As our Victorian Secret wants to change wardrobes

NOTE: All abbreviations used in the statistics tables are explained in the legend at the bottom of this article. Stats are accurate up to Jornada 35 and are taken and/or derived from, and

one of the best

On a beautiful January afternoon, out of the blue above Zubizarreta’s office, a bomb dropped. It dropped, crashed through the roof and landed smack dab in the middle of his negotiating table. Our goalkeeper is not renewing.

Victor Valdes. Hero of Paris. Weatherer of a ten-minute hurricane in Rome. Pillar of Barcelona.

Few blaugrana players have divided opinion as much as our man from L’Hospitalet. Victor started in the Masía as a nine-year old, and although he moved to Tenerife within three months, he came back when he was twelve and progressed quickly through the youth ranks. He made his debut during one of the more chaotic periods our club has experienced in the 21st century, the 2002-2003 season, and soon after that became our first choice to guard our net.

Cue stability.

When I was growing up it was hard to imagine an F.C. Barcelona before or after Zubi. By the time Cruijff had famously opted for his son-in-law, Carles Busquets,  in goal after the debacle in Athens, Andoni Zubizarreta had been our first goalkeeper for eight seasons. Sergio’s dad lasted exactly sixty-nine games. Over the next seven seasons Vitor Baía, Ruud Hesp, Richard Dutruel, Pepe Reina, Roberto Bonano and Rüstü Recber all jumped on the great blaugrana goalkeeping caroussel, but none managed to hang on for very long. Valdes came and made the position his own.

A record five hundred games and one. Six league titles. Two Copa del Rey trophies. Three Champion’s League medals. Five Zamoras awarded for being the least scored upon goalkeeper in the Liga, a record he shares with another Barça legend, Antoni Ramallets. Heck, we brought in another Zamora winning goalkeeper just to be his back up. Our  undisputed number one for ten seasons running. During the same timespan, only three other goalkeepers have come close to obtaining the same trust and longevity at a European powerhouse as Valdes: Gianluigi Buffon, Petr Cech and Iker Casillas. Yet when asked who are the best goalkeepers in the world, Victor is never mentioned in the same breath.


Most football fans will agree on the brilliance of Messi, Iniesta and Xavi. Dani Alves and Jordi Alba are counted among the best full backs in Europe. Busquets is widely lauded and Puyol admired by many. Our goalkeeper? Not quite. Culés consider him at the very least among the top 5 of the world – an opinion that is met by disbelief and sometimes ricidule when brought up for discussion with partisans of other clubs. Ten seasons between the goalposts of one of one of Europe’s most complicated clubs should, together with the accumulated accolades, be enough to earn him acclaim and respect from followers of the beautiful game worldwide, regardless of tribal loyalties.

So where does he rank? It is impossible to tell. At times Valdes has been the best keeper in the world. Yes, better than the sainted one, who later became the Mourinhoed one, before Jose became the Ikered one. He has inevitably had his lesser moments as well. The goalkeeper position is different from any other. Unlike most players, keepers only get a couple of chances every 90 minutes to do their job. One mistake can mean a terrible game. A couple of those can mean a bad season. And two or three every season can earn you the everlasting reputation of being flaky. Unreliable. Error prone. Chicken catcher. The bigger the howler and the bigger the game, the longer the memory. It is not fair, but life seldomly is. It also makes it more difficult to rank goalkeepers, since consistency over seasons is a lot harder to maintain.

The general consensus is that Victor Valdes will prove hard to replace. His strengths include good shot stopping, strong at one-on-ones and excellent passing skills. The fact that the latter is invariably quoted as one of the most important reasons why we can’t let our Victorian Secret out the box proved catalyst for this article. I started looking up his passing stats and became hungry for more. In the 2009/2010 season I was convinced that Victor was the best goalkeeper in the world. However, over the last two seasons I felt he has slipped somewhat. So I looked up his save percentage to see if my feelings and observations would stand up to cold hard facts.


He went from averaging an astonishing save percentage of over 80% down to a lowly 68.2 % last season, and then on to an obviously less than elite 64.4% this season. While I expected the stats to back up my suspicions, I was quite frankly shocked by how far the mighty Victor had fallen. Adding insult to injury is the fact that we gave up less shots on goal per game in 2012/13 than in 2009/10/11.  He also kept only seven clean sheets while giving up more than a goal per game.

Then again, there are no cold hard facts. Just lies, damned lies, and statistics. The shots on goal per game stat does not show us what kind of shots he faced. Were they easy, difficult, or impossible to save? I found no statistics of goalkeeping errors, if such a thing could be objectively recorded anyway. How many of those goals were penalties? How often was he left alone to face hordes of striking finishers because the ten players in front of him screwed the pooch? So I looked at all the goals Victor conceded in 2009/10, 2010/11 and 2012/2013. I skipped the 2011/12 season because I was primarily interested in the difference between awesome (avg 82.5%), and its polar opposite (64.4%).

In 2009/10 he was simply excellent. He committed one super gaffe against a less than super Depor and he let Zaragoza score a goal that in my opinion he could have stopped. All other goals were either very hard to blame on VV or simply unstoppable.

