Reinstated Rodrigo De Paul Shows Why His Creativity Is So Essential For Valencia In Draw vs Barca

Rodrigo De Paul Valencia

It was great to see Valencia’s wildly talented Argentine, Rodrigo De Paul, brought back in from the cold after being ostracised by former Valencia manager, Nuno Espirito Santo.

The timing couldn’t have been better either. With new manager, Gary Neville, watching from the stands for the Bats’ colossal clash with league leaders Barcelona, De Paul put in a hugely encouraging shift that would’ve unquestionably endeared him to his new boss.

His situation had become so frustrating under Nuno that there were even murmurings around the city he could be leaving in January. But with the sacking of the charismatic Portuguese, all of a sudden De Paul finds himself in a much more positive situation.

“I was calm and I am happy to be part of this club, he told Valencia’s official website after the hard fought 1-1 draw.

“Today the team were more released.”

Released was certainly the right choice of word, for De Paul cut an enthusiastic and confident figure in the wake of Nuno’s departure, in what was arguably his side’s biggest match of the season. Despite being thrown in at the deep end by stand-in manager Voro, he didn’t let himself become overawed by the occasion, instead letting his feet and work-rate do the talking.

From his station out on the left, De Paul utilised his wicked blend of pace, power, directness and creativity to make a real nuisance of himself for Luis Enrique’s men.

The technically sublime De Paul showed how he can hurt any side with his ability to inflict harm on any opposition in a multitude of ways. Even the best team in Europe often struggled to cope with his enviable skillset.

Blessed with razor sharp ball control, his ability to twist and turn out of trouble, and execute accurate intricate passes, in tight spaces ensured he coped beautifully despite being placed under heavy pressure by Barcelona.

For a team short on creativity in the final third such as Valencia, he definitely added another dimension to his team’s attacking passages. Having a man who can pass, beat his marker and resist opposition pressure should prove vital for Los Ches in the future.

To match his marvellous work with the ball, his exceptional movement without it coupled to make certain Barcelona had a torrid time defending him. While his sheer speed and acceleration in transition caused the away side many headaches, it was his intelligent movement in front of, and behind, the Barca midfield that really showcased what a crafty footballer he is.

When drifting in from the flank, De Paul cleverly scanned and made great decisions as to where best to position himself for the benefit of his team and to the detriment of the opposition. He made fine use of the little pockets of space in and around Ivan Rakitic and Sergio Busquets, plus he’d also enjoy floating just in front of the Barca centre-backs.

When receiving nearby Barca’s two central defenders, Javier Mascherano and Gerard Pique, he confronted them with a crucial decision: whather to step up and mark him or to hold their position? More often than not, especially in Pique’s case, they’d be forced to step up and mark him, which meant even if De Paul didn’t inherit possession, he created additional space for Paco Alcacer to exploit with one of the Blaugrana stoppers being pulled out of position.

Moreover, his defensive exertions were also first-rate. He tracked his direct opponent, Dani Alves, diligently and assisted his left-back, Jose Gaya, with the marking duties on danger man Lionel Messi. Their constant communication was key to this, as Gaya would bark instructions to De Paul and tell him who and where to go to. All in all they did a pretty good job limiting Messi’s influence on the contest, with Valencia’s compact defensive setup forcing him to drop deeper and deeper to get involved as the game wore on.

Such astute adherence to abide by Voro’s defensive stucture suitably demonstrated how well concentrated and disciplined he remained throughout, while his pressing was a joy to behold whenever the appropriate trigger presented itself.

Before being substituted to a round of applause by the passionate fans inside the Mestalla in the 83rd minute, he actually switched to left central midfield for a 10 minute spell, aptly demonstrating his flexibility and versatility.

All things considered, De Paul’s performance highlighted what an exciting player he is and gave a terrific insight into how important a player he should be for Gary Neville’s new look Valencia.

“On Monday we will receive Gary Neville in the best possible way and we will do our best to work well with him,” De Paul explained.

Neville will surely relish the opportunity to work with such a sensational youngster like De Paul, who’s got all the attributes needed to animate things for him in the final third. His creativity, ingenuity, unpredictability and incision have sorely been missed at times this season.

Now with Nuno removed from the equation, expect De Paul to shine under Neville’s management. After all, he’s far too good to be idly wasting away on the bench.