How is he not? It’s a subject regular observers ponder. How is Borja Valero not included in the Spanish national squad? “That’s always the first thing the Italian journalists ask me, but I try not to think about it,” he told Marca in a recent interview. A player of grace, vision and football acumen, but one on the periphery at international level.
It’s a strong national team, to be fair. The most successful in history. And Valero is a creative midfielder – La Roja are not short of those.The former Villarreal midfielder does have one cap to his name, from a 2011 friendly against the United States. It included an assist for Fernando Torres to score the fourth goal. Since then, nothing.
“I honestly don’t think about it anymore,” Valero said in October about his chances of going to Brazil. “The squad has now come together and is essentially closed. I always play to give my best, but I think for me, it is almost impossible to play at the World Cup.”
Nonetheless, he admitted earlier this month the dream is still to go to Brazil. “If I get a call to the national team then I’ll be happy, otherwise peace,” stated the midfielder. “There is always hope because to play in a World Cup would be something unique. I know it will be quite difficult for me, but a call would be very satisfying.”
There was initial scepticism surrounding Valero’s move to Fiorentina. It wasn’t against the player as such – Villarreal fans would tell you how talented he is – but Spaniards have never taken to Serie A. Only a couple have truly succeeded, both in the 1960s – Il Grande Inter’s Luis Suarez and Luis Del Sol at Juventus.
The feeling is reciprocal, with few Italians excelling in Spain. Two different schools of football that have never meshed. Although with the recent Spanish influx and regular tournament meetings over the past five years, perhaps now there’s mutual respect. And Valero’s performances have done their part to quell the legend.
He has already tried his hand at foreign football, leaving Mallorca for West Bromwich Albion in 2008. A club record signing, Valero’s only season ended in relegation from the Premier League. The 28-year-old subsequently spent two terms on loan, firstly back at Mallorca, then Villarreal. In 2011-12 the midfielder signed with the Yellow Submarine permanently, but again suffered the shock of relegation. Fiorentina pounced.
Their 2011-12 campaign also proved disastrous, the Viola finishing closer to the drop zone than Europe. Vincenzo Montella was appointed and the team overhauled. Valero was one of the jewels of their transfer campaign, a player to help facilitate Montella’s attacking principles.
A highly impressive Gigliati outfit went within 10 minutes of the Champions League. Valero said it was probably his best individual season. And he’s picked up this term where he left off in 2012-13. Few midfielders are on the ball as much as the Spaniard. Few can boast his passing accuracy, sitting at just over 87 per cent.
Given their summer signings, Fiorentina were tipped to be around the Champions League mark again. Defeat at Roma meant a five point gap to Napoli. Bologna, Sunday’s visitors to the Stadio Artemio Franchi, were taught a lesson. Valero was one of the chief instigators.
Josip Ilicic opened the scoring with a fine individual effort. Then it was the Borja Show. He was central to the Viola’s flowing football – aided by Bologna’s Swiss cheese-like defence – and doubled the advantage with a precision finish into the bottom corner. The goal was his fifth of the campaign, a fortnight after a brace against Verona. Giuseppe Rossi was on the end of Valero’s exquisite pass to lob the third over Gianluca Curci.
For Montella it was Fiorentina’s best performance of the season. The Coach then praised his Spanish maestro. “Borja Valero does remind me of Seba Veron – especially his haircut! He is a fantastic player who is able to read the play before anyone else. He’ll become a great Coach one day.”
Valero will be hoping further performances of this ilk can aid a late bid for a spot in the national squad travelling to Brazil. It would be a fitting way to crown his time to date in Florence, where he feels at ease, national team or not. “I feel appreciated in Italy and I appreciate them in return. I always say each person has to find their place in the world and, perhaps, this is where I feel I belong the most.”