So it’s true. Yesterday the agents of Victor Valdes announced, and this morning the club confirmed, that Barcelona’s number one goalkeeper has made the “irrevocable” decision not to renew his contract, which expires in June 2014. Victor joined the club originally in 1992, at 10 years old. He left for 3 years when his family moved to Tenerife, then rejoined in 1995. Whichever of those you choose as his “starting date”, that’s a really long time to be at a single club. He has been with the first team since 2002, and the first-choice keeper since 2003. 10 years. In that time he has come in for a lot of both praise and criticism. Every mistake he has made has been front-page news in the sports press, and at times there have even been demands to replace him.
But whether you are a “fan” of Valdes or not, no one can deny that over the years he has proved himself a first-class goalkeeper and produced more than his share of brilliant saves:
Although at times he has also courted controversy:
Right now it is not clear whether FCB will try to sell Victor this summer or whether he will see out his contract until 2014. Amidst all this discussion of whether the club should “cash out” on Victor now or later, and how much for, one important factor has been overlooked. It is the player who will ultimately make that decision. Victor obviously has some plans for what he will do when he leaves Barça, and those plans may not include being sold to another top-level team just because they are the only ones who can afford his market price. He may want to get away from the pressure-cooker environment of playing for a big team. He may already have chosen what “different culture” he wants to experience and not be open to offers from teams in other leagues. Or he may already have an offer that he wants to take and insist the club let him go there or nowhere.
Or…here is a radical thought. He may actually have decided he has had enough of football. He has been living this life for a very long time, and he has never been entirely comfortable with the way a goalkeeper is psychologically isolated from the rest of the team. In his youth and early career, he struggled with depression and almost quit entirely at one point. There is a very nice little documentary detailing how he dealt with those feelings: What He Hated
Michele made a point about Valdes not seeming to have his head in the game on some occasions recently. Certainly with the arrival of his new son he must be thinking about spending more time with his family and travelling less. Perhaps he has just decided to stop now while he is at the top of his game and indulge himself in his other passions, which include windsurfing, motorcycles:
And even a spot of modeling:
He might even grow back his hair:
I’m sure when the time comes, the club will give him the send-off he deserves. Until then, whether it be this year or next, let us just thank Victor for his long years of service to the club, and wish him well in whatever happens next!