By Cillian Shields l Twitter
Valencia have a major defensive, but one bright young talent could go a huge part of the way to resolving the issue. Hugo Guillamón has played every minute of Los Che’s three games so far following the coronavirus break, and despite the results not being ideal, the 20-year-old defender’s performances offer hope and relief to Valencia fans.
With Gabriel Paulista still recovering from a hamstring injury, Eliaquim Mangala not exactly inspiring confidence, Ezequiel Garay getting into a public and ugly war of words with the club, and Mouctar Diakhaby’s repeated disasters, Guillamón’s solid defending, calm demeanor in possession and ability to start attacking moves from the back could see him promoted to one of the regular starting spots even when other options become available.
Guillamón made his debut coming on as a substitute for Mangala in February’s defeat to Real Sociedad but earned his first start in his side’s first game back after the enforced break in the local derby against Levante.
He impressed both on and off the ball, getting the defensive basics practically perfect in terms of positioning to make interceptions and recoveries, but perhaps shined even brighter on the ball. In possession, Guillamón showed veins of ice in the last couple of games, with a controlled presence helping him make the right decision almost every time, be it to turn on the ball toward safety, identify and make the right pass, or step out of defence and push higher up the field.
When carrying the ball out, he can relieve Dani Parejo as the man to begin moves from deep, allowing Los Che more variation in their play. In fact, Guillamón has already played some games in the holding midfield role for Valencia’s side. His passing game was capped off with a brilliant ball cutting through the Levante midfield and defence to unleash José Gayà on the left wing, putting the full back in the perfect position to tee Rodrigo up for what seemed like an 89th minute derby winner.
His fine performance was rewarded with another starting berth in the next game against Real Madrid. Away to the title-chasing side from the capital, Valencia completely matched them in the first half, and were unfortunate not to go into the break leading after Rodrigo’s goal was chalked off. After the break, Valencia began to tire and Zidane’s troops took charge of the game, and despite the 3-0 scoreline, Guillamón completely looked up to the task of maintaining the opposition attack line that has won three of the last four Champions League titles.
The youngster has enjoyed a brilliant upbringing at the highly acclaimed Paterna academy at Valencia and has already earned major honours in the youth international game with Spain. Guillamón played important roles in Spain’s victories at the 2017 Under-17 European Championships and 2019 Under-19 European Championships, playing in every minute of each tournament.
Guillamón’s emergence has come at just the right time for the club going through something of a crisis with their central defenders. Argentine veteran defender Ezequiel Garay will likely never play for Valencia again after hitting out at the “campaign” he believes the club are waging against him.
Garay claims that last year he was offered a contract inferior to the one he was on but decided to hold off on signing until “instabilities” in the club were straightened out. According to the player, the club then leaked false information that Garay rejected a well-paying contract and that he wanted to leave, which the defender says is untrue.
In the social media post he goes on to explain that while out injured during the coronavirus break, the club wanted to reduce his wages even more than the rest of the squad, as he was injured and unable to keep up his fitness.
For their part, Valencia responded publicly to Garay’s social media posts, announcing they regretted and were surprised at the comments the player made, and affirmed that the club have shown “care and constant support.” Neither party has come out of the controversy looking particularly well.
Mouctar Diakhaby, on the other hand, must have used up the very last of the Valencia fans’ nerves. Los Che have won only one of the last eight games he’s played in, not counting a one-minute appearance in the draw against Atletico Madrid. In the team’s last game before the coronavirus break, at home to Atalanta in the Champions League, Diakhaby gave away two very foolish penalties at the beginning and end of the first half, before being hauled off at the break.
In the first game back, a local derby against Levante, Valencia looked all set to celebrate a glorious return to action thanks to Rodrigo’s late goal. But then, Diakhaby seemed to completely lose his cool, and conceded an unnecessary free kick in a crossing position deep into stoppage time. The centre back then ridiculously hauled down Rúben Vezo for a penalty right at the edge of the box, giving Gonzalo Melero the opportunity to score the 98th minute equaliser. Diakhaby was then benched for the game against Real Madrid, being replaced by Eliaquim Mangala.
In a turbulent couple of months for Valencia defenders, once again Los Che have produced a fantastic youngster worthy of a place in the senior team’s starting XI. If Guillamón’s development continues at the current pace, he may well become one of the biggest defenders in Spain over the next decade or so.
Reports in Valencian media say that so far the club have offered the player a new contract offer that Guillamón and his agent deem unsubstantial, being only for one year and to play predominantly for the youth team – in the third tier of Spanish football. He wants to stay put and continue his development, but strangely, the club are so far not offering him the chance for first team football, although that situation could change on the back of the club’s most recent games.
If the club fail to tie this centre half down for the medium-long term, they could be allowing one of the brightest prospects in the country to leave their grasp for nothing this summer.