In 2010/11 he gave up an unfortunate rebound for Hercules’ opening goal (remember that game?).  He made a mess out of an Atletico corner. Against both Sevilla and Levante he came out of his goal awkwardly and on Jornada 37 he let in an imminently savable long distance shot.

For this season I went a step further and compiled a video. Yes, let God and the patron saint Jordi forgive me, because I compiled a video of goals that Victor Valdes either could have saved or simply should have saved.

Not taking into account the Supercopa blunder against Di Maria,  Ronaldo’s Supercopa goal that was shot straight at Victor Valdes and the goal that prompted an ex-Barça player to text soccer journalist Gabrielle Marcotti that PSG only drew because of an offside Ibrahimovic and a goalkeeping mistake, Victor has not been in lockdown mode in the league either. Against Osasuna he was found cross-watching until it found the wrong player to volley the ball into the net. The first goal we conceded against Sevilla was not exactly a mistake, but it was definitely savable. Against Depor he made two mistakes: the first one quite obvious, the second by not covering well the area of the goal he supposedly covered in anticipation of the free kick. Against Celta de Vigo he gave up a rebound to a fairly weak shot. Against Valladolid he also gave up a rebound, although alternatively off of a fine save. And although I would not call them mistakes, had he been on top off his game both he could have stopped Valencia’s and Athletic’s goals.

Of course you can debate any of my choices of what is or is not savable (and you are welcome to it), but in my opinion VV let in more goals he could have prevented in his 64.4% season than in both of his 80+% seasons combined. Was he given a hard job this season by a team that did not press and defend well as in years past? Undoubtedly. Yet I was surprised by how many goals came from opponents finding space behind our high back line in the 2009/10 and 2010/11 seasons as well – a complaint we seem to have only started to voice consistently this year. I admit it would have been even better to watch all of the shots on goal we conceded over three years, but for that kind of research I would have had to quit my day job. So I did the next best thing.

How does Valdes compare to other goalkeepers?  Here is where it becomes scary.

lowest save percentage

Across Europe’s four elite leagues (Liga, EPL, Serie A and Bundesliga) Valdes’s save percentage ranks seventh lowest. We can argue until we’re blue in the face about how Barcelona’s team defense have let their keeper down, but let’s get real. Wigan’s Ali Al Habsi has faced 149 shots (more than 2 more shots on goal per game than VV). Greuter Fürth (GF) are Germany’s cannon fodder and they are about to get relegated. Deportivo La Coruña and Mallorca have conceded 136 goals between them. You get my drift. The only other team who you could be surprised to see here is Schalke 04. If Valdes had saved even two of the shots seen in the video above, he would not star in this list of shame.

Now let’s see how some of Europe’s other top keepers have been doing.

spain gk stats

 Apart from his heroics in the Copa Del Rey final for which I am sure you are all grateful, Thibaut Courtois’ save percentage of over 75% and 18 clean sheets would back up all the positive press he has been receiving. Of course it might also be indicative of how Simeone’s team has tightened up at the back, a fact further underlined by allowing 0.5 shots per game less than the previous season.

Iker’s performance seems to have dropped in comparison to his usual consistent self. While M*drid gave up a lot less shots than the three seasons before, opponents scored at pretty much the same rate as ever. His save percentage was only a tad higher than Victor’s. No wonder the Evil One felt emboldened to make his move against the White Knight.

Italy GK Stats

I am not an avid follower of Italian football, but I now know this: three of Italy’s top goalkeepers have consistently saved more than 70 percent of the shots they receive over the past three seasons, while both Buffon and Abbiati reached the dazzling heights of the eighties.

England GK Stats

David De Gea, the one goalkeeper I would dream to see at the Camp Nou, has scored two consecutive 78% seasons to start his career in Manchester, an achievement made even more impressive by his young age. Note how his team conceded less than Barça this season while allowing 1+ shot per game more.

Pepe Reina, who can’t seem to keep his name out of the Barcelona dailies these days, was made to look a winner by Rafael Benitez’s stifling tactics but has grown less impressive with the years. And of course Petr Cech is the picture definition of consistency.

Germany GK Stats
*Neuer played for Schalke 04 in 2009/10 and 2010/11

Germany’s top two goalkeepers are looking pretty good as well. Regular Champion’s League followers should be well familiar with Manuel Neuer, while Marc-Andre Ter Stegen, a reported Barcelona target, has apparently followed a spectacular season with a merely solid one. I will put my hand up to say that I have never watched a complete game featuring the latter, although he carries the reputation of being one of Europe’s top talents.

All in all I have two key observations. First, of the established goalkeepers (I am not counting Reina) only Buffon (09/10) and Iker Casillas (12/13) dropped to a saving percentage under 70%. Courtois dropped below 70 in his debut season defending the mattresses, and Bill Gentleman (props to Isaiah) was a couple of percentiles below 70 as well last season. Curiously enough only one of those goalkeepers is outside of Spain. Victor Valdes has now had two consecutive seasons in a row in which he saved less than seventy percent of the shots. Secondly there are only three teams that allow less shots on goal than Barcelona: Real M*drid, Juventus and Bayern Munich. Make of that what you will.

