Victor Valdés is one of those players that supporters always hold especially close to their hearts – the local lad playing for his ‘own’ team. A true Catalan and a Barça fanatic, Valdés signed for the club in 1992 – at 10 years of age – and has worked his way through to the first team, making the goalkeeper’s spot his own.
Valdés, like his counterpart in the Real Madrid team, Iker Casillas, made his way through the youth ranks at the club and was given the opportunity of first team football perhaps earlier than might have been expected. In fact, joining the first team squad for the 2002-2003 season, Valdés became a regular in his second year – keeping out the Turkish import, Rustu Recber. The following season saw Valdés pick up the Zamora Trophy – annually awarded to the goalkeeper with the best statistical record in La Liga.
In his early days, Valdés was subject to considerable media criticism. Obviously inexperienced and initially reluctant to leave his goal line or really command his defenders, many people considered him to be the weakest link of the Barcelona team. Gradually, however, he won over his critics. Internationally, he will perhaps be remembered for two fabulous saves from current team mate Thierry Henry when Barça defeated Arsenal in the Champions’ league Final of 2006.
It was the 2005 – 2006 season in general that ensured Valdés was accepted more by the football pundits of Spain as well as the Barcelona supporters. Helping the team win the outstanding double of Champions’ League and La Liga, Valdés truly came of age, with some memorable performances.
Despite his experience and obvious capabilities, Victor Valdés has not yet been selected for the Spanish national squad. He represented his country at Under 18 and Under 21 level but has not made the next step up. Although Spain is blessed with a number of talented goalkeepers, Barça fans remain a little mystified and annoyed that their ‘number one’ has been continually overlooked.
However, Victor Valdés appears to be totally unconcerned with all this controversy. His temperament has always been perhaps his strongest asset – enabling him to quickly put aside the inevitable mistakes goalkeepers make and to maintain his focus at all times. He continues to develop his reputation and to pass new milestones. For example, at the end of the 2007 season, Valdés matched the record of the legendary Zubizarreta by being on the pitch for every second of every league game. In the same season, he went for 466 minutes of Champions’ league football without conceding a goal and now he has accumulated well over 250 appearances for his beloved Barca.
Although, of course, Barcelona fans, los culos, adore the goalscoring exploits of Messi and Eto’o, they always reserve a very special welcome for Victor Valdés – they feel that he is ‘their’ representative in the team – the local lad made good. This bond between player and supporters can be seen when Barcelona score important goals as Valdés seems to celebrate with the crowd as much as with his team mates. It’s also noticeable that, although they are forever linked with players all around the world in every position, there never seems any hint of the club looking for a new goalkeeper.
Victor Valdés would certainly be a hard act to follow in the eyes of the Barcelona faithful.