Top 5 / Top 10
If fate had not intervened, Valencia would probably be a European superpower by now. A Spanish giant in their own right, the La Liga club had started the new millennium with two league titles and two consecutive Champions League final appearances before things went awry.
After winning the league in 2001/02 and 2003/04, Los Che suffered a decline. They never finished higher than third and even fell to as low as 12th place. A string of inconsistent mid-table finishes were attributed to the lack of financial support that saw the club riddled with debts exceeding €400m.
An ambitious move to build a new stadium – Nou Mestalla – with a higher capacity than the current Mestalla Stadium crippled the club financially. The work on the stadium began but soon stopped due to a lack of funds.
All that exists now is a concrete shell while Valencia continue to play at Mestalla. Promises have been made to finish the stadium by 2021 but they have been taken with caution.
To fund the club and pay players their wages, the club had to finally resort to selling their best players to top European clubs who were willing to pay big money for their services. As a result, Valencia floundered as top talents moved elsewhere.
So what if Valencia had never had to sell their best players in the past 10 years? What would their team have looked like today?
If there was one goalkeeper La Liga’s players hated when they took penalties, it was Diego Alves. The Brazilian goalkeeper would flip a switch to ‘Beast Mode’ when the ball was placed on the white spot 12 yards from goal and was nearly impossible to score against.
Just ask the following players who have seen their penalties against Alves saved: Cristiano Ronaldo (twice), Lionel Messi, Antoine Griezmann, Diego Costa, Carlos Bacca, Ivan Rakitic, Gabi, Carlos Vela, Fernando Llorente…
The list goes on. He has saved nearly half the penalties he has faced – a phenomenal record for any goalkeeper. In all, he saved 22 penalties that were taken with him in goal.
His save success percentage of 47% was miles ahead of any other goalkeeper in the division. The next best is 28%!
“It is a bit about intuition. I always see it as a psychological war. There is no specific work for it. It is a moment in the game when nerves come into it. You have to try and win that war.” – Diego Alves
Alves currently holds the record for most penalty saves in La Liga history. After a decade in Europe, Alves returned to South America to join Brazilian side Flamengo.
Substitute: Miguel Angel Moya
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