In a week where the youth academy at Real Madrid is being called into question, where better to stop off for this week’s Spaniards Abroad than another Real canterano, Borja Valero?
Born on January 12th, 1985 in Madrid, Valero joined the Bernabeu youth system as a ten year old in 1995, and graduated to the ‘B’ team in 2005. He played seventy six times for the second team, scoring on four occasions, but never got a chance in the first team. He only made two substitute appearances under Fabio Capello, and he was released in the summer of 2007.
Following his departure from the capital, Valero wound up at Real Mallorca after signing a fiver year deal. However, he only saw out the first year of that deal. He played thirty four La Liga matches, half of them as a substitute, plus a further six in the Copa Del Rey, and scored eight goals. This prompted a bid from West Bromwich Albion, and he signed a four year deal for a fee of nearly £5million. WBA had just got promoted to the Premier League, and Valero was seen as the exciting flair player that would be vital in the club’s fight against relegation. Unfortunately, despite playing in nearly all their matches, he couldn’t stop them from getting relegated at the first opportunity, and he returned to Mallorca on loan for the 2009-10 season after stating that he didn’t want to play in the English second division.
He played every match after rejoining Mallorca four games into the season, and helped the side to an excellent fifth placed finish and subsequent qualification for the Europa League. He also won the final Don Balon Spanish Player of the Year award, an outstanding achievement considering he was playing for a club outside the top four. When he returned to the islanders, it was with a view to a permanent £2.5million transfer, however at the end of the season, Mallorca said they could not meet that fee, and he initially returned to West Bromwich Albion.
He wasn’t back in blighty for long, though, as Villarreal stepped in to sign him initially on loan for the 2010-11 campaign, and he immediately set about imposing himself on the team. He scored in his first match at El Madrigal, and was influential in helping the team finish fourth and seal a Champions League place for the following season. He only missed three Liga matches during the season, and played more than fifty games in all competitions. It finally looked like he had found a club that fit, and they made the deal permanent at the end of the season. However, despite playing all but two league matches, Villarreal were relegated to the Segunda Division, and suffered six straight defeats during their Champions League group stage. It was a nightmare season for El Submarino Amarillo, and as a quick side note, I really hope they bounce back soon (they are fifth at time of writing).
With a heavy heart, Valero left Spain and signed for Serie A side Fiorentina, where he has been a regular so far, playing thirteen times and scoring once, in a 3-1 victory at fallen giants AC Milan. He may just have found his spiritual home at La Viola, and I for one certainly hope so. He is only 27 years old, but is already something of a journeyman, having not spent more than two seasons at any one club. Undoubtedly he would have stayed at Villarreal for the long term had they not gone down, and who knows, maybe he will return to El Madrigal one day if they get promoted back to La Liga.