A couple of weeks ago, I had watched the match between Manchester United and Liverpool FC. A mixture of nostalgia and sadness hit me when the cameraman panned over the Man Utd. bench and I saw Victor Valdés watching from the sidelines. One of Barcelona’s most decorated and respected goalkeepers, Valdés signed with the Manchester club on a free transfer this past January. His season was cut short last year, missing the final eight games, after having torn his anterior crucial ligament. It was a sad conclusion to a colourful career for the man who started his career at the club in 1992, at the age of 10.
Growing up at la Masia through the youth levels, Valdés was given his chance at the first team, under then coach Louis Van Gaal, in 2002. He became the full-time starting keeper the following season. Valdés went on to play in over 500 official appearances for the Catalan club. He is the current record holder for appearances as a goalkeeper, winning 21 major titles along the way. He is also one of the most successful goalkeepers in Barca history, winning la Liga six times, the Champions League on three occasions, two Copa del Reys, and 2 FIFA Club World Cups. Valdés holds the record for having won the most Zamora trophies (the trophy is awarded yearly to the best keeper in la Liga). Valdés was also involved with the Spanish national team, but mostly as a backup to Iker Casillas and Pepe Reina. He made 20 appearances for la Roja, being a part of the 2010 FIFA World Cup and 2012 UEFA European Cup winning squads.
Thinking of Valdés made me wonder about Barcelona’s current starting goalkeeper, Claudio Bravo. Bravo was a stand out performer during the 2014 FIFA World Cup. He solidified his status as a reliable goalkeeper on the biggest stage, which earned himself a €12 million transfer to the Camp Nou.
Bravo has been stellar so far this season. The Chilean captain started the 2014-2015 season by breaking the record of not conceding a goal for 754 consecutive minutes. He has made 29 appearances in la Liga, winning 23 games, tying two, and losing four. Barcelona is currently at the top of the la Liga table and looks likely to end the season as champions.
I was curious to see how Bravo’s first season at Barcelona compares to Valdés’ past two seasons at the club. I will look at Bravo’s stats from his last two seasons, at Real Sociedad, for a clearer head-to-head comparison with Valdés, seeing as Valdés hasn’t played a professional game this season. I will be comparing games from La Liga because Valdés has made many more appearances in the UEFA Champions League and the Copa del Rey than Bravo.
Victor Valdés made 31 appearances in la Liga, with a 26-3-1 record, finishing in first place and winning la Liga. Claudio Bravo, playing for Real Sociedad at the time, also made 31 appearances, with a 16-10-6 record, finishing in fourth place and a spot in the following years’ UEFA Champions League.
Valdés had 8 clean sheets, 1.06 average goals conceded, made 1.55 saves per game and 1.50 saves per goal, with a 94% claim success. In comparison, Bravo had 9 clean sheets, 1.29 average goals conceded, made 2.74 saves per game and 2.13 saves per goal, with a 97% claim success. Bravo had more clean sheets and had made more saves than Valdés, but he let in more goals, during the 2012-2013 seasons.
Winner 2012/2013: Claudio Bravo
Victor Valdés made 26 appearances in la Liga, missing out on the final eight games due to injury. He had a 20-3-3 record, which helped Barca keep up in the title race for La Liga, only to finish second, losing out to eventual champions Atletico Madrid on the final fixture of the season. Claudio Bravo, in his final season at Real Sociedad, made 37 appearances, with a 16-11-10 record, finishing in 7th place and a spot in the third qualifying round for the UEFA Europa League.
Valdés had 13 clean sheets, 0.81 average goals conceded, made 2.31 saves per game and 3.00 saves per goal, with a 94% claim success. Bravo had 12 clean sheets, 1.41 average goals conceded, 2.70 saves per game and 1.92 saves per goal, with a 96% claim success. Valdés had one more clean sheet than Bravo, he conceded fewer goals and made more saves compared to Bravo.
Winner 2013/2014: Victor Valdés
When comparing the two seasons, we must consider that Valdés played for a stronger overall team than Bravo, which most likely had a positively greater impact on Valdés’ statistics. A better defense allows fewer "good" shots on net from opposition strikers and they give their keeper more confidence in his own abilities.
Claudio Bravo has made 29 appearances in la Liga so far this season, with nine games remaining to be played. Barcelona is currently at the top of the standings with 71 points, four ahead of Real Madrid, and nine ahead of Atletico Madrid. Bravo has 16 clean sheets, 0.59 average goals conceded, made 1.66 saves per games and 3.20 saves per goal, with a 88% claim success. Comparing with his two previous seasons with Sociedad, he has let in fewer goals and has a better save average. This is proof that playing on a team with a strong defensive group can lead to better goalkeeping statistics. Bravo’s first season at Barcelona has so far been statistically better than Valdés’ last two seasons. Hopefully he can help the team to win some trophies this year.
Victor Valdés is a legend at FC Barcelona. He grew up at La Masia and excelled with the first team, winning many club and international trophies along the way. He is the holder of several club records and will be forever remembered as one of the best keepers to wear the blaugrana jersey. Claudio Bravo, in his first season at the Camp Nou, has so far performed brilliantly. He has been the best keeper in Spain this season and he has been an important factor in Barca’s treble aspirations this season. He is currently outperforming Valdés statistically, but there are still seven left in la Liga. Although it is highly unlikely that Claudio Bravo will achieve Valdés’ hero status at the club, he is more than capable of protecting our goal. Hopefully he will maintain his form for the next couple of seasons and bring success and pride to this glorious club.
*All statistics come from www.squawka.com
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