There was something fascinatingly lop-sided about Valencia’s victory over Deportivo La Coruna on Saturday night. It was certainly dramatic – even thrilling in places – but the moments of quality Ever Banega produced were a stark reminder: this was exciting football, but not necessarily good football. It was a great result for Valencia, and a spirited effort by Depor, but ultimately they were just papering over the cracks.
It was difficult to know how successfully Banega would come back from injury: after all, there are few precedents for a comeback from running yourself over with your own car in a petrol station. However, he appears have returned from the winter hiatus close to his sparkling best: that break, at least has done him some good. Certainly, at the Riazor the juxtaposition between his quality and the rest of the game was often striking.
This was best summed up near the end of the first half. A rapier thrust of a pass by Banega had put Pablo Piatti in on goal. Moments later, the ball was in the Valencia net. Los Che looked like they’d be a good side if they had a few more Ever Banegas for Ever Banega to pass to!
It seemed somehow appropriate that Banega would offer such a clear indication of his return to form – and of the inadequacy of his team mates – on the home patch of one of the great mercurial playmakers of recent years.
What ought to have been a valedictory campaign for Juan Carlos Valerón, making one last round of the stadia he has graced throughout his long career, is turning into something very different. If his team mates had adapted more successfully to the top flight then he might have got his chance to strut his stuff on the big stage one last time, but as Depor have deteriorated they’ve been forced to cut their cloth according to their means. Jose Luis Oltra might have favoured Valerón, but his successor Domingos’ side is looking to achieve salvation through discipline. Valerón is a luxury he seems unwilling to indulge himself in, an outcast despite being technically superior to his colleagues.
As Valerón watched on at the worthy efforts of his limited team mates from the bench, he surely must have been drawn to Banega’s performance and recognised something of his plight in the Argentinian.