It’s easy to start ignoring transfer "rumors" after a while, especially one as seemingly strange as the idea that Victor Valdes, a Cule born and bred, would leave his comfortable home in Barcelona.
No one really believed it to be true, and yet the shocking news has been made official by the player’s representatives.
Less than a week ago, Sporting Director Andoni Zubizarreta seemed confident his fellow keeper would renew, describing the negotiations as "well-advanced."
Sure, Valdes had said he wanted to "experience other cultures" at one point, but the Blaugrana front office were confident he meant much later in life.
"I don't worry about Valdes saying he wants to experience other cultures," President Sandro Rosell rationalized just a few days ago. "I believe he wants to start and finish here."
But Valdes’s agents have released a statement that the shot-stopper has made an "irrevocable decision" to leave when his contract expires in 2014.
The goalkeeper has been a subject of some controversy despite his long and successful run in the Barca colors, and in light of this, one can see why he would be tempted to prove himself in another club.
"The Panther of Hospitalet" won a record five Zamora Trophies for best La Liga keeper, including the past four. He also had started and won three Champions League finals for Barcelona, out of a total four the team has ever won.
Yet, he was chastised for his sometimes-erratic play, including a notable incident in the Supercup this season in which he allowed Real Madrid’s Angel Di Maria to swindle the ball from him for a vital away goal that swung the tie.
His critics would point out that, playing for Barcelona, he does not face too many shots and thus his Zamora record is more a reflection on his teammates' performance than his own brilliance.
It’s easy to see why Valdes would perhaps want to prove himself in a different team, to defy this very criticism.
Now, Barcelona must look for a replacement. It’s fair to say the management was not quite prepared for this circumstance, although they do have more than a year before Valdes’s current deal runs out.
Club insiders apparently described the meeting in which Valdes detailed his plans as "surreal" and "very disappointing." However, they say they will remain calm as they begin their search for a new player.