After being unceremoniously dumped out of the Copa Del Rey last month, by Celta Vigo, the last chance of silverware for this season disappeared. Valencia now have to concentrate on trying to achieve a European spot to salvage anything from another frustrating campaign. A Champions League place looks a stretch too far but the Europa League, or a European Conference slot, are certainly within grasp if Valencia find consistency and a rich vein of form.
The expected bolstering of the squad during the transfer window did not materialise, and indeed, more players left the Mestalla than arrived. Koba Lein made his association with Estoril a permanent one, after a successful loan period, and the fans’ favourite Gabriel Paulista joined Atlético Madrid on a free transfer, after seven years with Los Che. The sole newcomer is the talented winger Peter Federico González who joins on loan from Real Madrid. He is a player not dissimilar to Bryan Gil and if he can make the same kind of impact that the Tottenham star did during his spell at the Mestalla last year, then he will soon become a favourite of the fans too. The lack of a replacement for Paulista is a particular worry as his experience and leadership skills will be sorely missed, and one or two injuries in the defensive department would leave the club with a headache to solve.
On the pitch, Valencia continue to struggle to find any kind of consistency. At times they offer their fans hope an air of optimism, and then a week later bring them back down to the ground with performances devoid of any soul and character. Quality efforts in Cádiz and at home to Athletic Bilbao and Almeria were offset with inept displays in the Wanda Metropolitano against Atlético Madrid and in the Canary Islands versus UD Las Palmas.
The game in Madrid highlighted a current gulf in class between the two clubs, and the contest at the Estadio Gran Canaria exposed Valencia’s fragility to see out games that they deserve to take something from. Time and again, Valencia succumb to very late goals when on foreign soil. Keeper Mamardashvili is an excellent shot stopper and has great reflexes but his inability to command the six-yard box is becoming an issue and costing Valencia dearly.
The two goals that UD Palmas scored in the last few minutes of the game were arguably errors on his part, but in general Los Che have become way too negative in the latter stages of contests when they are on the cusp of getting a positive result.
Away from the field of play, it seems the on-off saga of the new Mestalla is back on again. A change in local government seems to have triggered the move along with a better financial situation. Sixteen years on from the first moment of construction, a lot of Valencia fans are ambivalent about a new ground, and cling to the romance and history that reverberates around the current stadium at Avenida Suecia.
Indeed, in a recent poll by https://www.ticketgum.com/ the venue was crowned the fifth best stadium in Spain, behind the Bernabéu, Benito Villamarin, Nou Camp and the Wanda. There are sure to be more twists and turns and more surprises regarding the new stadium that was originally selected to host the Champions League final in 2011, some thirteen years ago.
The Valencia women also are having a season to forget but the Valencia Mestalla B team continue to thrive and build up a reputation as one of the best academies in the world. A recent statistic backed up the Mestalla B claim as Valencia have the most Under-23 international players in the top five leagues of Europe that have played this season in their first team (Diego Lopez, Fran Perez, Mosquera, Javi Guerra, Jesus Vazquez, Yarek and Gonzalbez).
The club also had a visit from a delegation from the Chicago Bears recently. The group from North America Football team were led by Roberto Garcia, who played 14 seasons in the NFL and the focus of the trip was to build and strengthen ties between the two identities, both of whom share the same colours (white, black and orange) and were founded within a year of each other.
Meanwhile, over at Levante UD, the “traffic jam” at the top of Spain’s second division seems to be getting even more cluttered. A defeat at Espanyol with the last kick of the game (penalty) severely stunted the progress Las Granotas had made in recent weeks.Three recent draws and a win at home to Albacete has seen Levante UD treading water but the winning factor must return soon if they do not want to be too far down the pecking order come the business end of the season.
The Levante women continue to show the way for football in Valencia and currently lie third in Liga F behind the totally dominant Barcelona and Real Madrid. The Levante ladies also reached the final of the Supercopa de España Feminina before losing heavily to Barcelona.
Whether they can sustain their efforts deep into the season could well depend on finding a replacement for Mayra Ramirez. The Colombian footballer left for Chelsea from Levante UD last month in what was a world record fee for a women footballer. The cost for the team from London was reportedly 500,000 euros, surpassing the previous record when the England lioness Kiera Walsh moved from Manchester City to Barcelona in 2022.
Report by John Howden
Article copyright ‘24/7 Valencia’
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