West Bromwich Albion reject Borja Valero remains pivotal to high-flying Fiorentina, with the enticing prospect of Euro 2016 also looming large on the horizon.
Spanish star Borja joined the Gigliati in 2012, having rebuilt his reputation in La Liga following an ill-fated spell at Premier League strugglers West Brom.
There was little indication of his talent in the eyes of English football fans when he singularly failed to settle at The Hawthorns, but a switch back to former club Mallorca reignited his career, prior to a successful two-year stint at Villarreal.
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An excellent initial season in Italy then saw Borja voted into a Serie A Team of the Year by his peers, as Fiorentina finished a creditable fourth.
He quickly became a trusted lieutenant of previous coach Vincenzo Montella – who brought him to the club originally – and that prime position has endured under current boss Paulo Sousa during La Viola’s impressive run to the top of the divisional standings.
Borja Valero’s influence has grown steadily throughout the 2015-16 campaign, with his supreme passing skills proving vital to Fiorentina’s charge to the Serie A pinnacle.
The 30-year-old has featured from the beginning of all 12 league matches so far, whilst being utilised with equal effectiveness in the middle of the park or a slightly more advanced role.
He may have notched only one goal this term, but it’s the creative spadework undertaken by the elegant ball-player that sets him apart from most other midfielders.
Valero has cultivated an average 90.7 per cent pass completion rate, allied to the provision of 2.4 key passes each outing, placing him inside the top-six positions of both categories within Serie A circles.
Two assists also showcases an ability to carve out clear-cut openings when he ventures into the final third of the field.
Borja dictates the tempo of Fiorentina’s general play, and in particular their counter-attacking style, thus making him integral to Paulo Sousa’s tactical plan.
Madrid-born Borja has been capped just once for the Spanish national side to date, making his solitary appearance as a second-half substitute against the United States in 2011.
Spain have been blessed with a number of wonderful midfield players over the years, including Barcelona icon Xavi and current Bayern Munich favourite Xabi Alonso, causing limited opportunities for others.
With those two illustrious international retirees now out of the picture, Valero could be forgiven for thinking that he holds a realistic chance of representing his country at the European Championship in France next summer.
However, he still has to contend with stern competition from the likes of Sergio Busquets and Cesc Fabregas in order to break into the set-up, but Borja boasts a superior successful passing rate and more key passes per game than both of them domestically this season.
Therefore, he must simply focus all of his attention on helping Fiorentina’s push for an unexpected Serie A title triumph, while hoping Spanish coach Vicente del Bosque takes note of his sterling efforts – as on current form, there is no-one better placed to make a late charge into the reckoning ahead of Euro 2016.
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