Over the last few years, despite being part of one of the best club sides in history under Pep Guardiola and then Tito Vilanova at Barcelona, goalkeeper Victor Valdes has attracted a fair bit of criticism from neutrals for his style of play. It seems now that the hierarchy are starting to agree with them, with rumors that the Catalans are looking for a new keeper starting to circulate more ferociously now.
Spanish keeper Jose Manuel Reina, of Liverpool and now Napoli (albeit, only on loan), has been one of the names most heavily linked with a move to the Spanish champions, who let the 31 year-old leave in search of more regular football back in 2002. Since signing for Liverpool in 2005, he’s gone on to make nearly 400 appearances in all competitions, and was a popular figure among the fans at Anfield, although, perhaps not with the management, who let him go to Serie A side Napoli for this season.
Recently, there’s been rumours that the Spaniard has agreed to rejoin Barcelona next summer once his loan deal with Napoli has expired. This would, of course, mean that Victor Valdes would be leaving the side now managed by Tata Martino, with England’s Premier League a likely destination. In the last couple of days, it’s emerged that Manchester City could be one of the clubs in for the Spanish and Catalonian international, along with Arsenal. Both of these clubs look to be in need for a new keeper, with Joe Hart starting to lose form and be criticized by fans in Manchester over the past few months, whilst Arsenal have been looking for a proper solution to their goalkeeping woes for some time now. As it stands, these remain purely as rumors, but who knows how the situation could develop?
Despite Valdes being inconsistent at times, I have my doubts that Reina is much better in that respect. He’s often made mistakes that have cost Liverpool crucial goals in his eight years in England. I still remember one from January 2012, when Sergio Agüero took a shot from just outside the box for Manchester City at home to Liverpool, which bounced under Reina and into the net, leaving the Spaniard red-faced. The Blues would go on to win 3-0, despite going down to 10 men.
However, there’s more good points than bad points in terms of Reina’s game, in my opinion. At times, he can pull off stunning saves that most other keepers can’t, and kept a large amount of clean sheets for The Reds. This lead to him winning the Premier League Golden Glove (the award given to the keeper who keeps the most clean sheets in a season) in his first three years with the club. He’s also very well known for his high-quality distribution and penalty-saving ability.
Equally, his temporary move to Napoli could do the Spanish international a lot of good. He won’t have to face up to the challenge of the newly-signed Simon Mignolet (who joined the Merseyside team in the summer, from Sunderland), who has been chosen as Liverpool’s new number one in goal. It also gives him experience of playing in another league, which he hasn’t done since leaving Vilarreal for England in 2005. He’ll also be playing alongside some very good new signings for Rafa Benitez’s side, such as Gonzalo Higuain and Jose Callejon. Equally, playing under his former manager Benitez could return him to the lethal form of his Liverpool days.
In my opinion, Victor Valdes gets a lot of undeserved stick from people. Let’s face it – he’s spent the last eleven years at Barcelona. If he wasn’t good enough, he would have been replaced. Barça easily have the allure and the financial capabilities to do that, so they would have done if they’d wanted to. But they didn’t, and now Valdes has recently passed the 500-game mark for the Catalans. However, there are better keepers out there, and next summer could easily see Valdes replaced.
Whilst much of the talk over who could be the new first-choice has named Pepe Reina as the leading candidate, it’s come to light in recent days that Chelsea star Petr Cech could also be a target for the La Liga side, after impressing many in the last nine years at Stamford Bridge. He’s won trophies galore with the Londoners, but could want a new challenge soon, and this move could be exactly the one for him. I believe he more than has the quality to play for Barcelona, but whether the Czech star makes the move remains to be seen.
If there are any motions going on behind the scenes to replace Valdes, they’re probably still in the premature stage, and there could be a long list of people who’ve been shortlisted as targets by the management at Barcelona. For me, Reina and Cech are the two likely candidates to join up with talents such as Andres Iniesta and Lionel Messi, but what happens in the end remains to be seen.