New-Look Valencia Get Surprise Early Reward After Rolling the Dice in January

Guillem Balague@@GuillemBalagueFeatured ColumnistFebruary 1, 2014

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The January window may well be, historically, the worst time to try to fix your footballing fortunes, but that hasn't stopped Valencia from giving it a go.

While Barcelona and Real Madrid resisted the temptation to do any last-minute shopping, and Atletico Madrid limited themselves to bringing back Diego from Wolfsburg while loaning out Oliver Torres to Villarreal (more on him later) and Josuha Guilavogui to Saint-Etienne, it's at the Mestalla where most of the major surgery has taken place.

After a bitterly disappointing season, with ownership of the club being the major topic of conversation, a cash-strapped Valencia find themselves 17 points adrift of a Champions League spot.

Whether the latest comings and goings represent successful transplant surgery or merely the application of a large sticking plaster, we shall have to wait and see.

Out of the door go a fairly distinctive but, for Valencia at least, underwhelming set of players.

Sergio Canales was at one time being celebrated as the new boy wonder of Spanish football. But an unsuccessful move to Real Madrid, injury problems, and what new manger Juan Antonio Pizzi perceived as a lack of commitment to the cause, means they will be happy to see him go to Real Sociedad in a move that is expected to finally bring in a much-needed €3.5 million.

Ever Banega has returned to Argentina after a controversial time in Spain.
Ever Banega has returned to Argentina after a controversial time in Spain.Manuel Queimadelos Alonso/Getty Images

Ditto Ever Banega, who—primarily because of too much attitude and too little hunger—never justified the €20 million the club paid Boca Juniors for him. As a result, he finds himself loaned to Newell's Old Boys, back to Argentina and to Rosario, the town where he was born.

Also surplus to requirements and loaned out is Colombian Dorlan Pabon, who heads to Sao Paulo following a three-goal haul in just 14 games—an outlay of around €2.5 million a goal for Los Che.

The same also goes for Portuguese striker Helder Postiga, who heads to Lazio after scoring just three in 15 since his €2.5 million move from Zaragoza, and the Mexican Andres Guardado, who signed for Bayer Leverkusen.

In their stead, Valencia have looked to age and experience to help them climb up the table with a couple of surprising signings.

In central defence, they turned to the 28-year-old Swiss international, Philippe Senderos, who has played more times for his country (50) than he did in the four years he was at Fulham (45). In also comes Mali's veteran midfielder, the 34-year-old Seydou Keita, formerly of Sevilla and Barcelona and back from his travels in China with Dalian Aerbin, on a six-month deal with the option of a further year.

Up front, the club will now look to Chilean forward Eduardo Vargas—on loan following a miserable spell at Napoli where he played just 19 times and never scored—and the 20-year-old Brazilian striker from Cruzeiro, Vinicius Araujo, who has scored seven times in 16 appearances, on a reported five-year deal.

Keep an eye on him, he could be the bargain of the January window.

Oliver Torres will get some much-needed first-team opportunities.
Oliver Torres will get some much-needed first-team opportunities.Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

About 40 miles due north of Valencia, La Liga returnees Villarreal have also been engaged in some shrewd dealings, not least the on-loan acquisition of the aforementioned 19-year-old Oliver from Atletico.

The arrival of Diego to Madrid would have severely limited his opportunities at the Vicente Calderon, while the Madrigal can be the perfect stage for him to gain experience and show La Liga his undoubted talents.

Barcelona also see Villarreal as the perfect place for 20-year-old winger and former Manchester City Academy player Joan Roman to develop his skills and gain first-team experience at the highest level.

It is Valencia, however, who are really rolling the dice.

If Saturday's 3-2 away victory over Barcelona—the first time Lionel Messi has ever lost at the Nou Camp in a game in which he has scored—is anything to go by, then the wheeling and dealing might, might, just work.


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