We came into season two in Spain in need of a fairly substantial rebuilding effort to strengthen a threadbare squad and replace several Valencia CF stalwarts and one big-name departure.
However, the summer began well by agreeing new deals for two long-standing, one-club men. Captain Carlos Soler and vice-captain Jose Gaya, who is now listed as a club legend, both agreed new 5-year, big money contracts to stave off interest from elsewhere.
We were still running low on cash in the summer, so I added a few more cents to the coffers by selling backup left-back Jesus Vazquez to Marseille for an impressive £23.5 million. He’d been really poor last season so I was happy to take the cash, which doubled our transfer budget.
We also sold on Victor Osimhen, who’d only scored 1 goal in 12 league games and 3 in 21 in total since arriving in January. Having signed him for £10 million we made a huge profit by selling him to Brighton for £26.5 million.
Exciting new signings
At the start of the new season, with the addition of three agreed signings on 1 July, we only had 16 players in the first-team squad. However, those first three signings were, I thought, pretty good ones.
Firstly, we snapped up Marco Kana, who won our player of the season on loan from Manchester City, on a free transfer after his contract expired. We also signed 22-year-old right-back David van Herreweghe, after having one right-back all of last season!
And we brought in a very exciting young winger named J Sancho… Not that one though, it’s Argentinian 20-year-old Juan Martín Sancho who arrives for £3.3 million from Racing Club. My coaches think he’s our best player ability-wise, but he’s not yet natural in the left winger role (just left midfield for now) so he requires a bit of training.
But plenty more strengthening was required as Vazquez and Osimhen both left the club after this point. We did put a contract offer in for Neymar after his excellent season but he chose Monaco instead, so we turned our attention to youth.
We snapped up a new striker in Serbian 18-year-old Vedran Stamenkovic for just £2 million, who looks very exciting if we can work on his finishing. And we bagged ourselves a new goalkeeper in 21-year-old Brazilian Antonio de Lima, for whom we met his £16 million release clause. Other young signings included versatile Croatian defender Patrick Gorican, who we also paid a release clause of £7.5 million.
But the big signing of the summer saw us raid old club Sporting to sign 19-year-old Croatian midfielder Vladan Cula. I think this guy is going to be awesome, and I was really excited about him when I first snapped him up in Portugal. He’s cost a lot of money – £30 million that could more than double to £65 million – but I think he’ll justify it.
We bulked up the squad with several loan signings, the biggest of which was Naci Unuvar, who’s still only 23. He’s come in for a season from Atletico to fill the Neymar-shaped hole on the left-wing and aid the progression of our young wingers. We also went back to Sporting to bring in backup left-back Marjan Stevanovic.
All told, we spent £64 million and brought in £51 million. I think we’ve definitely put our mark on this Valencia squad and, importantly, brought the average age down a little bit. And, this is how I see the first eleven lining up. Yes, we are still playing 34-year-old Son Heung-Min up front!
Facing Madrid in curtain raiser
The season began with the UEFA Super Cup up against Real Madrid. We did pretty well against them and even took the lead through a lovely 30-yard free-kick from Itamar Junges, who has massively improved over the summer. But, unsurprisingly, Kylian Mbappé equalised 5 minutes later, then Rodrigo Fernandes got himself sent off after 79 minutes.
We held them all the way up to the 115th minute when Ruben Dias scored from an indirect free-kick. But a 2-1 defeat was a decent effort with several players making their debuts.
La Liga gets up and running
We began the season at home to Malaga and got off to an excellent start with Son scoring inside 12 minutes then Naci Unuvar channelling his inner Neymar 8 minutes later, cutting in from the left and thumping home to score and earn player of the match on his debut. And it stayed that way for an opening day 2-0 win.
For the second season in a row, our first away game of the season was at Real Sociedad. The first half was instantly forgettable, but Sociedad got in front after 70 minutes. But we responded magnificently as Son scored in the 71st and 74th minutes to give us a 2-1 win!
Another big game followed as we welcomed Barcelona – who’d spent £165 million in the summer – to Nuevo Mestalla. Another quiet first half was quickly forgotten as our two early stars of the season combined yet again. Soler did superbly to nick the ball in his own box, played it out to Unuvar on the left and he lofted a ball through the middle of the Barca defence for Son to race through and smash past Ter Stegen.
We survived a late penalty appeal that VAR ruled was outside the box – but looked well inside it – for a 1-0 win and our first victory over the Spanish big three with Valencia (we beat Barca 1-0 away with Sporting). Son now has 4 goals from 3 league games and Unuvar has a goal and 2 assists.
That huge win over Barca put us top of the league heading into the first international break of the season, as Madrid had also dropped points by drawing the first El Clasico of the season at home to Barca in gameweek 2.
Join us next time as we push deeper into our second season with Valencia and discover if we can maintain our solid start to La Liga.
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