Barça's greatest goalkeeper and his typically discreet adieu
Different from the rest. Please don't ask me to be objective about Víctor Valdés because I can't - and he certainly wasn't with anyone; but I've always had a soft spot for people who are a little left-of-centre. I know that he won't like what I am about to write - Víctor always preferred to shy away from the limelight and would much rather go unnoticed. He did his job out on the pitch and then did the same back at home. He made something of his life. With his people - his family, his guitar, his motorbike (It's ok to mention it now, isn't it?) and his friends. But it's difficult to be different when you are so good at something. You can't exactly go unnoticed when you are the best goalkeeper in the history of FC Barcelona. And so different too, so adorably kooky in this cutthroat world we live in. So far removed from what we would expect of an idol, a part of the best Barça side in history, who has decided to call it a day on his own terms and in his own way. A Barça side which, without him, would never have existed.
The modest all-rounder. Looking back at the video footage of Víctor in action, anyone would reach the conclusion that he was a tremendous goalkeeper. Not only that - he was also a player who was able to improve his game season on season. Because of his remarkable work ethic, every year he would be able to do something that would have been unthinkable the year before. He would iron out the weak points to his game and continue improving. With each season he would be stronger, more technical and more of a leader. You could see that just by watching him on the television. But what remained out of sight behind the scenes was his influence on his team mates inside the dressing room, his leadership, his ability to lighten up dinners with his hilarious impersonations; Víctor felt Barça's colours more than anyone. He won three Champions Leagues. But best of all was his ability to quietly disappear without saying boo to a goose. He gave everything he had for the club. He was as honest as the day is long and yet he was misunderstood. Some ignorant fools even dared to suggest that money was behind his decision to move on, which could not be further from the truth.
New life. Víctor left Barça without a safety net or even a parachute. And he came crashing to earth in the most spectacular fashion imaginable. From being the goalkeeper in the best team in the world to being a passenger on a tram in a provincial town in Germany on his way to hospital to see if his knee could be reconstructed - alone, and hoping that no one would accidently knock him during the journey. The man who pulled out so many saves and started the moves for the best team of the era was suddenly the anonymous person he always wanted to be - just another face in the crowd without the help of anyone - to start afresh.
Reborn. He returned to work his way back up from the bottom. He played on the muddy, water-logged pitches in Belgium, winning the Coupe de Belgique with Standard Liège. The journalist Luis Martín told Cadena SER radio that during one game, an opponent recognized him and said: “What are you doing here?” to which Valdés responded: “Waiting for them to take a corner”. He played for Man United reserves after being given the cold shoulder by Van Gaal then grafted hard for a year with Boro. Yesterday, true to style, he deleted all of his social network accounts and wrote: “Thanks for everything” when in fact it's us who should be doing the thanking - Thank You, Víctor!
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