Valencia evokes memories of the legendary Garrincha
Only Pele is regarded by Brazilians as a greater player than the legendary Garrincha was; and that, as we all know, is no bad thing. Antonio Valencia still has a long way to go before being recognised as anything close to him, but there’s no disputing the striking resemblance between him and the bandy-legged maverick from Rio de Janeiro. United’s summer recruit, at £16m, looks a good bit of business, perhaps even the signing of the season — remember, the Ecuadorian has made the most outings for a United player this season. It’s fairly clear why he’s almost always the first name on the teamsheet.
Although he hasn’t replaced Cristiano Ronaldo in the goal department, he certainly has more assists than the Portuguese international ever managed in a season (revised: this was slightly bold, factually-incorrect statement which I’m happy to retract) and his impact is nearly as huge. He certainly appears to work harder. His understanding with his United team mates has also played a part in his success, most notably with Wayne Rooney. Valencia has created a formidable partnership with the England forward which seems to be coordinated telepathically, much like David Beckham did with Ruud van Nistelrooy many moons ago. Or more fittingly, like Pele and Garrincha.
He’s not bad in front of goal but, like Garrincha, it’s his passing ability that catches the eye. Both are skilful and intelligent on the ball and their crosses are not just used as part of standard tactic or policy, it’s a weapon. At least that’s what it seems like. Rewind back to autumn time where United were struggling, ‘in decline’, Valencia was one of the few standout performers, or consistent performers.
It’s not just Rooney who’s leading the team on his own like many pundits insist. This is not a one man team. Pele needed Garrincha like Rooney needs Valencia. He has been the unsung hero, doing his job and slowly he is earning the recognition. To name him Man of the Match in the Carling Cup final was a pretty straightforward choice. It was his assist that brought about the winning goal.
With all the wingers the club have, it speaks volumes that Valencia is playing nearly every week and has made more appearances than anyone else. Nobody else was ever going to replace Ronaldo, for sure. How could you replace a player whose value rose from £12m to £80m in the space of a few years? We know who the better player is. Yet, both are so different to the other that it’s just unfair to compare them. However, he holds similarities to Garrincha, one of greatest players the footballing world has ever seen. Whether Valencia will reach such lofty heights is another matter, though.
This post has gone through an edit, or two, due to a minor inaccuracy. I say minor. Damn you, Ronaldo-based statistics!
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