Liverpool Transfers: Why Signing Victor Valdes Would Make No Sense at All
Stories spread last week of the Reds identifying Valdes as the man to replace Pepe Reina between the sticks at Anfield (as per Express), with Manchester United also said to be involved. The Barça 'keeper will have one year left on his deal in the summer, enough to start rumours of a move amid a likely extended chat with his employers about a bumper new deal.
Similarly, Liverpool have been linked with a fair few goalkeepers over the past weeks and months, with Reina not at his best and Brendan Rodgers yet to really shape the squad the way he wants to.
Even so, the potential for replacing Reina with Victor Valdes appears slim.
Here's exactly why that is the case.
Liverpool's rule of thumb in the transfer market has evolved to see them target relatively young players, hoping for an increase in quality on the pitch and value off it within two or three seasons.
Of course, there will be exceptions to the rule, but in general the average age of the squad has been significantly lowered over the past year.
Merely "lowered" is subjective—signing a 34-year-old to replace a 35-year-old "lowers" the squad, but isn't signing youth, exactly.
Nevertheless, with Pepe Reina now aged 30, Liverpool might be expected to target one of the game's up-and-coming starlets if they do want to replace him, or one of the younger generation who have already cemented their places in teams around Europe.
Marc-Andre ter Stegen (age 20), perhaps, or Igor Akinfeev (26).
Valdes, then, seems a strange thought, given that he is older than Pepe Reina and merely old, in terms of Liverpool's current squad.
Sure, an amount of experience is required, but bringing in an older goalkeeper who also has less top-flight experience seems a strange twist of logic.
Valdes turned 31 earlier this month.
Cost of Bringing Valdes to Liverpool
Despite the fact he will have one year remaining on his deal, Victor Valdes will still command a relatively high fee.
Not only does he play for league leaders Barcelona, who have no particular need to sell players, he is also a multiple-league- and Champions League-winner who has been in Spain's all-conquering squad for some time as well.
An initial outlay of around £8 million would surely be the minimum required, and that figure could feasibly be much closer to £12 million. In addition, he would require Champions League-standard wages, easily above £100,000 per week.
Even if the Reds only brought Victor Valdes in on a three-year contract, that would represent a purchase worth more than £23.5 million, with zero resale value at the end of the deal.
If it was a longer contract, then the Reds would risk being left with an expensive asset still on the books at age 34, with another few million left to pay him during the final season, even if he was no longer in the first-team plans.
Should Liverpool pay the same fee for Marc-Andre ter Stegen, as an example, with even the same high wages as Valdes (that the German would almost certainly not command at this stage), then it is likely he would be offered a longer-term deal, perhaps five years.
Three years from now, Liverpool would be sitting on an asset worth close to £20 million if he excels—or they would still at least be able to recoup most of their initial outlay if he doesn't, rather than have to watch an elder player leave for free at the end of his deal.
A Very Similar Style of Play
Both Pepe Reina and Victor Valdes had a La Masia upbringing, both learning similar traits and tenets of the game as they honed their skills.
Unsurprisingly then, they both represent clubs with similar ideas on how to progress from back to front and play the game on the floor—though of course, one team is rather better than the other at present.
Both goalkeepers are called upon to receive possession a number of times per match and feed the ball back into the defensive or second lines of play. They both communicate with their defences, both are capable of athletic saves and both prefer to organise their defences and penalty areas rather than actually have to produce the end result of a shot stop.
And both have their moments where concentration goes missing.
Though not identical of course, Valdes and Reina have many attributes which they both share, meaning the move to replace Pepe with Victor would only make sense if the latter was significantly better at everything.
Is He a Better Goalkeeper Than Pepe Reina?
The problem is that he's not.
Reina is the more accomplished with the ball at his feet, takes up better starting positions and is more accustomed to the English game.
Valdes is notoriously poor in defending his near post, particularly off low crosses, and while the same judgement affects Reina at times, he is much the more competent in dealing with aerial balls.
Statistics don't mean too much, given that Liverpool have to do far more defensive work than Barcelona in a different kind of league, but Reina's 16 clearances this season are indicative of his good anticipation and positioning.
One stat which might be of interest is the pass-completion rate—for a goalkeeper deemed good in possession, the Barcelona stopper completes a measly 62 percent of his passes in league play.
Whether Valdes' ego or expectations of himself would help or hinder him at a new club is also open to debate, though rather subjective.
Even if his shot-stopping might be labelled as better at times, Valdes is prone to mistakes of the most basic kind, and he also knows that he has the safety net of his team—one mistake costing a goal can be wiped out with three or four scored at the other end.
Liverpool simply don't have that kind of guarantee week-in, week-out.
Valdes' Career Prospects
One of the many Barça-born-and-bred players in the current Barcelona squad, Victor Valdes has spent his entire career playing for the Catalan side.
This season his team are once more fighting on three fronts; top of La Liga, in the last eight of the Copa del Rey and into the knockout stages of the Champions League.
Is he entirely likely to give up being the first-choice goalkeeper in a team of this stature for one in rebuild mode, hoping that the coming 18 months will see them return to the top four of the league and elite European competition?
A cup challenge this season and next might indeed be the maximum potential of Liverpool, though manager, fans and club alike are hoping for more.
If Victor Valdes is to leave Barcelona, he will likely only have one move to get it right before his career starts to wind down. It seems unlikely he will swap a team at the top end of the league for one which will take at least two years fighting to reach the same heights.
As for Liverpool, if they are to rebuild with a new goalkeeper, they need one who can grow with the team and stick around for the phases of winning and challenging as well as catching up, not one who is likely to be by-and-large finished within three years or so.
At best this is a rumour to be consigned to the increasing list of "easy links", one which can be safely classed in the lazy category and recalled with a chuckle when the Reds eventually sign a new goalkeeper of completely different standing in the game.
Statistics from WhoScored.com