In early December 2010, Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United hosted a Valencia team managed by Unai Emery.
The result was a 1-1 draw. United topped the group, paving the way to a final in which Lionel Messi’s
But while Ferguson would retire three years later, career highlights lay ahead for Emery (along with one spectacular lowlight now known as La Remontada). The former head coach of Valencia, Sevilla and Paris Saint-Germain now finds himself employed by Arsenal, managing in Sir Alex’s old stomping ground, the Premier League.
For most of the players who staffed Ferguson’s line-up on the night ended, United was the high point.
But, like Emery, for many of the Valencia players, this was just the beginning, and here’s the proof.
Goalkeeper: Vicente Guaita
Joined: 2000 (Academy)
Played: 114 games for Valencia
Currently: Crystal Palace
Career path: Valencia, Getafe, Crystal Palace
Vicente Guaita pulled off a number of impressive saves in that 1-1 draw at Old Trafford and continued between the sticks at the Mestalla for another four years, racking up a total of 114 games for Valencia.
The Torrent-born stopper then moved on to Getafe, where he was both relegated and promoted, before helping them to an impressive eighth-place finish last season.
His exploits over the last couple of years with Getafe saw Crystal Palace sign Guaita on a free transfer last summer, and he has now become first-choice goalkeeper at Selhurst Park.
Right-back: Miguel Monteiro
Played: 218 games for Valencia
Career path: Valencia
After joining from Benfica for £6.6m in 2005, Miguel Monteiro became an absolute stalwart with Valencia.
The Portuguese right-back made 218 appearances in seven years for the club, winning the 2008 Copa del Rey and captaining the side on many occasions, including at Old Trafford in 2010.
After a series of injuries, Miguel eventually left Valencia in 2012 and, following a short spell of training to find a new club, announced his retirement.
Left-back: Jeremy Mathieu
Played: 182 games for Valencia
Currently: Sporting Lisbon
Career path: Valencia, Barcelona, Sporting Lisbon
Jeremy Mathieu is a real head-scratcher of a footballer, even setting aside his striking resemblance to Tony Hibbert.
Signed by Valencia in 2009, the Frenchman made 182 appearances for the club during his five-year stay and was, if nothing else, unspectacularly reliable.
However, with an apparent wad of cash burning a hole in their pocket, Barcelona decided to shell out around £17.8m for Mathieu’s services, where he went on to make 91 appearances as a squad player over the next three years, picking up two La Liga titles, three Copa del Reys and a Champions League winner’s medal in the process.
Mathieu joined Sporting Lisbon at the start of last season and has won a Taca da Liga during his time in Portugal so far.
Centre-back: Ricardo Costa
Currently: C.D. Tondela
Career path: Valencia, Al-Sailiya, PAOK, Granada, Luzern, C.D. Tondela
Ricardo Costa has represented no fewer than 11 clubs in his career, if you’re counting his days as a youth player, and is the ultimate footballing journeyman.
Despite winning a raft of trophies with Porto early in his career, including 2004 Champions League, Costa’s most successful, personal spell was with Valencia, making 124 appearances in just four seasons.
After leaving Valencia in 2014, Costa has surfaced in far-flung destinations such as Qatar and Greece, then Spain, before returning to Portugal where he currently plays for Primeira Liga side Tondela.
Centre-back: Angel Dealbert
Played: 58 games for Valencia
Career path: Valencia, Kuban Krasnodar, Baniyas, Lugo, Castellon
Angel Dealbert joined Valencia from local rivals Castellon in 2009 but struggled to really assert himself at the Mestalla.
Dealbert only managed 58 appearances in three years for Valencia, most of which came in his first season, before moving on to Russia with Kuban Krasnodar, where 62 appearances in two years amounted to a much more successful spell.
A 25-game stint at Baniyas in the United Arab Emirates followed his time in Russia before he moved back to Spain with Lugo, then his original club, Castellon, before Dealbert retired at the end of last season.
Right-wing: Pablo Hernandez
Joined: 2008 (second spell)
Played: 155 games for Valencia
Currently: Leeds United
Career path: Valencia, Swansea City, Al-Arabi, Al-Nasr (on loan), Rayo Vallecano (on loan), Leeds United
Pablo Hernandez originally came through Valencia’s youth system and, after a one-season spell away with Getafe, he really flourished for Los Che.
Hernandez scored 24 goals for the club during his 154 appearances before leaving for Swansea City in 2012 for £5.5m.
However, Hernandez struggled with the Swans and, following spells in Qatar and Dubai, as well as back in Spain on loan at Rayo Vallecano, he only really rediscovered the old spark when joining Championship side Leeds United, where he was voted as Player’s Player of the Year for 2017/18.
Left-wing: Jordi Alba
Played: 110 games for Valencia
Career path: Valencia, Barcelona
That’s right, folks. One of Europe’s most consistent and talented left-backs over the past six years began life as a left-winger.
