This is how Valencia’s life changed in the ‘year of Baraja’


The coach of Valencia, Ruben Barajabirthday this wednesday a year on the bench of the Mestalla club, a stage where the team left from fighting to avoid refuse in a dream Europe and it changed the sporting life of some of the squad members as well as the former Valladolid footballer himself.

Baraja, one of the sources of Valencia who marked the period between 1999 and 2004, signed a contract from February 14 to June 30, 2023 in a complicated situation for the team, which fought for permanence until almost the last day of the League.


The coach: he has not trained for almost two and a half years after being sacked by Zaragoza in November 2020. After his brilliant foray into professional football with Elche, he had bitter experiences at Rayo Vallecano, Sporting de Gijón and Tenerife and he had failed to direct in the First Division.

After struggling survival last season and good progress in this one, his status as an internal and external reference for the club has increased with a big increase in the locker room and stands. In the summer he signed until June 2025.

The goalkeepers

Giorgi Mamardashvili: He remained the undisputed starter in the Liga, although at Baraja he did not play in the Cup.

Jaume Domenech: He is in the final stages of recovery from a serious knee injury. He rejoined training but did not play last season, this time he did so in the Cup.

Cristian Rivero: He didn’t count on playing for Baraja’s last predecessors and he didn’t do it for him either.

The protectors

Dimitri Foulquier and Thierry Rendall: In February 2023, the Frenchman was starting at right back due to Thierry’s injury and lost his ‘bib’ when the Portuguese recovered. This campaign they alternated and Foulquier had some of his most brilliant games. Therry maintained his level but again a major muscle injury slowed him down.

Mouctar Diakhaby: He was a starter when Baraja arrived and later Gabriel Paulista was with him. This season is the same, with a mature version of his game, although an injury and the Africa Cup did not allow him to play many games. He tried it as a defensive midfielder.

Christian Mosquera: one of the players whose sports life changed Baraja. When he arrived he was in the first team dynamic but not playing and he barely made it at Mestalla in the Second RFEF and so it continued. But this summer he picked him for the first team and Cenk soon put him first. He has grown a lot and now at 19 years old he is a fixture in the back.

Cenk Özkacar: key in the final stages of last season in a defense with three centre-backs, the change to two left him out. He’s one of the few players who isn’t better than he was a year ago. Now, the departure of Paulista (whose year with Baraja ended at Atlético de Madrid) gives him a new option.

Jose Gaya: The captaincy was unmistakable when Baraja arrived and so it remains. He has benefited from the general improvement and having another voice with an increase in standings and atmosphere has freed him from the burden of holding the ‘shield’ almost single-handedly.

Jesus Vazquez: He was in Gayà’s shadow in February 2023 but was also behind Toni Lato and the latter’s departure allowed him to become the first replacement in the coach’s plans.

The midfielders

Pepper: He was a key player in the Second in a Levante that notably missed out on promotion to the First. He ended up at Valencia this summer and Baraja gave him the helm of the team. He has grown up a lot and is aiming for the national team.

Hugo Guillamón: He lost his position and direction when the technician arrived and never regained it at 22-23. Baraja assured this summer that he will get his chance, he gave it to him in the last two months and it helped him to get out of the hole.

Javi Guerra: from Second RFEF to stardom. In February 2023 he was a key player in the reserve team, but when Baraja saw that he could not save the team with what he had, he turned to the quarry with him as a forward player. His goal against Valladolid will go down in history. At 20 years old and despite a certain current slump, he established himself as one of the references of the team and made his debut in the team under 21.

Fran Perez: He was the only youth player playing when Baraja arrived but a back injury meant he was barely counted on last season. This summer he was supposed to go to Elche but the coach stopped him and now he is a regular in the eleven. It also opened the doors of the ‘red team’

Diego López: He made his debut in the First Division with Gattuso but only as a witness. His case is similar to Guerra’s. Baraja used his freshness and was key to survival, including three decisive goals against Real Madrid, Espanyol and Betis. Now he is a permanent member of a team that looks after and has also joined the under 21 team.

Sergi Canos: The one from Nules was at Bretford without playing when Baraja arrived at Valencia and this summer he did everything he could to join ‘his’ team. The absence of the preseason and muscle injuries hindered his progress even though he left flashes.

Selim Amallah: A year ago he had just arrived at Valladolid in the winter market but an injury at the Mestalla ended his season. In the summer, Baraja endorsed his arrival on loan, and although he had chances he failed to establish himself.

Andrew Almeida: He is an integral part of salvation. Baraja gave him the steering wheel of the team upon arrival. He was also important at the beginning of this season, although the presence of Pepelu and Javi Guerra and some doubts about where to place him in a classic 4-4-2 affected him. An injury has kept him out of action since October.

Peter Frederick: Another life-changing one from Valladolid. A year ago he was at Castilla, Baraja wanted to sign him in the summer and he finally got his loan in the winter. This could allow him to enter the First Division.


Hugo Duro: He was a replacement Baraja made him a starter when he arrived but his lack of goals moved him to the third striker behind Justin Kluivert and Edinson Cavani. The departure of the two, the late arrival of Roman Yaremchuk and the injury of Alberto Marí left room for him and he exploded. He has already scored ten goals this campaign and is having his best moment.

Alberto Marí: His path is similar to Guerra’s although he hasn’t gotten there yet. He was in the Second RFEF and Baraja used him when things looked worst. His goal at Balaídos was key to his stay and pushed for his renewal. A serious injury cut short his impressive preseason and left him in dry dock for months. He started joining the team a few weeks ago.

Roman Yaremchuk: He had neither illness nor glory in Bruges a year ago and that’s where the season ended. When the signing of Rafa Mir that Baraja wanted failed, the club went for the Ukrainian. After a very slow integration last month, it has started to integrate.

The youngest

Players like it Yarek Gasiorowski, now de facto central fourth after the departure of Paulista, David Otorbi either Ali Fadal They were in the youth team when Baraja arrived and this season he made his debut in the first team, the first of them in fact accumulating almost three hundred minutes. The same leap was made, in his case from the subsidiary, by Hugo González or Pablo Gozálbez, among others.

Source: La Verdad


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