Do penalties count as shots on goal? I think so, but I’m not sure. But since you mention it…


I counted all the penalties these goalkeepers faced throughout their careers, and whether they were scored or not. Keep in mind that for lack of accurate information I did not take any penalty shootouts into account, nor do I know  whether the ones that were not scored were saved or missed completely.

Sammy Hands has a well deserved reputation of being the world’s leading penalty killer. David De Gea and Manuel Neuer are not that far off. Apparently Neuer stands at 34% including shootouts. Again, Victor Valdes shows up in the bottom of this particular list.

As for the passing skills…

How our future goalkeeper’s lack of this apparently irreplaceable skill set will effect us is at the root of what originally prompted me to write this post. Well, both that and the fact that it is fair to say that this particular season Victor has left several culés underwhelmed with his passing of the ball. Perhaps as a result of the error that set up Di Maria to score in the first Supercopa leg at the Camp Nou – the second time in less than 12 months Real M*drid profited from a mistake made with the ball at his feet – he no longer looked as confident with passing the ball season. In various games I could have sworn that his passing hurt us more than helped us, so I decided to take note of what happened whenever we passed our goalkeeper the ball during our last game at the San Mamés.

My tally over ninety minutes:

Lost possession, long ball… Put Abidal in a complicated position near our own corner flag, lost possession… Long ball, lost possession… Awesome one-time pass, tiki taka, wow, nice… Long ball over the ground which Cesc could not control… Long ball, loss of possession… Long ball under pressure. 

Barcelona lost possession six out of seven times our goalkeeper played the ball with his feet. Definitely not good. So again I pulled down some stats.

passing stats

Gianluigi Buffon has the highest completion percentage. Victor Valdes is somewhere in the middle. David De Gea’s passes reach a teammate only a bit more than half the time. Note how the distinction was made between passes and long balls. I take it that they counted long balls to be those passes where the keeper has the ball in his hands before kicking it forward. To be clear, a long ball and a long pass is not the same.

To be honest I find it hard to interpret these statistics one way or the other. It is striking that the keepers of the lowest ranked teams (Liverpool and Borussia Mönchengladbach) make more passes per game than any other, but then the reasons are fairly obvious. It is not surprising to see that we rank fairly low when it cames to retaining possession of long balls, although curiously the difference between our midgets and teams like Real M*drid and Chelsea is minimal.

More telling is the drop in Victor Valdes’ completion rate between this season (63%) and the previous seasons (averaging about 80%). Then again one has to keep in mind that this does not reflect a sudden loss of skill, but rather a change of tactics (both ours and our opponents’) and perhaps a loss of confidence after the two high profile errors against M*drid. After all, few goalkeepers make passes like the ones Valdes made against Real Valladolid two weeks ago, a game in which his completion rate was 100%

Beautiful, isn’t it? It is not his skill that stands out, though. Most All players can make those passes, whether they wear gloves or not. You don’t spend your entire life on a football pitch without knowing how to pass a ball over twenty yards. What stands out is the willingness to play the ball to a defender who has opponents breathing down his neck. The confidence that your teammate will know what to do with it. The field awareness to know that he in turn has options to pass to. The risk that mishitting the ball only slightly is a goalwards invitation.

So how much will we miss this specific skill?  Time will tell. A more pertinent question could be how important it is for Barcelona to have a ball passing keeper? In the specific games I tallied VV passed the ball three times against Valladolid and seven times against Athletic  Bilbao. I will go out on a limb here and say that yes, I want our keeper to be able to pass the ball but I care a great deal more about whether or not he stops it from going into the net. A new goalkeeper can learn how to pass. Noboy’s asking him to be Iniesta. But it will take time. Maybe a season or two. Or three. The truth is that judging by this season, Barça will have to adjust this particular facet of our tactics anyway. Most interestingly Victor himself has indicated that the most important part of his job is the one-on-one, of which he receives 25-30 per season and which can often end up deciding the game.

And how much will we miss Double V? Another difficult question and again, time will tell. Like most culés, I have supported him throughout the years. In the beginning because he was young and “ours”. We got vindicated soon enough by his heroics in Parc des Princes. We got laughed at one year later against Liverpool. Under Guardiola he reached the very top of his game. Tellingly it was Pep who made him enjoy himself on the pitch and it was during those years in which at times he could be considered as the best goalkeeper in the world. Who knows, perhaps it is that lack of joy which makes him want to leave.

A lot of culés are predicting doom. Victor Valdes is irreplacable; Pepe Reina will provide weekly comedy capers (he might); Ter Stegen is too young (entirely possible). But think about this: rightly or wrongly, Iker Casillas has been considered by many soccer fans and pundits to be the best goalkeeper on the planet. And though he is a declared Saint among merengues, not many of them would argue if Diego Lopez remained first choice in the Bernabeu.

The above research, statistics and videos should not convince you that Valdes is a bad keeper. He is quite the opposite. It does suggest that he is not is not as irreplacable as some would have us believe. And although it is entirely possible that we will spend years in agony before finding one as reliable as Valdes, the void can be filled if we choose well and stick with our choice. Just like we stuck with our choice ten years ago.

