As the David De Gea transfer saga rumbles on and reports suggest United are interested in signing a replacement, it’s unusual that veteran goal-keeper Victor Valdes isn’t currently in the frame for the number 1 spot. At 33, the Spaniard’s career is hardly at its close, and yet in the eyes of many pundits the veteran will not be his club’s first choice in 2015/ 16, with or with out De Gea. Tottenham’s Hugo Lloris, Jasper Cillesen of Ajax and Atletico Madrid’s Jan Oblak have all been mentioned in the conversation of potential successors to De Gea and yet none are as decorated as the Ex Barcelona man. After all, Valdes has a wealth of experience under his belt, having won 3 Champions Leagues, 6 La Liga titles, 3 Spanish cups and 2 FIFA club world cups.
The Spaniard signed for United in January on an 18 month deal, but he has spent most of the season as understudy to his compatriot who has been in brilliant form. As a consequence Valdes has appeared regularly for the reserves, trying to rediscover the match sharpness which saw him hold down the number 1 spot at Barcelona for so long. Victor did eventually make his first team start for the Red Devils, but it wasn’t until the end of the season. With David De Gea ruled out with injury, Valdés kept a clean sheet in the goalless away draw at Hull for his first start in 14 months. Despite a few questions being asked of him the veteran Spaniard pulled off some genuinely world class saves. Yes, Valdes needs to work on claiming the ball in the air, as the Premier League is a lot more physical than La Liga, but you feel with a bit of work and consistent game time he isn’t far off being the finished article.
Valdes will now return to pre-season training with United’s goalkeeper issues unresolved and it’s a situation where he is entirely capable of taking advantage. Back in 2002/03 Valdes had to play deputy to Argentine international Roberto Bonano at the Camp Nou, but the arrival of Radomir Antić as manager in January 03 saw saw the Spaniard given regular first team opportunities. Valdes probably only expected to feature for Barcelona B. However, having grown up at La Masia, he was perfectly accustomed to the demands of Barca’s style of play wanting to sweep up behind the defence, hold a high position and on occasion play like an outfield player. A young Valdes even impressed LVG during his time at the Nou camp, and Valdés himself has always held Van Gaal in high regard for the Dutchman’s part in his development.
“Thank you to Louis van Gaal, for showing the courage necessary to gamble on a talent that only he could see. He began building this historic Barça side, which I have been privileged to be part of. My heartfelt thanks.”
As the new season looks to get under way it seems unlikely that it will conclude with Victor Valdes crowned as United’s player of the season. But it’s far from impossible. In the little games the Spaniard has played a part since arriving in England he has shown enough promise to deserve a place in the starting line up. Already vastly experienced, he shouldn’t be ruled out and with a little work he could be just what United need.