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27.01.2010 10:24

Valdés: "Guardiola has taught me to enjoy myself playing football"

Sandra Sarmiento

The keeper is delighted that Guardiola has extended his contract. And though he is happy that the team has only conceded 10 goals in 19 league matches, he warned: “If we don’t do the same in the second half of the season it won’t count for anything".

Victor Valdés is much more than a goalkeeper. He features at the beginning and the end of the moves. He blocks with his hands and plays with his feet. His progress has been such that he has silenced the eternal debate over who should defend the Barça goal. Speaking in an exclusive interview with Barça TV and www.fcbarcelona.cat, the Catalan goalkeeper relives some of the sweetest moments of his footballing career.

"We’re accepting more risks than last year"

2010-01-26_ENTRENO_76.JPGThe job of a goalkeeper has changed a great deal in recent years, especially at Barça. He has to use his hands and his feet. He’s the first player on the pitch: “We all run this risk. It’s true that when the goalkeeper has the ball, as he is the last player in the team he can’t make a mistake. I’ve seen in previous seasons that if the goalkeeper makes a mistake it normally ends up as a goal. There’s a big risk but the manager is happy with my work”. Now that opposing teams try to put pressure on Barça high up the pitch, the role of the goalkeeper in initiating attacking moves is vital: “Teams are intelligent. They get to know you a bit better. They know what our system is. We are aware that we’re accepting more risks than last year. The surprise factor was bigger before. We’re working hard on it”. Guardiola has praised Valdés in particular and the whole team in general for their superb defensive record this season: “It says a lot about the mentality that boss has wanted to impose ever since he took over: defend from the striker down to the goalkeeper, with intensity and maximum concentration from the first to the 90th minute. But if we don’t do the same in the second half of the season it won’t count for anything”.

"I don’t like praise"

2010-01-26_ENTRENO_88.JPGHalfway through the season, Barça are in a strong position to renew their league title: “It’s looking good because we’re doing things in much the same way we did last season. The stats are good in every sense. The main thing is that we’re playing good football and defending really intensely. This team doesn’t get carried away. We’re young and we want to win it all. We have a winning mentality 100% and the proof of that is that our stats for the first half of the season are impressive”. However, despite all of this Valdés dislikes the hype that can be generated around the players: “People that know me know that I don’t like praise. And I believe that on a collective level, praise isn’t as good as it might seem from the outside. It’s important to get some recognition for our work but that’s as far as it goes. We have to play this down until we win titles”.

"Guardiola is the secret to everything we’re achieving”

On 20th January, Guardiola announced that he would be staying at the Club and Valdés, like many others, was delighted: “I was hoping this would be confirmed. I think people were asking him to stay. I was and so was the team. He is the secret to everything we’re achieving. We players can take some of the credit – we’re the ones who play – but without his information, without the many things he gives us, we couldn’t manage it. I hope he stays for many years”. It’s clear that Guardiola has had a big influence on Valdés: “He has taught me to enjoy myself playing football and he’s also shown me that someone can teach you many things that are then reflected on the pitch. He’s one of the few people that have convinced me on this point. The manager has made me participate in a more attractive style of football, where you have to concentrate very hard. You don’t just have to make saves”.

"Juan Carlos Unzué, (the goalkeeping coach) is entirely responsible for my progression. He’s like a father”.

EQUIPO_COPA_12.jpgVíctor Valdés has been part of the senior squad for some years and most of the time Juan Carlos Unzué has been at his side: “He’s been a colleague for seven years, a person I could trust who I’ve worked with day after day. He is entirely responsible for my progression. Without his efforts I wouldn’t be the goalkeeper I am today. For me he’s like a father. He has helped in the difficult moments and we’ve spoken about many things. He’s helped me to set myself new objectives and to improve every day in training”. Unzué is planning to move into team management one day and Valdés believes he will do well: “If it’s positive for him then I’ll be happy. I’d like to have him alongside me all the time because I’m used to him. But if it’s positive for him then so much the better”.

"I have no plans to wear a different shirt"

FCB_-_ATLETICO_MADRID_x37x.JPGValdés has silenced the long-running debate about who should defend the Barça goal: “I’ve always felt wanted. The Barça fans are very demanding. I feel that I’m part of it all and I know that our style of play is very risky. Barça goalkeepers have always been under a microscope. Historically it’s a difficult position but it’s a great challenge”. "We’re all different and we all give off our individual vibes. I try and do my job. I don’t try and ingratiate myself. The goalkeeper should try and do a good job for Barça and that’s my objective”. Valdés wins matches, makes saves and distributes the ball to initiate attacking moves. He’s the best possible goalkeeper for the Club: “I have no plans to wear another shirt”.

"You always have to think about winning international caps"

2010-01-14_ENTRENO_14.JPGAs a team, Barça has won everything there is while Messi, Xavi and Iniesta have received individual recognition both in Europe and worldwide. And Valdés? "I can’t do anything but work the way I have up to now; and I’m very happy with what we have achieved. I keep the souvenirs at home – the titles we have won as a team. And that’s what matters. Every time I see a team-mate collect an award I feel part of that award. And my team-mates see it the same way”. Spain manager Vicente Del Bosque said a few days back: “Valdés has earned the possibility of playing for Spain”. Valdés told us. “It would be great and a source of great pride. But you have to be aware of the high standard of goalkeepers in Spain. You can see that any day. There are some great goalkeepers and it’s very difficult for the national manager to choose three out of so many. It’s complicated but that kind of comment makes me proud. It’s like a prize for carrying on working. As a professional footballer, you always have to think about winning international caps. Whether or not it happens depends on many things”.
Images: Miguel Ruiz (FCB)
Images: Miguel Ruiz (FCB)

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In detail
What do you enjoy more? When you have a lot of work in a game or not?

"When the other team works me hard. Obviously we suffer more because we’re not used to that but as a goalkeeper it’s much easier to keep your concentration when you have more work to do”.

Strikers set themselves a goal target. Do you set yourself a maximum number of goals conceded?

That’s very difficult and depends on many things. The objective is to win the league, scoring the most goals and conceding the fewest. That way you have a good chance of winning the league. My personal objective is to win the Zamora trophy”.

Your favourite match?

"I was really happy with last year’s match away to Chelsea. It was a very difficult match and we were really up against it”.

And a match you’d like to forget?

"Every derby I’ve lost in the Bernabéu. Those are difficult moments. When you go there and you lose, as a Barça fan that’s not a good day”.

The forward who’s given you most problems?

"We’ve played a lot against Drogba, and also against Van Nistelrooy and Ronaldo. They made life difficult. I’ve played against the best in the world”.

Are you still a bit suspicious?

"Less than before. You realise it’s not such a big deal".

Has becoming a father changed your life?

"Yes, without a doubt. It changes everybody. Your priorities in life change”.

How has it changed?

"The tiredness in the first months. But above all your child is at the centre of your priorities”.

Would you like your son to be a goalkeeper?

"Whatever he wants. I’ll be right behind him in every decision he takes though I might recommend another approach”.

You can watch the full interview with Víctor Valdés on Barça TV at 23.15 mainland Spanish time.

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