20 Defender Valencia Spain
Valencia’s impossibly high expectations of itself often makes life tough at the Mestalla (as Gary Neville will no doubt find out) so young players that do survive and then thrive in that atmosphere are worth keeping an eye on. Similarly, young Spanish players who represent their country at every level from U17 up and then make the full squad the day after their twentieth birthday are also work a bookmark. José Luis Gayá has a few rough edges to knock off but all signs point to him becoming a really good player.
2015 has been…
…a lot of promise, not much actual pay off yet, but there’s enough there to show bright things are ahead.
José Luis Gayá’s played a lot of football in 2015 and most of it has been pretty impressive. Pushing forward with confidence he’s one of the modern breed of fullback where defending is the secondary part of their job. He’s maturing well (still very prone to a yellow card mind), improving his end product and in a side just as likely to win or lose by four clear goals, he’s finding some consistency.
He comes with fanfares, already anointed as Jordi Alba’s long term cover and eventual successor in the national side (although the competition’s fierce for that position) he’s expected to become every bit as good as Barca’s current left-back. That’s a high bar but if he keeps going he’s got a chance.
So a good year, not spectacular but enough to confirm the hype was well placed in 2014. Gary Neville could have fun with this one.
There’s quite a few areas of his game that need work. He needs to learn a trick or two, not every opposition player falls for the old knock it past them and switch the afterburners on. He can also frustrate as he’s often kept quiet by an experienced player who knows that as things stand if you deny him space he’s not got the footballing intelligence to try something different. Defensively he’s okay but no more than that, but that’s enough as things stand. He’ll learn, he’s young enough to improve and he’s a permanent starter now regardless of management upheavals.
The vultures are circling as they always do, and a reported €36m release cause is achievable for most that are watching. The usual Premier League names are mentioned (City, United, Arsenal) but it’s Chelsea who are said to the biggest admirers and we can see that. As ever with a young Spanish player like this there’s also the Barca/Real question, namely, if he keeps progressing and does become Spain’s first choice, he’s going to spend an awful lot of time being linked with one or both. Currently Real are monitoring things, a potential move and loan back for a season being mooted in the summer, but he may well prove to be happy at Valencia. This is the club where he started as a striker, where he starred in the second team and is now a fan favourite at a club who afford few the honour.
As things stand he can just keep on learning his craft in a good but testing environment to do so. He may well make Spain’s squad in the summer but there’s plenty of that in his future. It may have been subtle rather than sizeable this year but the growth is there, pretty satisfactory all in.
C+ Coming along, will raise the pulse a bit higher in years to come
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