‘Be careful what you wish for’, or so the old adage goes. In May 2013, Victor Valdes was making his 100th Champions League appearance for Barcelona, the club he had played for his entire life, in their semi-final defeat to Bayern Munich at the Camp Nou. Later that month, he announced his intention to run down his current contract with the club, which ended the following summer, citing the enormous pressure that came with representing the Catalan giants.
Fast forward three years, and the World Cup winner has just become Middlesbrough manager Aitor Karanka’s fifth summer signing, ahead of the Teesiders’ first season in the Premier League for eight years. Valdes has signed a two-year-deal at the Riverside Stadium, but is his arrival enough to keep Boro up?
Based on his recent luck, you wouldn’t bet on it. In March 2014, his final season at the Camp Nou, Valdes tore his anterior cruciate ligament, meaning he would miss the remainder of the season, as well as that summer’s World Cup. After leaving Barca, the injury-stricken Valdes struggled to find a club, and when he did, it turned out disastrously.
The Spaniard’s spell at Manchester United was a calamity from start to finish. He made just two appearances, and clashed with manager, Louis Van Gaal on a number of occasions, leading to him being shipped out on loan to Standard Liege in January of this year. Now that he has escaped from footballing purgatory, his move to the North East could be the perfect opportunity for Valdes to get his career back on track.
The 34-year-old goalkeeper looks set to replace Dimi Konstantopolous as Boro’s number one, and his experience will certainly bolster a talented, but ultimately inexperienced defence. This will come as a disappointment to Konstantopolous after an impressive season where he kept 22 clean sheets in the league, a new club record.
Boro possessed the meanest defence in the Championship last season, conceding just 31 times. In Daniel Ayala, George Friend, and Ben Gibson, they possess some of the best defenders outside of the top flight over the past few seasons. All three will be relishing the opportunity to prove themselves at Premier League level. This defence was further strengthened last month, with the addition of Bernardo Espinosa from Sporting Gijon.
Karanka’s transfer dealings, thus far, appear to be extremely shrewd. The acquisition of Danish winger, Viktor Fischer, for a fee in the region of £3.8 million could prove to be one of the signings of the season if the 22-year-old can live up to the big things that were expected of him in his early days at Ajax.
Signing players with potential and a point to prove has worked wonders for a number of newly-promoted clubs in recent years, and Valdes and Fischer are two players that certainly match up to this description.
Victor Valdes at Middlesbrough would not have been a prospect that many would have predicted three years ago, but after his chastening stint at Old Trafford, this reality could prove to be a match made in heaven.
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