Many remember him for his occasional gaffes, but as they say that you don’t remember a goalkeeper for 100 brilliant saves but for that one horrendous miss. And unfortunately for Victor, these lapses have been glaring as Barcelona have been enjoying the limelight for almost half a decade now.
Back to December 2011, When Barcelona travelled to Santiago Bernabeu to take on a belligerent Real Madrid, Victor was subjected to intense pressure seconds into the game, and quite understandably he miscalculated one of his passes – he’s human after all.
Real Madrid against FC Barcelona is undoubtedly one of the biggest games in Europe, if not the biggest, and the sheer nerve required to withstand not only a hostile Bernabeu crowd but also a group of powerful, coordinated and world class athletes isn't a walk in the park by any stretch of imagination.
A mistimed pass to Eric Abidal was intelligently intercepted by Angel Di Maria – one of the quickest Madrid players on the pitch that night and within a matter of seconds, Benzema found the back of the net.
23 seconds into the big night and Jose Mourinho’s side was given a gift. Well, that’s where the real Victor Valdes stood up, brushed himself and showed as to why he is the best fit for Barcelona.
“The perfect image of this game was that after the goal Víctor Valdés continued playing the ball,” said the then Barcelona manager Pep Guardiola. “Real Madrid steam-roller you. Most goalkeepers would boot it. But Víctor kept playing the ball. I prefer us to lose the ball like that but give continuity to our play.”
Xavi later added, “The key was not forgetting our philosophy. We don't know how to play any other way – and Victor was brave.”
That night Valdes kept doing what he does best. Apart from the initial gaffe, his distribution was near immaculate. He did not take the easy way out – he did not boot the ball.
He kept playing the way he had learnt in his game for about two decades – he kept passing and so did Barcelona and eventually they split wide open the resolute Madrid defence and scored three past a hapless Iker Casillas.
Victor was a hero that night and many other nights. It’s easy for people to remember him for a few mistakes, and not for the stunning performances night after night. His recent performance against Atletico Madrid, in the second leg of the Spanish Super Cup, bears testimony that Barcelona are in for some torrid time, come next season when he leaves.
The club needs him, perhaps as much as they need Messi upfront, or Xavi in the midfield or Puyol in defence. Victor will not be difficult to replace - it will be nigh impossible.
Cules will remember him as a goalkeeper, who made a few mistakes but saved the club a lot of embarrassment, a number of times. Victor will be missed!
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