[dropcap]W[/dropcap]hen recalling some of Valencia’s best players over the last decade, attacking stars flood to mind.
The likes of David Silva, Juan Mata and David Villa are just a couple of the numerous top-drawer attacking players to step out for the Mestalla outfit over recent years.
However, Los Che have also brought through a couple of world-class left-backs in that time period, with the current incumbent showing all the signs that he can be equally as impressive as his predecessors.
Jordi Alba was part of a gifted Valencia side between 2008 and 2012, before starring for Spain and being poached away from the club by domestic rivals Barcelona.
The 25-year-old became his country’s first-choice left-back during his time at the east coast outfit and established himself as one of the best players in world football in his position.
In light of significant financial worries at the Mestalla, the club were forced to sell a number of their top performers with young players replacing them in the first team.
When Alba left the club it offered Juan Bernat an opportunity to play regular first-team football, with the 21-year-old putting in impressive performances that negated the impact of the Barcelona man’s departure.
Over the course of three years Bernat’s attacking abilities, tireless work-rate and defensive solidarity shone through; so much so that Bayern Munich swooped for the defender last year.
Again, prior to current owner Peter Lim buying the club, Valencia were in no position to refuse the reported €10 million on offer from the big-spending Bavarians.
Bernat has gone on to be a versatile and valued member of Pep Guardiola’s squad and having made his national team debut last year is now in direct competition with former Valencia team-mate Alba for a place in the Spanish starting XI.
Losing two left-backs in quick succession should have depleted the club’s options and weakened the first team as a result, but the emergence of 19-year-old José Gayà as a regular starter for Valencia this season has been a revelation.
The teenager has been trusted by head coach Nuno this term and has started 17 of the side’s 20 La Liga games.
Gayà has the ability to operate in a back four or as a wing-back and has shown defensive nous beyond his young age this season.
However, like Alba and Bernat before him, the 19-year-old’s ability to get forward and act as an attacking outlet has arguably been the most impressive thing about his time in the Valencia first-team.
Comfortable on the ball and possessing excellent delivery, Gayà has been an unsung hero in a Los Che side that are fighting for Champions League football and are looking like a force to be reckoned with once more.
The full-back, like Alba and Bernat again, has featured at Spanish youth grade level consistently and graduated from the under-20’s side last year to play three times for the under-21’s.
Rumblings in the Spanish media in recent days indicate that Nuno’s men are keen to offer Gayà a new contract to stave off interested parties, which will be increasing week-on-week due to the defender’s current form.
Unlike in the past where Valencia were forced to sell Alba and Bernat to pay the bills, with new-found wealth at the Mestalla Gayà could well be a star name for the club for years to come.
At his current rate of progression and despite his young age, don’t be surprised to see Gayà’s name in the Spanish senior squad soon either; the youngster looks to have all the traits to be just as successful as Alba and Bernat at the top level.
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