Hitting us with a reverse-Gareth Bale, Jordi Alba joined the Valencia youth setup in 2007 and established himself in the first-team within two years, going on to make 110 appearances across his three full seasons at the Mestalla.
His form for Valencia not only earned him a call-up for the Spanish national team, for whom he now has 66 caps, but also a £12.5m move to Barcelona, where has won 13 major honours to date.
Central midfield: David Albelda
Played: 465 games for Valencia
Career path: Valencia
David Albelda, two loan spells with Villarreal aside, was an ultimate servant to Valencia.
Albelda was an unwavering midfield general that was there in the good times for Valencia – winning two La Liga titles, a Copa del Rey, the 2004 Uefa Cup and reaching two Champions League finals – and the bad as the club occasionally battled at the wrong end of the league table.
He captained the side on numerous occasions and also managed 51 caps for the Spanish national team.
Central midfield: Ever Banega
Joined: 2009 (second spell)
Played: 176 games for Valencia
Career path: Valencia, Newell’s Old Boys, Sevilla, Inter Milan, Sevilla
If Albelda was the brawn in this Valencia midfield, Ever Banega was most certainly the brains.
Blessed with a wonderful passing range, Banega made 176 appearances for Valencia, with a one-year stint at Atletico Madrid in-between and has since been the lynchpin in the midfield set-ups of Newell’s Old Boys in his native Argentina, Sevilla, where he has won two Europa League titles, Inter Milan and now Sevilla again.
Banega’s club exploits have also seen him pick up 65 caps for Argentina to date, and he was part of the Albiceleste side that reached the last-16 of this Summer’s World Cup in Russia.
Attacking midfield: Alejandro Dominguez
Played: 26 games for Valencia
Currently: Free agent
Career path: Valencia, River Plate, Rayo Vallecano, Olympiacos, Rayo Vallecano
Another journeyman in this side, Alejandro Dominguez made Valencia his then-fifth professional club in 2009 after impressing with Rubin Kazan in Russia.
However, it never worked out for the Argentine and, after just 26 appearances in a little under two years, he returned to his homeland with River Plate.
Dominguez once again impressed with the South American giants and has since had much more successful spells with Rayo Vallecano, twice, and Olympiacos, where he won four Greek league titles – he now, however, finds himself without a club at the age of 37.
Striker – Aritz Aduriz
Played: 84 games for Valencia
Currently: Athletic Bilbao
Career path: Valencia, Athletic Bilbao
Aritz Aduriz is the ultimate fine wine of football – the older he gets, the more refined he gets in front of goal.
Aduriz was fairly reliable for Valencia, bagging 23 goals in 84 appearances during his two-year stay. However, it was when he returned to Athletic Bilbao in 2012 that he really came to life.
His six full seasons back with the Basque club have seen him bag an astounding 142 goals in 271 appearances and, despite being the most ‘un-Spanish’ forward you could imagine, he now has 13 caps for Spain to his name.
He remains an important player for Bilbao this season. Not bad for a 37-year-old.
Joined: 2006 (youth)
Played: 7 games for Valencia
Currently: Real Madrid
Career path: Valencia, Malaga, Real Madrid
Given his immense success with Real Madrid, it is easy to forget that Isco came through at Valencia.
He did indeed, however, and was brought on as a 54th-minute substitute in place of Alejandro Dominguez in this 1-1 draw with Manchester United.
Isco left at for Malaga at the end of the season and after making 82 appearances in two seasons for the Boquerones, finds himself at the Santiago Bernabeu, where he has now won an incredible four Champions League titles in five years.
Played: 174 games for Valencia
Currently: Manchester United
Career path: Valencia, Chelsea, Manchester United
After scoring 46 goals in four seasons at Valencia, winning the Copa del Rey in the process, Juan Mata has gone on to become one of the most renowned playmakers in the Premier League, eventually joining Manchester United.
Mata has won an FA Cup, League Cup and Europa League with the Red Devils, but not before he swept up a Champions League crown, another Europa League and another FA Cup during a two-and-a-half year stay with Chelsea, becoming their Player of the Year in 2011/12 and 2012/13.
Mata has also made 41 appearances for the Spanish national team, helping them to win the 2010 World Cup and the 2012 European Championships. It looks as if he may return to La Liga this summer when his current contract expires, this time with Barcelona.
Played: 202 appearances for Valencia
Career path: Valencia, West Ham United, Galatasaray
Sofiane Feghouli was Unai Emery’s final change against Man United in 2011 and rounded off an impressive substitutes bench which also included Roberto Soldado, Cesar Sanchez, Hedwiges Maduro and Tino Costa.
Sofiane Feghouli was a massive success at Valencia, playing 202 games for the club before deciding to try his luck in the Premier League with West Ham United.
However, his big move to the London Stadium didn’t exactly go to plan and Feghouli found himself shipped off to Turkish giants Galatasaray after just one season.
After winning the 2017/18 Turkish Super Lig, Feghouli remains with the Istanbul side.