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How Valencia have gone back to the past in search of a brighter future

In this week's The Libero, Dream Team's James Robinson looks at how Valencia have rocketed to second in La Liga using a tried and trusted blueprint of success

In a game constantly looking for evolution Valencia’s start to the season has been a refreshing blast of nostalgia.

Sure, La Liga might only be nine games old, but Valencia fans are dreaming again after a start which has left Los Ches trailing only Barcelona.

So how is the past informing Valencia’s future?

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Rubbing Fabien Barthez’s head was known to bring good luck among footballers

Reuters
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Rubbing Fabien Barthez’s head was known to bring good luck among footballers

A magician in the no.7 shirt

There were shades of David Villa in the way Goncalo Guedes arrowed the ball past Antonio Adan during Valencia’s pulsating 6-3 win against Real Betis.

As well as sharing Villa’s unerringly accurate right foot Guedes has also taken his no.7 shirt, previously worn by Joaquin and Claudio Lopez.

Guedes’ five assists and three goals in seven games will undoubtedly have caught parent club PSG’s attention.

Now it’s up to Valencia to turn the 20-year-old’s loan move into a permanent love affair.

Making the most of ‘average’ strikers

Valencia’s title wins of 2002 and 2004 were spearheaded by strikers like Mista, John Carew and Juan Sanchez.

Good, but not great.

Fast forward to the present and Simone Zaza, a player who failed to score for West Ham last season, and Rodrigo, who scored one goal in 20 outings for Bolton, lead the line.

But the pairing have silenced any doubters, with Zaza picking up September’s La Liga Player of the month award and equalling the legendary Mario Kempes’ record in the process.

A South American core

Valencia’s defence is an improvement on last season- although that’s not too difficult- conceding three more goals than both the Madrid giants.

Marcelino is yet to settle on two from Ezequiel Garay, Jeison Murillo and Gabriel Paulista but the fact that all three are South American brings up an interesting parallel from the past.

After all, the partnership between Argentinians Roberto Ayala and Mauricio Pellegrino was so crucial to Valencia’s success in the noughties.

Another poor attacker pocketed by Ayala

AP:Associated Press
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Another poor attacker pocketed by Ayala

The local lad

The academy that produced Raul Albiol, Isco and Andres Palop has another gem in the shape of Carlos Soler.

Soler has impressed whether playing off either flank or through the middle, where you’d expect him to end up long term.

It’s no surprise that the 20-year-old academy graduate is already getting linked with a £30million move to Man United.

Twisted blood

Rex Features
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Twisted blood

The Misters

Rafa Benitez had to work his way up to the Valencia job via spells with Real Madrid’s B team, Real Valladolid, Osasuna, Extremadura and Tenerife.

Current Valencia boss Marcelino’s CV is no less cluttered, featuring roles at Lealtad, Sporting Gijon’s B team and first team, Recreativo, Racing Santander twice, Real Zaragoza, Sevilla and Villarreal.

Benitez’s reign at Valencia ended in with a trophy haul of two La Liga titles and a UEFA Cup.

Over to you, Mr Marcelino

Benitez MKII?

AFP or licensors
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Benitez MKII?

More bitesize tales from around the world:

Serie A leaders Napoli take on Genoa on Wednesday night, hoping to finish the game fully clothed.

What are we on about?

The pair met in 2007 and, when promotion to the top flight was secured for both teams, players were left partially clothed by a premature pitch invasion.

Hold onto those shorts, Dries.

Try working out who’s a player and who’s a fan

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Try working out who’s a player and who’s a fan

Staying in Italy, Serie B makes the Championship look positively pedestrian.

First and last place in the league are separated by nine points, while Carpi are only two points off the top spot despite scoring seven goals in ten games.

You give us Bristol City, we give you Salernitana.

Good luck beating the bookies

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Good luck beating the bookies

We’ll leave you with this picture of a Palmeiras fan and his pig.

His name is Bacano, just in case you were wondering.

Why not?

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Why not?

READ MORE FROM THIS WEEK’S FEATURES


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