The best remaining option might be what Victor himself hinted at during today’s press conference: to stay until his contract ends. That way we can use what is left of this summer’s transfer kitty to either go all out on another CB without worrying about the goalkeeping position just yet, or we can get that young buck everybody has been talking about and take this season to groom him for the top job in years to come.

The next month should tell whether our man will still be defending the sticks or not come 2013/2014. Whatever his choice, he will forever be hailed as a Barça legend, and most deservingly so! Visca Barça! I Visca Victor!


"I will defend this shirt to the death until the last day I put it on my shoulders"
“I will defend this shirt to the death until the last day I put it on my shoulders”
Victor Valdés i Arribas







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Culé since way before football boots were of the neon yellow and lizard green variety, Levon is a deep thinker with increasingly shallow thoughts. He lives in Barcelona with his gorgeous wife and daughter. The lucky bastard...


  1. May 31, 2013

    That is some research Levon.

    For me, Valdes was the best in one-on-ones. He was the best in passing too. But this season, with our defensive frailities / all opposition pressing us hard, I think he has hoofed the ball a lot.

    Since he announced his intention to leave, I think it is fine if the club wants to sell and make some money to buy another goalie.

    Sure, he is a Barca legend and we will miss him.

  2. May 31, 2013

    Not surprised by the dip in his stats the last two years. It coincides very nicely with what I perceived as teams having more clear chances than they had the last two seasons. Last year the team struggled to cope defensively with the 3-4-3 and that resulted in a lot of clear cut chances. This year the team has just struggled defensively.

    Comparing to other keepers is nice and all, but it comes down to the fact that Valdes faces a fairly unique situation as a keeper due to Barcelona’s extremely high line and style of play.

    I think replacing him is going to be very difficult.

    • May 31, 2013

      I see your point.

      That’s why I not only compared him to the top keepers but also to the bottom. We might have given up more clear chances than previously, but do we give up more clear chances than the teams that are facing relegation? Remember that only two or three more saves would remove Valdes from that particularly ugly bracket. When I look at the goals we conceded, the saves were there to be made.

      Mind you I am not putting our defensive struggles all on Valdes’ shoulders, far from it, and yes, anytime a top team replaces a 10 year incumbent it is not going to be easy.

    • May 31, 2013

      I wouldn’t be surprised if a higher percentage of the shots on Barca’s goal are from clear cut chances than at relegation club.

      While Barca gives up less shot than relegation clubs, most of them come on the counter with the defenders doing their best to act like the red sea for Moses. Meanwhile at relegation clubs a disciplined defense is often the focus to make up for lack of ability elsewhere.

      Without looking at % of shots that are clear cut chances and comparing it with save rates it’s impossible to come to a definitive answer here (though that would take years – or an Opta membership to compile).

    • May 31, 2013

      I would be surprised, Calvin. I thought about your argument myself while writing the article.

      We do play a high back line, but our dominance of possession and, indeed, of the game goes some ways to make up for that. Relegation teams don’t park the bus in every game against every opponent and even when they do, they still give up chances. I repeat, VV only needed to save two or three more shots instead, three times in which he could have positioned himself fractionally better or gotten a slightly stronger touch on the ball in order to avoid being in that list. The difference is minimal and the opportunities for goalkeepers to make a difference are only a few per game.

      I also think that shot quality is more important than clear cut chances. A striker can be through on goal by his lonesome and shoot the ball straight at the keeper (cough, Higuain, cough, Pedro, cough). Or a striker can get half a chance and bury it in the top corner.

      When I looked at the goals conceded over the past seasons, I looked at the shot quality more than at the quality of the chance. Not that I was blind, though. I was surprised how many goals in 09/10 and 10/11 came from clear chances created by our opponents playing the ball behind our defensive line. More than I remembered, and although this season has been worse, it has not been by much.

      All in all we have given up 3 shots on goal per game. That is an extremely low number, even when compared to other top clubs. It is not as if all those shots have been clear cut chances or one-on-one’s. For example, we have actually defended quite well against set pieces in the league, a situation which often results in practically unstoppable goals (from the keepers’ perspective).

      I think what would really be needed for a definite answer is to look at all shots and crosses at and around Victor Valdes’ goal and that of other keepers to make a fair comparison. Opta membership would indeed be awesome, and I’m far from a stat geek.

  3. Bill
    May 31, 2013

    Wow! What a quality and comprehensive piece on Valdes! Thank you for this. No way I could have explained this as well as you have.

    Like you so aptly put it, Valdes has provided tremendous stability for the team between the sticks and enabled the organization to focus on other needs. So we are grateful for that.

    I’ve said it here before that my biggest frustration with Valdes in the last two years was his complete lack of courage to keep passing even after making mistakes. I felt like he started taking a somewhat selfish path by just kicking the ball upfield. Selfish because no one could blame him for making a blunder but the result was we immediately lost the ball and our midgets had to start defending again.

