Ok, he’s the most successful goalkeeper in Barcelona’s history. But that makes Víctor Valdés part of a great team, not Barcelona’s best stopper ever. In fact, you could go so far as to describe him as the Catalan side’s weak link. Valdés has been part of a phenomenal club side, winning trophy after trophy with Barça, in the same way that John O’Shea did with Manchester United. No one would want to take his stats away from him, but the reason he looks so good on paper is because of the talent surrounding him. While Barcelona’s defensive record is not 100 per cent down to the outfield players, let’s be honest, they’d have won the lot with or without Valdés. And this season, Pep Guardiola could have bowed out in style by winning a third Champions League if it wasn’t for his goalkeeper.
Of course you need to take into account that it is difficult for a goalkeeper to maintain his concentration for 90 minutes, particularly one who has so little to do. With Barça dominating possession the way they do, their goalkeeper almost plays as a sweeper. But over two legs against Barcelona, Chelsea had three shots on target and managed three goals. Valdés might as well not have been on the pitch. Didier Drogba netted in the first leg because Valdés failed to dive. It was hardly a ferocious effort from the Ivorian and the keeper’s pathetic feet first attempt at a save made him look like a player relegated to stand in net as a result of an injury or a red card. It’s difficult to take too much away from Ramires after his fine chip finish gave Chelsea the lead on away goals in the Nou Camp. But on reflection, the goalkeeper should never have been that far off his line with three defenders chasing back. And as for the winner, a blind player with their hands tied behind their back could have done a better job. After lumbering up the pitch slower than Gareth Barry carrying a hamstring injury, Torres took the ball wide so early that he gave Valdés every opportunity to get across and pick the ball up. But he just lay down on the ground as if he’d been bamboozled by Leo Messi or Torres from his Anfield days, gifting the Blues the killer goal.
In recent seasons, Valdés has been dubbed an underrated goalkeeper who has been unfairly overshadowed by Iker Cassillas. It seems people felt the need to overcompensate for this by giving him credit for standing around for 90 minutes. Maybe he’s a decent outfield player but just got stuck in goal because he wasn’t quite as technically gifted as the likes of Andres Iniésta and Xavi Hernández. But the way Barça play, everyone ought to do their part and take a turn between the sticks. It’s not like they’ll have much to do and they’ll probably do as good a job as Valdés.