Football Features

Unai Emery’s Valencia 2010/11 was a finishing school for superstars & cult heroes of Spanish football

By Muhammad Butt

Published: 18:35, 14 April 2020 | Updated: 18:37, 14 April 2021

Valencia once again find themselves in the wrong half of the La Liga table, closer to the second tier than they are Champions League football.

Just last season they were participants in the last-16 of the Champions League after winning their group ahead of Chelsea, Ajax and Lille, the first time they had made the knockout stages since 2013. But have been breaks in the norm for the two-time Champions League runners-up, with Valencia only reaching the knockout stages three times in the past 10 years.

The first of those occasions came in 2010/11 as a side managed by Unai Emery made it to the last-16. In the group stages, they drew at Old Trafford against Manchester United and duffed Rangers up 3-0 at the Mestalla. They fell in the knockout rounds to eventual semi-finalists Schalke, but they were fun to watch and the players in the side went on to have fantastic decades.

But where are those players now? We’ve had a look, so read on and find out!

The Active:

Juan Mata

Age: 32
Valencia appearances: 174
Valencia goals: 46
Current club: Manchester United

Quite possibly the nicest man in football, Juan Mata was in his final season at the Mestalla back in 2010/11. He remained the heart of the side as they finished third in La Liga. Mata joined Chelsea that summer, winning the Champions League and Europa League back-to-back and is currently playing for Manchester United in very reduced role. His on-pitch influence may have waned but through his “Common Goal” initiative, he is continuing to be an important figure in football.

Pablo Hernandez

Age: 36
Valencia appearances: 154
Valencia goals: 24
Current club: Leeds United

Pablo Hernandez’s energy and pace were often a superb foil to Mata’s playmaking, and the winger was the last of Valencia’s “fab five” attackers to depart the club (after David Villa and David Silva in 2010 then Mata and Joaquin in 2011) and surprised everyone by coming to the Premier League with Swansea.He’s currently playing his fifth-straight season for Leeds back in the Premier League, though his season has been hampered by injury.

Vicente Guaita

Age: 34
Valencia appearances: 114
Valencia goals: 0
Current club: Crystal Palace

Vicente Guaita was a back-up before 2010/11, but injuries thrust him into the spotlight that season and he performed admirably. He remained a stable and solid presence between the sticks for years and is currently performing that role superbly for Crystal Palace. Guaita is often the difference between Palace getting the points and not.


Age: 39
Valencia appearances: 215
Valencia goals: 28
Current club: Real Betis

Football’s Mr. Eternal was already a veteran back in 2011 and, like many, was in his final season at the Mestalla having thrilled up and down their wing. He is currently back at boyhood club Betis and defying the concept of entropy by looking as deadly as he has in forever. His tally of seven La Liga goals is his best return in a season since 2003, two thousand and three!

Jordi Alba

Age: 32
Valencia appearances: 110
Valencia goals: 6
Current club: Barcelona

The pocket rocket was just a wee lad coming through the ranks at Valencia in 2010/11. He was still being used on the wing in big games but also already showing hints of the talent that would take him to Barcelona<. He's still in Catalunya, now a veteran of over 350 games for the Blaugrana, with whom he has won everything available and formed a telepathic relationship with the world's finest, Leo Messi.


Age: 29
Valencia appearances: 7
Valencia goals: 2
Current club: Real Madrid

Isco was a youth product being slowly brought through the ranks in 2010/11, and his debut season with the first team went well. In fact, it went so well that he was signed, along with Joaquin, by an ambitious Malaga side. There, Isco took over, joined Real Madrid and kind of plateaued in terms of development, although he has played a role in each of Real Madrid’s four Champions League triumphs this decade. His current status in the squad seems to exist purely on the whims of Zidane, but he can still get it done.

Ever Banega

Age: 32
Valencia appearances: 176
Valencia goals: 11
Current club: Al-Shabab Riyadh

Ever Banega was a promising young playmaker back in 2011. The heir to Ruben Baraja at the heart of the Valencia midfield. That never really panned out and he’s since had two underwhelming spells outside La Liga but his two spells at Sevilla saw him hit the absolute heights of his ability — winning the Europa League twice. He’s called time on his La Liga career last summer, joining Saudi Arabian team Al-Shabab Riyadh on a three-year deal.

Roberto Soldado

Age: 35
Valencia appearances: 141
Valencia goals: 81
Current club: Granada

Roberto Soldado was absurdly potent for Valencia. He looked a terrifying combination of speed and finishing and it seemed like the world was his oyster. A move to Spurs sadly smashed that notion and even though he is currently back in La Liga with Granada, at no point has he ever looked close to recapturing the magic he had at the Mestalla.

The Retired:

Aritz Aduriz

Age: 40
Valencia appearances: 84
Valencia goals: 23
Retired in: 2020

Spanish football’s ageless wonder was forced to retire last year to undergo a hip replacement. But he did so with quite a legacy, as the oldest-ever goalscorer for La Roja.

Aduriz only really thrived once he left Valencia. He was underwhelming at the Mestalla but despite leaving at the age of 31, he’s since scored 172 goals for his hometown club Athletic Bilbao. This season, he existed only as a super-sub, coming on for the last few minutes of games. He only has one goal, but it was a storming last-second overhead kick to beat Barcelona. That’ll be the last time he ever scores in a professional setting. What a way to bow out.


Age: 40
Valencia appearances: 80
Valencia goals: 1
Retired in: 2019

Bruno left Valencia for Brighton in 2012 and then made a home for himself on the south coast, playing over 200 games for the Seagulls. He retired in 2019, having helped ensure Brighton’s survival in the Premier League.

Hedwiges Maduro

Age: 356Valencia appearances: 113
Valencia goals: 3
Retired in: 2018

Maduro was a hot prospect out of Ajax who, because of injuries, never really developed at Valencia. He meandered around Europe for the rest of the decade after leaving Valencia in 2012 before retiring in 2018.

David Albelda

Age: 43
Valencia appearances: 480
Valencia goals: 9
Retired in: 2013

Mr. Valencia was in the twilight of his career back in 2011 but his commitment to Los Che carried him through. A hard-working and solid-as-a-rock defensive midfielder, he retired in 2013 having played a massive 480 games for the club, the third-highest amount in Valencia history.


Age: 41
Valencia appearances: 218
Valencia goals: 3
Retired in: 2014

Miguel, a man as wide as he was tall, was at the end of an illustrious career back in 2011. The flying wing-back played his last full season as a starter in 2010/11. His contract expired a year later and he was released, never to play professionally again.

Jeremy Mathieu

Age: 36
Valencia appearances: 182
Valencia goals: 7
Retired in: 2020

Jeremy Mathieu was part of a spectacular double act on the left-flank with Alba. Emery’s idea of playing two left-backs but allowing them to decide which would run forward and which would cover often allowed both men to shine and cause opponents no end of problems. Mathieu then moved to centre-back, joined Barcelona and won a bunch of stuff, and is now a retired after a spell with Sporting in Portugal.

Alejandro Dominguez

Age: 39
Valencia appearances: 30
Valencia goals: 1
Retired in: 2019

Alejandro “Chori” Dominguez is a true journeyman who earned a move to Valencia by shocking Barcelona with previous club Rubin Kazan. The thing is, he never even got close to replicating that sauce in Spain and was promptly moved on. Found limited success in Greece with Olympiakos, but retired in 2018.


Age: 39
Valencia appearances: 340
Valencia goals: 52
Retired in: 2014

Vicente Rodriguez was a shadow of what he used to be. A brief couple of years in Brighton followed 2011, but injuries plagued him to the point where he retired in 2014.


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