    That’s the last two years. But in the long term, the most disconcerting part of Valdes’ goalkeeping ability was his inability to stop balls that pass right next to him. He doesn’t like leading with his legs and as a result, too many easy shots beat him. Even without seeing Levon’s statistics, it was clear to me that the team has a great opportunity to improve this part of the team.

    Great goalkeeping was on display in the champions league finals. Both keepers showed great 1 on 1 skills, they both used their legs to make stops, had great reaction time and the best of all, they were willing to pass from the back!

    So i’m grateful to Valdes for his services, but at the same time, i’m excited about the chance for the team to get a very good keeper to replace him. I just hope they choose well.

  4. Ultraculé
    May 31, 2013

    Insane effort, Levon. That is some serious commitment to put out this level of research and granularity. Those stats such as the decline in both save % as well as pass completed % from 82% to 64% is so telling. But of course the Barca GK job is such that you are more likely to have to make harder saves than the same job in other teams.

    In this post, you have visited almost all sporting aspects of Victor Valdes leaving nothing out. However, an analysis of our Victorian secret would be incredibly inaccurate without singling out his motivating presence. We are not only losing a damn good GK, we are losing a CAPTAIN. And that cannot be overstated. Forget When Penaldo shoved Pep. At Any time, any part of the pitch, our midgets needed protection from violence, I used to love the fact that Victor would come charging down the field to give steel to our cause, rather than complaints. Even in the most recent clasic, I thought he was the only one on the field who felt the most losing to them. I loved his temper and temperament and I loved how he loved that crest. We are soon going to lose Puyol and Valdes. Xaviniesta are a different breed of captain.

    Now, to address the painful question of what to do with him… I don’t know. If he WANTS to play the other year and honor his contract, we are obliged to make that happen. And we should. However if he doesn’t mind exploring those cultures this year itself, he deserves a legend’s send off and I’d try to make 10-13M from his sale. As for replacements, I honestly don’t know. I haven’t watched Ter Stegen, and Reina might be the most obvious choice. But I do know that Thibaut Courtois is the real deal. But that is probably as likely to happen as Casillas keeping for us. No way he’s be anything less than 25M and no way is Sourinho going to sell him to us.

    Sometimes, it takes losing something to understand it’s true value

    • May 31, 2013

      Very good points about his leadership. I only took technical aspects into account. I thought about the emotional and psychological sides to the story but I felt that the article was becoming pretty long as it is. I will say that I very much liked what he had to say at the presser today, and I love that he apparently offered to serve the remainder of his contract (contrary to all the reports we had heard until then)

  5. Jafri
    May 31, 2013

    Levon… Wow. The detail, the effort you put into this really shines through. Comprehensive and detailed article!

    But please, put up a video of Valdes’ greatest saves this season too, before most of us here start clamoring for his exit this Summer :p

  6. May 31, 2013

    I keep coming back to the complexity of statistics, even in the face of a piece as remarkable as this one.

    In using the Courtois example, if he faced more shots, without know what those shots are (speculative from distance, or great chances), his superior percentage in that respect could be down to that. ATM was immensely tight at the back, as Simeone decided that even if we don’t score, a draw is still better than a loss.

    I think the diminished Valdes stats have to do very directly with an evolution in our style of play, and a reduction of the press. As I have said before, when our defenders have to function like actual defenders, they pretty much suck. There is increasingly more of that.

    I think, as Valdes also mentioned during his presser, his 1-v-1 skills are exceptional. Ultimately I think that Valdes will be difficult to replace, though less so when he began hoofing it up the pitch, something that was obviously a technical staff decision to facilitate the more vertical style they are craving.

    I think that Valdes is better than many realize, even as he has very clear flaws as a keeper. As long as our defense doesn’t have to be an actual defense, those flaws are minimized. As that defense breaks down, those flaws become magnified.

    I also note that at his presser, he mentioned the intense psychological pressure. You wonder if, like the rest of team, he’s just mentally hammered, and needs a change.

    At any rate, this piece kicks ass, and the timing couldn’t have been better.

    • Ultraculé
      May 31, 2013

      Yes Kxevin, but I just want to leave this here.
      Huge problem with statistics: A neutral with football knowledge could read this piece and know most of what is there to know of Valdes – That he is a great keeper. The best even in our history (sadly you only mentioned this). But mostly about how his recent performance have dipped (with elaborate statistical and video evidence). The narrative suggests to the outsider that while Valdes has been awesome, his recent numbers only point to the fact his departure presents an opportunity for Barca to strengthen the position. Unfortunately I think, while numbers may be improved in GK, we are losing the best Barca GK. Simple. Anything else is going to be a downgrade. Atleast for a while. These guys – Valdes, Puyol, Xavi, Messi are the BEST in each of their positions in Barca. Fact. Have been. And will be for a long time.

    • May 31, 2013

      Oh definitely, Kevin. I would like to make clear to all readers that my use of stats are not meant to be the be all and end all of the story. Heck, neither is my article for that matter.

      To make a more definite conclusion one would have to see every shot on goal over the last 4 seasons. I would love to but, well…

      I think one thing the stats and videos do show is how small the difference can be between good and bad. Like I wrote above, compared to “field” players, a goalkeeper has a very limited amount of touches per game/per season to show his stuff. Just a couple of mistakes and goals too many, just a couple of shots that he may have saved the year before.

