Valdes the best all-round option for Reds

With Victor Valdes reported to be Anfield-bound, Ian Watson looks at why Liverpool are happy for the ex-Barca keeper to replace Simon Mignolet.

Last Updated: 05/09/14 at 15:54 Post Comment

Victor Valdes: Set to join Liverpool on a free transfer

Victor Valdes: Set to join Liverpool on a free transfer

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The transfer window may be shut but Liverpool appear to be close to completing one of their biggest signings of the season.

Victor Valdes is just a medical away from becoming a Red, according to reports, with the former Barcelona goalkeeper available on a free transfer after ending his 12-year stay at the Nou Camp this summer.

After Monaco reneged on an agreement to sign the 32-year-old, claiming doubts over his fitness, Brendan Rodgers has seized the opportunity. Providing Valdes can prove to the medics at Melwood that his recovery from a torn cruciate ligament injury is on track, he will surely become Liverpool's new number one.

Of course, Mignolet is only a season into a five-year contract which he signed on the assumption he would be guarding the Reds' goal. The Belgian, purchased from Sunderland for £9million, had a steady-but-unexceptional start to life at Anfield, and though doubts persist over Liverpool's defence, their last line is not the greatest of Rodgers' concerns. Rodgers, though, seemingly cannot resist the opportunity to work with the former Barcelona stalwart.

The Liverpool manager has spoken on numerous occasions of the influence the Catalan club have had on his coaching style on philosophy. Under Rodgers, Liverpool have become an imitation of the Blaugrana, in that they attack from the back and defend from the front. To do the latter, Rodgers needs a goalkeeper as confident in his creative talents as his defensive attributes.

Pepe Reina was one such stopper. The new Bayern Munich bench-warmer, though, needed to leave Liverpool after his relationship with Rodgers deteriorated almost as quickly as his form. Reina suffered from a series of managerial and goalkeeper coaching changes before, during and after the fraught change of ownership at Anfield.

For Liverpool now, Valdes certainly fits the bill - hardly surprising given his Barca indoctrination. Rather than play it safe, the Spain stopper releases the ball like a composed sweeper or a cool quarterback. He rarely looks flustered, even under pressure. When opposition sides are comfortable in their shape, rather than opt to dribble and drive into the opposition half like most keepers, Valdes will still look for the most-productive pass rather than the simplest.

The presumption, though, that Valdes is the best man for helping Liverpool retain possession may not necessarily be correct. Perhaps surprisingly, Mignolet's pass accuracy statistics last season actually better Valdes's while he played under Gerardo Martino.

Mignolet, though, failed to shine with the more traditional aspect of goalkeeping - keeping the ball out of the net.

Of goalkeepers who started at least half of their club's Premier League games, Mignolet ranks 12th for overall percentage of shots saved. Even more worryingly, the Belgian ranks 20th for save percentage for shots from inside the box.

Valdes, before his injury, fared much better, with his stats rivalling the Premier League's best. For Barca, Valdes saved 77 per cent of the shots he faced (matching the Premier League's most impressive figure, attained by Sunderland's Vito Mannone), while 65 per cent of the attempts he faced from inside his box were saved, which is bettered only by four Premier League regulars (Petr Cech, Tim Howard, Artur Boruc and Adrian).

Just as important for Rodgers as any of his technical talents, Valdes also brings with him vast experience and an intense winning mentality. The 32-year-old has played 535 games for Barcelona - 125 more than any other goalkeeper - and has seen it all in the Champions League. He will need a container ship to haul his medal collection to Merseyside.

Valdes will not be coming to Liverpool to play second fiddle to anyone. That will leave Mignolet on the bench, which will not satisfy a goalkeeper focused on usurping Thibaut Courtois as Belgium's number one.

Rodgers, though, will see Mignolet's likely discontent as a necessary consequence of adding Valdes to his ranks. He is not a goalkeeper Barca were happy to lose - the parting was very much Valdes's choice. Providing he recovers as expected, he has numerous seasons ahead of him, while the motivation to finally become Spain's number one will reap obvious benefits for Liverpool.

Related stories:

Paper Talk: Liverpool close on Valdes

Top 10 transfer window winners

Valdes and Almeida among best freebies

Valdes bids farewell to Barca

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