So Barça played today, and won 3-0. Atleti played today, and won 1-0. RM played today, and lost 2-1. The Liga is ours for the taking, if we just win the final 8 matches of the season.
But I can’t say that I feel like doing much except echoing what Javier Macherano Tweeted, which is “Nothing to celebrate. Get well soon.”
This game is, too often, a kick in the face for those who don’t deserve it.
When Victor Valdes went down under his own weight today after a routine save, one that he has almost certainly done hundreds if not thousands of times over the course of a net minding career, this time it was different. Pictures came out, many speculated but nobody really wanted to deal with the reality of the situation until it was made official by the club: ruptured ACL, with the usual 6-month recovery period.
Pinto came in and by all accounts played very well in a match that I kinda have no interest in watching as much as I want to ask just what in the hell the club that I love so much has done to anger the football fates so? It isn’t for me the injury, and wondering who will replace him, blablabla. I have confidence in our players.
For me, from the human angle, Victor Valdes is a man who for too many years, got nothing but crap from everybody. Exxon Valdes was one of the many mean-spirited jibes that flew his way from people who knew better, people who said that yes, he had gaudy statistics but they were because of his defense — as soon as that defense began to falter, goals were going to start flying past Victor of Butterfingers.
And he kept playing lovely football, kept making brilliant saves, kept confounding his critics. Then when the defense in fact did begin to falter, we began to see Victor Valdes for what he was, which is one of the best keepers in the world.
It stopped a lot of the jibes, as did being called up to the Spanish NT. And for stop after stop, pass after pass, play after play, Valdes kept making liars out of those who said he wasn’t up to the quality of the other players on the star-studded Barça roster, even as he kept saving the team’s bacon.
Then, one day, it all seemed to be enough, and Valdes announced that he was leaving Barça. The club decided that it would keep him rather than trying to sell him, so this summer he leaves FC Barcelona on a free transfer.
And then this happens. Victor Valdes is a fine man and spectacular player who has played his last match for FC Barcelona. In no way, shape or form did he deserve to go out like this, laying on a stretcher, weeping. And even if you don’t know exactly why he was weeping, it’s easy to suspect: Victor Valdes loves this club. Whatever rueful thoughts entered his mind, I can guarantee you that they were banished by the reality he must have been wrestling with as he was carted off the pitch.
This would be his last home match for Barça. He had the Captain’s armband appropriately enough. Life isn’t supposed to do stuff like this.
No, he isn’t dying. No, he doesn’t have cancer as Abidal and Vilanova battle. ACL injuries are becoming increasingly common, and there is no reason to suspect that he won’t return to full form and fitness, ready and willing to be brilliant for another club. For me, that is immaterial. This was nasty.
Valdes came up in the system, so it is impossible not to love this club, whatever the reasons that he had for wanting to leave. His best friend, Andres Iniesta, was subbed out in the second half of today’s match as a “precaution.” It wouldn’t take much speculation to wonder if Valdes had a companion to talk to, a shoulder to lean on as he suspected the worst. Having someone that you love at your side when bad news happens doesn’t make the news any less bad, but it acts as a balm, a salve that soothes life’s cruelty.
This was, after all, the season that people finally, FINALLY started giving Valdes his due. They started noticing the saves that he had been making for years, but spinning a different narrative, that he was good rather than lucky. He had a couple of suitors, but had made no final decision that could be made public and was planning to go the World Cup. Now, when that tournament is on, he will still be recovering from a crucial operation, and figuring out his next steps.
To hell with this crap. It’s nonsense when a player at the top of his form with the world at his feet will be, essentially, jobless in a couple of months. Anybody who was thinking of hiring him will be instead waiting and watching, hoping for a bargain on a gimpy keeper, because that’s the heartless side of this game that we love so.
We should be celebrating having the Liga title in sight, having our eternal rival licking its wounds, slashes made by us reopened by Sevilla. But all I can really think about is what a crap deal life has dealt a player who works like a dog for the team that I love. It isn’t reasonable, it isn’t right, and yet it’s life.
Anims, Victor Valdes.