      Thank you all for your comments so far. Will check in later.

  7. Messiah10
    May 31, 2013

    SKY Sports is reporting that VV has agreed to see out his contract!!!

  8. Messiah10
    May 31, 2013

    Sorry. I missed the presser and didn’t know he offered to serve out the remainder of his contract at it. I hope Tito & Rosell take him up on the offer. If not, we will miss him more than some know. A club LEGEND!

  9. psqd
    May 31, 2013

    Remarkably thorough work! Thanks! Very nice to see all the numbers in relation to one another. Think it’s only possible to get a view by putting them in context of history and peers, which is only possible due to a ton or work. Thanks!

  10. Messiah10
    May 31, 2013


    Thanks so much for this article. I cannot begin to imagine the time & effort it took to put this piece together. Props to u & the BFB mod’s for all u do!!! THE best blog ANYWHERE!

  11. Archie
    May 31, 2013

    Am I confused or are there an unusual number of rich/successful teams openly discussing interest in Barça players? Villa Has had that trend, but Pedro, Tello, Mascherano, Puyol are all talked about by such teams according to Barcastuff.

  12. May 31, 2013

    Well, I’ll be damned. This some quality research AND analysis! Excellent effort, mate!

    Just one thing that I didn’t understand: Neuer and Courtois have both actually saved MORE penalties than they have faced? Wut? Is there a smiley for a confused face?

    • May 31, 2013

      He just switched the saved and faced numbers by accident

    • May 31, 2013

      Yikes! Yeah, I got number-dizziness. Sorry about that!

    • May 31, 2013

      Ohhh right. No problemo.

  13. Dani_el
    May 31, 2013

    Thank you for this analysis Levon. This must have taken a lot of time!
    The comparison to other keepers this year speaks for itself. Though I think that Valdes’ saves stats may not take in consideration that most of his saves (and goals that he cannot prevent) are on a 1 on 1 capacity. But this post had an unbelievable detail on this subject.

    I read about this quote of Vilanova: “The other day Mr. Cruyff worried about myself and the club’s running. We all know that he always have an objective and unbiased opinion” Supposedly with irony.
    Mundo Deportivo has its own war against Cruyff, and now it seems (though this information might as well be true) that according to them Thiago has started conversations with EE. I hope is MD misinformation. They seem to be the administration’s paper, maybe the current directive wants to justify a selling. Dunno.

    • Alexinho
      May 31, 2013

      The Thiago situation is upsetting the hell out of me, more than any of the other rumors. How can he not see a future for himself at Barca? Surely everyone in the organization, top to bottom, has reassured him of the plans in store for him, and if he thinks he won’t get enough playing time, than he need look no further than Xavi, sitting on the other side of the dressing room, for an example and role model. Surely he already sees Xavi in that respect. I think Xavi’s quotes the other week about how he once felt the same way before deciding to stay capture what I’m feeling to a tee. I just don’t know what’s going through Thiago’s head.

    • May 31, 2013

      Tito should play golf with Cruijff twice a year. Shoot the breeze, talk shop. The old man will feel happy and respected and will have Tito’s back whenever the press asks him questions. Besides, it is not as if it can it hurt talking to Cruijff about football.

  14. Alexinho
    May 31, 2013

    Great discussion here.

    I wish Valdes would want to continue. If he didn’t feel this was the end of his cycle, and none of this news emerged, we certainly would not be in the market for a GK and I would think that besides the small gripes about his play that most of us have had for years, we would be almost perfectly fine with him in between the posts not only next year, but for years to come.

    I think he is far and away the most under-appreciated Barca player over the course of this “golden” few years, which is natural, and we will certainly be entering a rocky transition period regardless of who comes.

    I do not think Valdes sees out his contract. Once a player has decided he wants to leave, he has to leave sooner rather than later. It would be worse to have this hanging over the team through the entirety of next season.

    • May 31, 2013

      Idk Alexinho, I wouldn’t mind him seeing out his contract. He still loves the club and will defend the crest to the death (paraphrasing his press conference).

      Idk if he has been the most underappreciated Barça player. Depends whether you include the opinion of non-culés or not, I guess. Either way, when playing along the likes of Ronaldinho, Eto’o, Xavi, Iniesta and Messi it is pretty hard to shine.

  15. Alexinho
    May 31, 2013

    New rumor has it that PSG has offered a “huge” amount of money for Pedro. Two things come to mind.

    1) Oh brother, another fire to put out, and a big one, too…
    2) How much money?

    • May 31, 2013

      How much would you sell him for?

    • May 31, 2013

      Recall that in a recent presser, Vilanova essentially said “No way in hell,” when it came to rumors about Pedro. Whenever you look at money for a player, I think you also have look at the cost of replacing that player.

      Pedro is a wonder, who is fully committed to Barça. Even if he isn’t scoring goals, he doesn’t sulk or pout. He just works like a dog to get into position, while also tracking back and defending like crazy. His attitude is also a huge plus, in that he does what the team wants.

      I don’t know how much money someone could offer me to replace a player like that.

