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As Valencia begins a fire sale, should Villarreal capitalize?

As the best team in the Valencia community, it could be our time to poach.

Villarreal CF v Valencia CF - La Liga Photo by Jose Breton/Pics Action/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Let’s face it, in 2020, we’re the biggest club in our region of Spain. Valencia is a dumpster fire owned by people who seem to have open disdain for the club and its supporters, and according to The Athletic ‘almost the entire team is up for sale’ (see tweet below. So, as the stable, well run, actually in European competition next season member of the Derbi de la Comunitat it falls on us to pick through the bones of a dead bat and see if there’s anything worth scavenging.

Our biggest needs are at CB and in the middle of the park, so that will be our focus today. The only CB of theirs I have any interest in would be bringing back Gabriel Paulista, which is an interesting idea to me but not one that I’m moved by enough to dig too deeply into. I feel like we all know what he is as a player and if he came in to be our third CB, that would be fine.

The midfielders, though, are much more interesting, in particular Geoffrey Kondogbia and Dani Parejo (Coquelin is described as being for sale too, but honestly I’d rather just play Manu Morlanes, just as good with far more upside).

Kondogbia is the younger of the two players at age 27, but there is a significant health concern with him as he has missed 36 matches due to injury since January 2018. When healthy though, he really is quite good. Strong in the air, strong carrying the ball, good in linkup play, and does a pretty good job covering ground from box to box. Valencia often started him in a deeper role, but he was very willing to range forward out of that role so that his activity profiled more like a box to box midfielder.

When Parejo has been deployed in that deeper role, he’s generally stayed home a lot more, not venturing as often into the opponent’s half. He has also seen significant minutes as a central mid playing a bit high up the pitch but when asked to play as a DM he stays home and does a very nice job of it. Here’s a comparison of the activity locations for both players when deployed as defensive midfielders this season:

If you were to compare these charts to cognate data for Anguissa and Iborra (our two main DM options this past season) you would see that Zambo ventures forward more and is far less centrally focused than either of the Valencia players. Iborra, on the other hand, was much more reserved than either Valencian player which is why him at the base of the midfield was so important to our structure this year.

For me, if you are considering buying Geoffrey Kondogbia, Zambo Anguissa offers you a more aggressive forward thinking player who is younger and less injury prone. You might as well pony up and pay Fulham for his services (something I recommend anyway). Parejo, on the other hand, could fill the same positional role that Iborra while offering something very different in terms of contribution.

As you can see, when in comes to offensive contribution, Parejo absolutely dwarfs Iborra, while Iborra turns over the ball far less and is a much much better tackler. Part of the numbers here in particular are going to be skewed a bit because Parejo spent about half his time playing a big more of a regular CM role while Iborra spent the vast majority of his time on defensive duties, but when you break down Parejo’s minutes he still has a very high attacking output for a defensive mid while playing in that role.

More important, to me, is the versatility a Parejo addition would offer. Because he can play multiple midfield roles, you could see a midfield combination of Trigueros and Parejo above Iborra one match and Trigueros and Zambo above Parejo the next. Or, you could see a double pivot with Parejo matched up with any of the aforementioned players. His versatility gives you a ton of options that would allow a manager to maximize his depth.

The obvious problem...

Dani Parejo has been with Valencia for nine years. He’s Valencia’s captain. Under normal circumstances I would never even take the time to write about the Valencian captain coming here, and he very well may not want to. That said, if ever such a time existed, it’s now. Valencia desperately needs cash, we offer the chance for European football and an exciting new manager. He fills an obvious role in the side and Valencia’s owners don’t seem to be the kind of people who care if it would break their fanbase’s heart to see their captain in yellow. If Valencia is selling, I think it’s a transfer we at least have to look into.