Firstly, the lack of quality competition for our number one goalkeeper is something I have been banging my drum about for around five years, so if this comes to fruition I will be happy that we have finally managed to sort that problem out.
But if we consider whether or not he will walk straight into the first team or not, I think we have to see how he has recovered from his injury. Valdes’ ACL blew out and it was a bad one. He was in no contact with any player; it was the way his knee bent as his studs caught the turf collecting a high ball. I’ve watched it a couple of times before writing this and it isn’t pleasant viewing. It isn’t just about fitness – how is his confidence? Injuries like this are not easy to recover from.
Everything I’ve ever read about Victor Valdes suggests he is a hard working and dedicated winner and you have only to look at his medal collection to see that is absolutely the case. He’s come a long way from the Victor Valdes of the early/mid 2000s who always seemed to be making a string of errors. I see a lot of Spanish football and as he has grown up and come of age, those errors have appeared less and less.
He isn’t perfect and he will make errors similar to Mignolet – he will unexpectedly and needlessly fumble a ball under very little pressure and he isn’t the most commanding goalkeeper in the world when it comes to crosses.
But what he would definitely bring to our game is control of his penalty area and first class distribution. Barcelona’s game has been all about retaining possession for the last decade and Valdes has played over 500 games for them. He will be ideal for the calmness and composure we need when we’re being pressed in and around our penalty box. He will distribute the ball effectively and cleverly and without panicking the entire crowd.
He is very commanding of his box and it will be like having the old Reina back to that effect. He is quick off his line and is always on the front foot, looking to take control and to collect the ball. That to me is one of the big things which separates top goalkeepers from very good ones.
I’m pleased to see that we appear to have stolen a march on the rest of Europe on Valdes. I thought there would be a huge queue of clubs after him but it looks like we’ve got there first. He can probably make more money elsewhere but I think Valdes is looking for a new challenge. That was why he tearfully decided to leave Barcelona – another challenge.
Displacing Mignolet is going to be one of those. The Belgian is anything but a bad goalkeeper, and it really annoys me to read/see people saying that he is. He’s everything I said he was when we signed him last summer – he makes great saves but the rest of his game needs work. The arrival of Valdes can only do one of two things. Kick him on and make sure he stays number one, or see him be replaced by Valdes.
Personally I think Mignolet is in a spot of bother because Valdes is a leader, supposedly a massive warrior and a commanding presence. We don’t have enough of that in our back four and Mignolet isn’t going to become vocal overnight.
This really is win/win for the club. Valdes is ridiculously experienced and is still only 32. He might not come straight into the team and he is going to have to severely prove his fitness, but Valdes is going to have designs on that number one spot and that is something that I find very exciting. It’s a shakeup we have needed for a long time and we will reap the rewards of it.
Well this is interesting; once again Liverpool are not messing about when they have a gap in the squad. They’ve identified the problem, they’ve found a solution and they’re away. If I’m Mignolet then I might be a little worried by this potential Valdes signing. I’d love to know what our current number one is thinking about it all but I’d also like to know what the club has said to Valdes and on what terms he’ll be arriving here.
The key to this question is what does the club envision with Valdes arriving? Does he want to sit on the bench and count his money? Or does he think he can wrestle the starting spot from Mignolet? Perhaps the club see this situation as a potential scenario where they can platoon them in goal? Certainly if it’s the latter then that’ll never work out, chopping and changing goalkeepers puts everyone on edge. I just can’t see Valdes coming to sit on the bench though, he’s a good goalkeeper who was playing for a successful club side, no way would he have left all that to do nothing.
Mignolet might feel aggrieved that he’s being placed in this position but ultimately competition is the best thing for the squad. Now Mignolet might thrive under the pressure or wilt like a poisoned flower. It’s not for all players and I’m not exactly sure what sort of player Mignolet actually is when he’s under pressure for his squad place as the only ‘competition’ has been Brad Jones. He doesn’t seem the most assertive of players (his lack of command in the area emphasises that) but I’m not sure if he will fail when under pressure for places. I genuinely don’t know how he’ll react but my instinct is that he’ll rise to the challenge.
It all depends if the club set parameters with both players, if they tell them that Valdes is the no.2 (something I can’t imagine he has agreed too) then that might simultaneously relax Mignolet not to be edgy in games and give him the confidence to produce a string of performances that answers any questions that currently hang over him.
I like Valdes although I’ve never thought he was a top echelon ‘keeper but he’s not chopped liver. The dominant Barcelona teams of the last 7 years have been able to get away without actual centre backs since they held on to the ball so well that the opposition could never really pepper their goal. That doesn’t mean that Valdes hasn’t been good when called upon, it’s just I never placed him up there with very best.
I suppose the real question is do I think Valdes is better than Mignolet? The answer is I probably do, yes. So if Liverpool are signing a player better than the man occupying the shirt, then I suppose you have to start them. However you look at it Mignolet has now got genuine competition for the first time since he arrived here, what happens next is up to him.
There are two ways of looking at this potential/probable signing: firstly, it's very harsh to put a very good and indeed improving young keeper like Mignolet under the sort of pressure that stems from one of the most decorated goal keepers in world football coming in to sniff around his first team slot.
However, the other is to say that we are a club in the ascendancy and we cannot afford to stand still; Mignolet has been good but not great and why should he be any different to any other player in our rapidly improving squad? They have to face significant competition for their places every week, so why not him.
To be honest, I think he's a great shot-stopper whose game nevertheless needs a high degree of re-tuning in order to fully complement the way we play. However, even if I was more effusive about him than that, Valdes would still be a no-brainer of a signing. Assuming his fitness is proven, how could anyone deny he'd be a hugely positive piece of recruitment?
We are talking about a man who has won the lot here. His medal collection is incredible, but even if you discount the international medals on the basis that he didn't play, you can't ignore his club haul. Valdes is a winner, plain and simple and you can never have too many of those in a dressing room. Furthermore he's a big character and a leader used to holding his own in a team full of some of the greatest players in history. Again, how can that not be of benefit to us?
That all said, it's when you look at his game that the arguments in favour of his signature become compelling. Valdes is made for the way we play: a genuine "sweeper keeper" who's great with his feet and totally unintimidated about being exposed by what most would regard as a recklessly high back line. Furthermore, he's highly vocal and a great shot stopper too.
In short, this is beyond doubt a nailed on "must sign" deal (as long as his fitness is assured). And I don't think he'd be coming in as number two either. At 32 years of age, he's just getting into his peak years as a goal keeper and, harsh though it sounds, I'd put him straight into the team at Mignolet's expense. This could be a transformational signing.