Barcelona will do well to hang onto Victor Valdes
Time and again, Barca's No. 1 has come to the rescue with a series of outstanding saves.
As someone schooled at La Masia, Valdes understands the responsibility that comes with keeping goal for the Catalans and following a long line of legendary keepers to ply their trade at Camp Nou.
With attributes that are many, he is very much the modern-day "sweeper keeper" who is as comfortable with a ball at his feet as in his hands.
Let's take a look at some reasons why Barca will be happy to have persuaded him to stay for another season at least.
Valdes' is often the catalyst for Barcelona attacks
How may times have we seen a Barcelona attack build from the back and begin with the goalkeeper?
Valdes' awareness is second to none. With opponents still trying to reorganise themselves after an attack, Valdes will almost certainly be prowling the edge of the area ready to launch the Blaugrana forward once more.
Whether it's just a short roll-out to a defender, slide-rule pass or a precision punt upfield to the strikers, he always seems to make the right choice.
Francesc Tomas of ESPN notes: "A Barcelona goalkeeper must be not only agile and able to react quickly but also an aggressive sweeper who can pass the ball on the floor with confidence under pressure."
There aren't too many keepers in world football that can integrate this way of playing into their game, and that perhaps explains why Barca are looking at Marc-Andre ter Stegen as a replacement if they are unable to persuade Valdes to change his mind.
Ross Dunbar at WhoScored said of the young German:
The one thing, despite his tremendous handling ability, that stood out for many is his very decent technical ability.
His importance to the Gladbach side is so under-played and his performance in January's 3-1 win over FC Bayern is a lesson to all upcoming goalkeepers. Rather than just focusing on keeping the ball out of the net, ter Stegen played almost as a sweeper with the Gladbach back-four playing a very tight offside line against the less mobile Mario Gomez.
Incredibly, ter Stegen had the highest number of touches for Gladbach that night (71) and more than half of his passes were accurate (55%). His distribution of the ball was mainly useful on Gladbach's counter-attacks, with 31 of his 42 passes being long-balls.
There are not too many better in one-on-one situations
Valdes told FourFourTwo:
The most important thing about being a goalkeeper is making saves.
And it’s not all about the strength and speed of your hands.
You must be well balanced with your feet firmly planted on the ground, which helps you to react quickly and move in either direction.
This perhaps explains why Barca's No. 1 excels in one-on-one situations.
Off of his line quickly to face up to any incoming threat, Valdes' positioning is always immaculate and gives him the best possible chance to make the save.
His contribution in this area is even more remarkable when you consider he will often have to react after long periods of inactivity, such is Barcelona's dominance in a lot of matches.
A 94 percent ratio of shots saved, according to Squawka, speaks for itself.
Agility and fitness is a key component of Valdes' game.
There has never been a question mark over Valdes when it comes to his agility and prowess between the posts.
How often have we seen those cat-like reflexes save Barca over the years? Whether it's low down in the corner, claiming a high ball or a full-length tip around the posts, Valdes is excellent in all areas.
With no discernible weakness on either side, he has shown that, despite his advancing years, he is still more than capable of producing quality at the highest level week after week.
At just 31, Valdes still has his best years ahead of him
At 31 years of age, Valdes is just reaching his prime as a goalkeeper.
He has shown his value to Barcelona time and again and has already earned a record five Zamora trophies—awarded to the keeper who concedes the least number of goals throughout the La Liga season.
That brought him level with legendary Barca keeper Antoni Ramallets, which was an honour for Valdes. The 31-year-old told Marca (h/t totalBarca):
I am filled with pride for winning this trophy. In moments like these you remember your comrades, who helped you earn distinctions like this, and I also want to remember a legend like Ramallets.
It’s a tremendous honor to be able to compare myself with Ramallets, who is more of a legend for barcelonismo.
Barcelona have enjoyed Valdes' best work to date, and potentially, he has a good few years ahead of him yet in a professional sense.
With goalkeepers generally reach their playing peak in their early 30's, slightly later than outfield players, it's possible that the best is still to come from the player.
Doubts still surround Iker Casillas' participation for the Spanish national team, as this Football-Espana report shows, so we may also be looking at the future No. 1 for La Roja.
As one of the team captains, Valdes commands respect.
One often overlooked facet of the game is the mutual respect and trust players place in each other on the field of play. It is one of the key components of a successful team.
Valdes has been with Barcelona since the age of 18, and his journey to the first team came via the ranks of Barca C and Barca B. As such, he understands the Barca mentality and undoubtedly has Blaugrana coursing through his veins after such a long association with the club.
During those 13 years at the club, he has become the all-time appearance record holder for a Barca goalkeeper and has amassed an astonishing 19 trophies during that time.
As one of the four team captains, he is naturally afforded respect in the dressing room, but it is his professionalism, dedication and continued high level of performance that ensure that such respect is well earned and maintained.