Eduardo Vargas and a second European chance at Valencia

Despite the financial turmoil that has embroiled Valencia in recent seasons and their gradual fall from grace on the pitch as a result, new manager Juan Antonio Pizzi has brought an air of optimism to the club.

Changes of playing personnel in the January transfer window saw Argentine playmaker Éver Banega make a surprise loan move back to his homeland, while a number of new faces were added to the squad.

The most exciting of the new names to arrive at the Estadio de Mestalla is Eduardo Vargas; a player tipped for superstardom that has failed to live up to his billing and struggled to adjust to European football.

Early signs look positive for Vargas and Valencia; a memorable 3-2 win over reigning champions Barcelona at Camp Nou was followed by a 5-0 thumping of Real Betis – in which the Chilean forward scored his first goal for the Spanish side.

Despite only being 24, Vargas has had a considerable amount of euphoric ups and debilitating downs in his career so far.

The sprightly forward burst onto the scene for perennial powerhouses Club Universidad de Chile in his homeland in 2010, but it would be the following year that saw his reputation forged and the level of expectation increase.

In a stellar 12 months in 2011, Vargas played a significant role in La U winning both the Apertura and Clausura titles of the Chilean Primera División, being crowned as the competition’s best player in the process.

The skillful attacker was also the top scorer in the Copa Sudamericana with 11 strikes and bagged three goals over the space of two final legs against Ecuador’s LDU Quito to give Universidad the first-ever continental title in their 86-year history.

A star was born.

Despite being beaten by Neymar to the 2011 South American Player of the Year award, Vargas was being tipped to follow in the footsteps of illustrious countrymen Iván Zamorano and Marcelo Salas and play at the highest level in Europe.

Eduardo VargasWith plenty of reported suitors, Napoli won the race for Vargas’ signature in early 2012, signing the star for a cool $17.9 million.

The Naples-based side were an outfit on the up, with Vargas’ addition seen as an essential move in assuring the San Paolo team would challenge for major honours.

However, this dream move turned quickly into a nightmare for the Chilean, with teething problems in Italy and a lack of opportunities.

The presence of the likes of Edinson Cavani and Ezequiel Lavezzi limited his chances to play, while after both left Goran Pandev and Lorenzo Insigne proven just as stubborn obstacles.

Over the space a year in Naples, Vargas did not make one single start in Serie A. Nineteen substitute appearances heralded no goals and only 272 minutes on the pitch – just over three full match’s worth of action in 12 months.

After such a superstar billing, Vargas’ torturous year in Italy shattered his confidence. A 12-month loan move to Grêmio in Brazil allowed him a chance to play regularly again and start hitting the back of the net on occasion.

Valencia have taken something of a gamble on the 24-year-old, who undoubtedly has the ability to be a real hit in Spain but must start doing the things that made him such a revelation in his homeland.

With the World Cup later this year, Vargas will be eager to win a consistent place in the Los Che side and start to build momentum.

Despite having something to prove at club level, the attacker had an excellent 2013 for his country, netting nine goals in 12 appearances, and has every chance of taking the field when Chile open their campaign against Australia on June 13.

Some South American players simply do not adjust to life in Europe and are best suited to playing in their own countries. Whether Vargas will fall into this bracket remains to be seen, but the early signs are that Valencia could be an ideal environment for this potential superstar to get back to his best.

By
I am a freelance football journalist from Northern Ireland living in Broome in Western Australia. I have worked for top media outlets such as FourFourTwo, goal.com, Soccerlens, Football Fancast and Here is the City. I am a lifelong and long-suffering Tottenham fan. Follow me on Twitter at @90MinsOnline
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