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An ode to Dani Parejo – one of football’s most undervalued talents

From La Fábrica to Valencia the metronome midfielder has always made the game look effortless

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.


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It’s time to put him under the spotlight

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It’s time to put him under the spotlight

The 29-year-old would fail to make an appearance in Russia and still has just one senior cap for Spain after a cameo from the bench 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.

It’s safe to say they’ve done alright without him

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It’s safe to say they’ve done alright without him

However 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.

Celebrate like nobody is watching

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Celebrate like nobody is watching

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.

He was often called up to train with the first-team squad

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He was often called up to train with the first-team squad

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.

Not a bad five-a-side team

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Not a bad five-a-side team

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.

Not many get to train with the elite from such a young age

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Not many get to train with the elite from such a young age

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.

Would you like fries with that?

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Would you like fries with that?

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.

The 29-year-old has 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.

Captain fantastic

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Captain fantastic

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.

Awkward

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Awkward

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.

The 29-year-old is Valencia’s top scorer this season and last weekend made it six for the campaign after he beat Marc-André ter Stegen from the spot to secure an invaluable point away at Barcelona.

Tearing up the pitch

EPA
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Tearing up the pitch

The Spaniard toasted his 300th La Liga game in style with an almost faultless performance 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.

The Spaniard’s 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.

He recently penned a new contract to keep him at the Mestalla until 2022

EPA
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He recently penned a new contract to keep him at the Mestalla until 2022

Like a fine wine, Parejo seems to be getting better with age.

Los Che find themselves 8th in La Liga just six points shy of the top four and also in the semi-finals of the Copa del Rey.

Valencia will meet Celtic in the round-of-32 in the Europa League as Parejo aims to win what would unbelievably be his first club honour in the game.

We refuse to consider the Emirates Cup as a major trophy

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We refuse to consider the Emirates Cup as a major trophy

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.

Goatherder

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Goatherder

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.

Changing of the guard

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Changing of the guard

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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