Talent sprouts from the grounds of Valencia’s famed academy. In 2020, 28 first-division professionals across Europe’s top five leagues were cultivated from Valencia – the fifth-most productive club according to a study by the International Centre for Sports Studies.
“If you look at past trends, a lot of players reach the first team. That’s the kind of possibilities players see in our academy,” academy director Sean Bai told ESPN in November.
This season, Los Che have named 10 youth graduates in matchday squads – a number few in Europe can boast. Valencia president Anil Murthy called it “Project Academy”. In the first of a two-parter, Batzine profiles the Perfect 10.
He has helmed Valencia’s left side for an eternity – it is easy to forget that he is just 25 years old. For a player who made his debut way back in 2012, becoming a homegrown captain is testament to his loyalty and passion.
Today, he leads a youthful team while doing what he does best – preventing wingers from making inroads while himself bombing down the flanks to support the attack. A legend in the making.
Following his three-goal salvo against champions Real Madrid in November, he has finally cemented his place as the team’s chief conductor.
The exits of Dani Parejo, Francis Coquelin and Geoffrey Kondogbia have cleared the 23-year-old’s path to his favoured central position. He has grabbed that chance spectacularly.
Soler is now the designated penalty taker and one of the captains – fulfilling the wildest dreams of a boy who joined the club at 7 years old.
With three months left on his contract in July, Valencia scrambled to tie Guillamon – who had only made his debut in February – down until 2023. It was a no-brainer.
Fans had already caught a glimpse of his talent last season – a cool, ball-playing centre-back with defensive nous. Expect him to build on that this term.
The 20-year-old has slotted in seamlessly beside Gabriel Paulista since Mouctar Diakhaby’s injury, and is likely to remain there.
Lee Kang In
At Valencia since he was 10, great things were expected from the Korean. His electric pre-season seemed to have caught Javi Gracia’s eye and he even captained Los Che for the first time.
However, Lee was restricted to cameo appearances in the campaign’s early stages – to the outrage of fans. Unfazed, he continued to supply killer passes capable of erasing entire defences and earned himself a regular starting spot.
Armed with a wicked left foot, the 19-year-old is now the assist king at Valencia, with three provided so far.
The sight of Musah sprinting over 65 metres, while clocking a top speed of 33.6 kilometres per hour, to score against Getafe will be replayed for years to come.
With his explosive pace and quick feet, the 17-year-old winger has exhilarated fans this season. So impressive, that the United States wasted no time in handing him his international debut against Wales in November.
While Gracia has tempered expectations, the former Arsenal youngster has shown that if you’re good enough, you’re old enough.