Valencia challenge for Didac Vila

Milan defender Didac Vila has joined Valencia on a season-long loan after spending last season in La Liga with Espanyol.  Los Che will be looking to the former Spanish Under-21 international to fill the void left by Jordi Alba’s departure to Barcelona.

With just one appearance in his first six months at San Siro following his move from Espanyol in January 2011, the 23-year-old left-back returned to the Cornella-El Prat on loan last summer. Playing the full 90 minutes of all but one of their 38 Primera Liga matches, Vila restored his reputation with some impressive performances.

A tough-tackling defender, Vila also found the net three times last season, against Atletico Madrid and Granada in La Liga and in a Copa del Rey encounter with Cordoba. A surprise omission from the Spanish Olympic squad, Vila is the latest of five new signings by Valencia Coach Mauricio Pellegrino ahead of the new campaign. Alba’s departure from the Mestalla had looked inevitable after his dazzling displays at Euro 2012, but Vila is highly rated in Spain and, if he rises to the challenge of replacing Alba, a permanent move and senior international recognition could follow.

Vila has played eight times for the national Under-21 side.  A native Catalan, he began his career as a teenager with Espanyol B before making his first-team debut against Athletic Bilbao. The young defender displaced the long-serving David Garcia in the first of 24 appearances for Los Periquitos in the 2010-11 Liga campaign.

Barely a year later, Vila was on his way to Italy, but the move turned sour as he managed just a single appearance for the Rossoneri. Vice-President Adriano Galliani had warned that Vila would only be allowed to leave on a permanent deal this summer, despite not featuring in Coach Massimiliano Allegri’s plans, with Portuguese giants Benfica said to be interested in his signature.

Valencia begin their Champions League campaign at the group stage after finishing third in La Liga last season, but the 30-point gap between them and runners-up Barcelona cost Pellegrino’s predecessor, Unai Emery, his job.

A competitive performer at the Cornella-El Prat under Coach Mauricio Pochettino, Vila picked up nine yellow cards last term, but he is also consistent and, as one of those brought in to strengthen the Valencia squad, as well as to provide a direct replacement for Alba, he is aware of the pressure.

“The fans here are very demanding,” Vila told the Valencia club website following his move to the Mestalla. “They have done well in Europe in recent years and want to see their team go all the way to the top.”