    • May 31, 2013

      That’s true also. He’s almost like the forward Keita in that way.

    • May 31, 2013

      You and I have talked about it before, but Pedro’s work rate and willingness to sacrifice himself for the team make him a coach’s dream. Hard to put a price tag on that

  16. May 31, 2013

    I’d love to hear what people think about this. In chatting with my much-smarter wife this evening, we got into statistics, and analysis, and I got to thinking:

    The problem with statistics is that people mess them up. It’s like Isaac Asimov’s “Foundation” trilogy, and its mythical scientist who tries to predict the future based on mathematical analysis. People don’t always do what you want them to.

    So with football, I got to wondering about things that could affect Valdes’ save percentage, etc. And I found my way to YouTube, and looked at some match highlights, wondering if Valdes is coming up short, or if the defense is screwing him. In just the first two goals that we conceded, VV didn’t have a chance. The first was a Sociedad player, unmarked, who had the whole net to shoot at. The second was an Osasuna player, unmarked, who had the whole net to head the ball into.

    The next goal, by Getafe, was a deflection off of Mascherano’s head, that Valdes was in position to save before the deflection. Sevilla scored two, both from full-on defensive breakdowns. Trochowski had the whole net to shoot at, then a Busquets giveaway sent Negredo in all alone on Valdes.

    That’s just four goals. I know that football keeps statistics. I just don’t know you can successfully edit out the noise that comes from people.

    On the other hand, baseball is a sea of statistics, successfully used, because it is a 1-v-1 sport. So if a hitter bats .390 vs left-handed pitching and .123 vs right, that is a real number because the sole variables are pitcher and hitter.

    So a basketball player’s free throw percentage is a real statistic. But a football running back might average 3.1 yards per carry, and people would say “Hey, could be higher,” without looking at the variable of his offensive line.

    Anyhow, just something I was thinking about in trying to formulate a point of discussion about Valdes, and his seemingly poorer performance. I just did a few Liga matches, but I wonder how that would carry out over the entire season. I confess to not having the patience that Levon has in compiling data for this piece.

    • May 31, 2013

      Hold on there chief, I am afraid I have to disagree with you on a few of the goals you mentioned.

      The Osasuna goal Valdes did not have a chance to stop the volley (not a header), but he should have stopped the cross from reaching the shooter. No way a goalkeeper avoids blame for watching a cross fly over him right into the goalmouth.

      The 1st Sevilla goal Trochowski indeed had the whole net to shoot at, but actually shot it just to the left of VV. It would not have been an easy save – far from it – but it was not unstoppable. The commentator says as much (Victorrrrrr…simplemente mete la mano muy debil).

      Of the five goals you counted here, one should have been prevented from even being a shot and the other could have been stopped had he been on the very top of his game. They are both in the video in the article, if you care to have another look.

      I think we are in complete agreement that it is harder to interpret soccer statistics than those of other sports. It would be awesome to have a compilation of all the shots on goal over the last couple of seasons.

    • May 31, 2013

      Here is the link:

      The Osasuna goal is at the 1:40 mark. Valdes would have needed to be about 9 feet tall to stop that cross, which floated over his head, as I see it. Busquets didn’t help his keeper by standing there with his arms behind his back, allowing the attacker to hit a flawless cross.

      Now, it can certainly be asked why Valdes was standing where he was when the cross came in, as there was no Osasuna attacker in that zone. That is the question I would have for Valdes on that goal.

      With Trochowski, the goal was almost like a penalty kick. The keeper has to make a guess when his defense fails him that comprehensively. He guessed, and got it wrong.

      The complexity is in suggesting that there are saves that Valdes “should” have made, because it is a subjective evaluation, like so much in this game we all love so. But the Trochowski goal is here, and starts the highlights package.

      When the defense breaks down and the pass deflects off Mascherano(?) directly to Trochowski, Alves stands there and looks at him rather than charging to reduce the shooting angle and help his keeper. He then further complicates matters by moving with Trochowski, thus giving him even more goal to shoot at. Valdes plays the most likely shooting corridor, assuming a stationary Alves.

      Trochowski moves left, and Valdes tracks with him, still guessing. Alves complicates things even more by moving diagonally and BACK, of all things, turning his body sideways to the shooter. Trochowski can go near post if Valdes stays put to play the cross-goal shot, or across the goal as he did, when Valdes moved to cut off the easier, near-post shot.

      There are saves this year that Valdes should have made, definitely. Just not sure those two are among them. For me, both are defensive failures, and that’s the complexity with evaluating players, I think. One person says “Boy, did he screw up.” Another says, “Nothing he could do.”

      And while the “noise” in the analysis is subjective assessment, it’s still complications caused by people. Not sure how to get around that.

      And I keep wondering what we’re going to do without a keeper who can do this:

    • June 1, 2013

      Well, we will have to disagree on the Osasuna goal. Anytime a cross swings in that close to goal, that is keeper territory right there. He simply misjudged it coming in.

      As for Trochowski’s shot I understand completely what you are saying. It is why I am saying that a keeper at the very top of his game could have saved it, and not “should have”.

