last 3 games.

Right wingers

Fede Cartabia, played both wings. Joined us at age 13 and made a decent breakthrough for 2013-14, playing 40 games. But fell out of favor and a couple of seasons of loans followed. Made a surprise return to Valencia in summer 2016 but only lasted the first half of the season. Released on a free and returned to Depor, where he got reasonable game time, but was loaned out to Braga and then last season to Al-Ahli of Dubai in the UAE. Still there but out of favour. Another promising youth player who never quite made it.

Feghouli. After 6 reasonable seasons with us, he fell out with the club at the end and left for a season at West Ham. Moved to Galatasaray in 2017 and is still there, recently passing 120 games for them.

Orellana. Joined in January 2017 and started well, with a winner against Real Madrid but was then frozen out and left to join Eibar. After two and a half reasonable seasons there, moved to Valladolid for this season.

Ferran. Doing well at Man City. Too painful to write any more.

DePaul. Another one that got away. After a brief spell back at his boyhood club Racing he moved to Udinese where he’s highly rated and played 165 games to date.

Andreas Pereira. His loan spell with us ended sourly as it became obvious we weren’t going to buy him and he responded by sulking. Returned to Man United and saw decent game time last season but is now on loan at Lazio.

Rober. Made sporadic sub appearances in Nuno’s first season before heading out on loan for a couple of seasons at Granada and Leganes. Made a brief return and scored his only senior goal in his final appearance in a Copa win over Zaragoza. Joined Getafe in January 2018 but was barely used and moved to Osasuna on loan a year later. Their promotion for 2019-20 triggered a buy clause but he didn’t play much after that. They loaned him out to second tier Leganes for this season.