In an era dominated by Spanish maestros one man has often been overlooked.
“At last my hard work has been rewarded,” is how Dani Parejo reacted to the news he had made Spain’s squad for the 2018 World Cup.
A reaction no doubt filled with pride but at the same time a reaction harbouring an undertone of frustration.
The 30-year-old would fail to make an appearance in Russia and has just two senior caps for Spain after making his debut against Argentina in 2018.
His modest tally is understandable when you consider the midfield talent La Furia Roja has had at it’s disposal over the years.
But at one point such a distant relationship between Parejo and the national team never looked possible.
In 2007 he was an integral part of Spain’s U19 Euros winning side starring alongside the likes of Javi Martínez and César Azpilicueta.
The midfielder scored the winner in the final against Greece in a moment that should have been the catalyst in a long love affair between Parejo and the national team.
Following his performances for Spain’s youth sides, Real Madrid legend Alfredo Di Stéfano labelled Parejo as: “The best talent in La Fabrica (Madrid’s academy), a terrific player, a phenomenon.”
The Spaniard had the world at his feet and it seemed as though he was destined to make a name for himself in Madrid.
Sadly, it wasn’t to be.
Just as he failed to make the step up to Spain’s senior squad, Parejo had similar misfortune ousting the likes of Guti and Rafael van der Vaart from the Los Blancos midfield.
The Spaniard would go onto make just a handful of first-team appearances for Madrid with a bizarre five-month loan spell at Championship side QPR sandwiched in between.
Parejo should be heralded for rescuing his career when it had teetered on the brink of extinction.
The Spaniard took a conscious backwards step when he joined Getafe in 2009 as he attempted to kick-start his career.
In his two years at the Madrid-based club he helped guide them to the Europa League for just the second time in their history and his impressive performances put him back in the shop window.
It is with Valencia, the club he signed for in 2011 and has remained ever since, where Parejo has entered the wider public’s conscious again.
At the Mestalla, he’s developed into one of Europe’s most well-rounded midfielders and dons the armband in a Valencia side on the rise again after overcoming it’s fair share of misery in recent years.
Parejo’s leadership helped spearhead Los Ches’ unlikely assent to a Champions League spot last season after back-to-back 12th place finishes during a time in which the club went through numerous managerial changes.
Gary Neville’s forgettable four months at the helm included a public spat with the Spaniard that ended with Neville stripping him of the captaincy in favour of Paco Alcácer – a decision widely protested by Valencia fans.
It’s not just Parejo’s leadership abilities that have come to define him as a player but he’s honed a reputation as one of La Liga’s best passers in recent seasons whilst also becoming a serious goal threat.
He’s Valencia’s top scorer this season and last week made it nine for the campaign after he beat Jan Oblak from the spot in their narrow defeat to Atletico Madrid.
Back in February, the Spaniard toasted his 300th La Liga game in style with an almost faultless performance against Barcelona – in which he misplaced just two passes at the home of the champions.
A week prior to the snatch and grab at the Nou Camp, Parejo had led by example as Valencia ran out 3-0 winners over Villarreal.
His performance exhibited every aspect of his game and he was awarded Man of the Match after the victory – his second in as many La Liga games.
Like a fine wine, Parejo seems to be getting better with age.
Los Che find themselves sixth in La Liga – battling it out with Getafe and Sevilla for a place in the top four – as well as their Europa League semi-final duel with Arsenal.
Parjeo’s importance to Valencia cannot be overstated.
In La Liga’s recent seasons arguably only Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo have had more of an impact on their respective sides than the Spaniard.
With the dynasty of Xavi and Andrés Iniesta now at an end it could pave the way for Parejo to share the role of the experienced pro with Sergio Busquets in Spain’s midfield.
Di Stéfano would undoubtedly be proud of the career that the man who he called “a phenomenon” has forged out for himself.
Parejo, we salute you sir.
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