      So back to the stats. Imagine he anticipates the cross a little bit better so that he knocks the ball away from before an attacker volleys it in from up close. And imagine he pulls off an incredible save on that Trochowksi. And maybe he stops another goal at some point during the season. That would already bring his save percentage up to about 67%. Not pretty, but at least out of the “relegation” zone.

      That’s why I keep coming back to how close it all is and how the fact that goalkeepers have relatively very few moments to influence the game how their performances at those moments end up defining. The difference between an elite season and a bad one is a lot smaller for goalkeepers than it is for outfield players.

      Speaking of stats, what I would love is to find stats for one-on-one’s. While researching this article I scourged the internet for this, but to no avail.

    • lala10
      June 1, 2013

      I will admit i have not analysed the particular goals you are debating. What i think is remarkable is that our keeper posts the same stats or there about with keepers from lower teams. That truly is a killer statistic. It seems less likely that the leakiest of Barca defense lets in chances at the same rate as the likes of Wigan, Furth etc. That to me signals a keeper who has not been at his best.

      While i greatly appreciate VV these days i get a quiver whenever our goal is under threat. Much like i get a strange sensation when Leo has the ball and is doing his thing.

  17. May 31, 2013

    Meanwhile, the snakebit season continues. Sanchez was involved in a severe automobile accident. He is fine, as he practiced as normal today, but it was on the way back after the Copa Catalunya match.

    This is getting crazy.

  18. Archie
    May 31, 2013

    What am I missing? Valdez said that he is retiring from professional football after the 2013-14 season. Why does anyone think he wants a transfer?

    • CuleToon
      June 1, 2013

      He is not retiring from pro football. He’s leaving Barça at the end of his contract next year to play for another club in order «to gain new experiences, to know other cultures and ways of living», as he has said several times.

      And it doesn’t look like he wants a transfer either. Apparently, he wants to leave free, but not next year, as he will be entitled to do, but this year as well. By his words and his way of speaking at the press conference, it looked as if he had been trained intensively by his well-known agent, Gines Carvajal, like a political candidate before a Q&A (no judgment on my part here, just an impression). And the catchphrase he kept repeating when asked about the possibility of being transferred —for a fee— this summer, was “Let’s do the best for both parties involved”, while stating several times that he wanted to honor his contract until 2014.

      What this amounts to, from an economic perspective, is that next summer, and possibly this summer as well, Barça will not earn money when he leaves and he will earn the potential fee of his transfer as a bonus from the club that hires him.

      I hope this situation doesn’t end up in bitter disagreement. if there’s any hidden «war» between both parties and it’s better for the club that he leaves this year, I say let him go for free without making a public fuss about it because he’s given us quite a lot (for a good salary, that’s true). And, at the very least, his next year’s salary would be a nice save for the club.

    • Archie
      June 1, 2013

      Thanks. Is it safe to say that Pep and Valdes are fleeing something by leaving FCB?

  19. May 31, 2013

    I generally like statistics, but am also wary of them, being a “scientist” who has seen them used to great effect, and also abused.

    However, in Valdes case I keep coming back to the factthat he has either been the best or second best keeper in Barca’s history (Ramallets?). I have a hard time convincing myself that his presence will be easy to replace (equally) or to better

  20. Barcaleya
    June 1, 2013


    He will always be my favorite goalkeeper.

    Saw him debut for us. Saw many of his gaffes. And though I was unconvinced in his early days in Barca, I have not been more convinced in the past many years that he’s a world-class keeper, amongst the best there is and certainly – the best for us.

    Hope he is happy wherever he goes next.

  21. PrinceYuvi
    June 1, 2013

    Don’t want to share a thought or anything, but I would like to applaud this article.
    Its content is seen it, been there, but the writing style is Oh so awesome. It exudes sheer brilliance & witty sense of humour.
    I just come here to have some laughs, and I understand the amount of hard work you guys put in these articles.
    Thank you so much.

  22. dl
    June 3, 2013

    Kudos on the work that went into the article. As someone who uses statistics and some pretty high horsepower software packages in my day job, I have a good appreciation of the insights they can provide.
    But, and this is a huge ‘but’, modern computing power and the accessibility of data have made it very easy to produce spurious results. There are a few good sites on statistics and football — try this one as an example, and pay very close attention to the last two paragraphs:
    The type of analysis in that article was of a play that in football is one of the simplest, most straightforward scenarios, other than a penalty kick. There are, relatively speaking, very few variables, or confounding factors, that would make the conclusions less clear. And yet the author very carefully notes how little power (stats talk for predictive power) the analysis has.
    On the other hand, many of the approaches used to evaluate vv vis a vis other gk’s here could reasonably be shown to be very very dependent upon many other factors. A weakened defense, a weakened mid field, and so many other factors may add up to choices that are not optimal, yet there was no other choice in the moment. Football is so much more a team sport than baseball, that any part of the team that is under stress has pretty profound ripple effects for all other positions. Tired midfield causes defense to have to drop deeper (or vice versa) leaving gk with poorer options for outlet passes, etc etc etc.
    Anyway, this is not to say the effort is not useful, only that it is very very difficult to draw solid conclusions with such a small sample set.

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