Le50 2017 – Valentín Vada
Bordeaux’s ambitious Proyecto Crecer, an academy system located in Argentina, has, to date, yielded little in the way of concrete results. Emiliano Sala was a product of the programme, but never made much of an impact with Bordeaux, eventually being sold to Nantes after various loan spells. The project, a joint venture between Newell’s Old Boys and the French side, seemed as if it was a poor attempt at rekindling Bordeaux’s former glory days, when Fernando Cavenaghi and Juan Pablo Francia were key elements of les Girondins’ attack.
That would have been a fair assessment until the current season, at least. Under former Guingamp boss Jocelyn Gourvennec, Bordeaux started the season poorly, with Jérémy Menez and Diego Rolan seemingly undroppable despite their poor performances. After languishing in mid-table, using a stuttering diamond 4-4-2, Gourvennec switched to a traditional 4-3-3 and began privileging the team’s cadre of young players, including the attacking trident of Gaetan Laborde, Francois Kamano and Malcom. Although that trio certainly caught the eye with their goal-scoring and ability on the ball, another youngster’s play may be even more important.
A product of Crecer who has been in France since 2010, but ineligible to feature owing to FIFA regulations, Valentín Vada has emerged as one of Ligue 1’s breakout stars this season, playing on the right of central midfield in that 4-3-3. Compact and stocky, his powerful runs and ability to keep the ball have been integral to Bordeaux’s new approach, allowing Jérémy Toulalan and Younousse Sankharé to take up more defensive roles. Indeed, there can be times where that 4-3-3 often resembles more of a 4-2-3-1, with Vada acting as a playmaker, such is his proclivity for being the team’s attacking fulcrum.
Unafraid to run at opponents with the ball at his feet or have a shot from range, Vada plays with a mix of bravado and skill that has made Bordeaux one of the league’s most attractive sides to watch in 2017. It is no coincidence, perhaps, that he admitted to idolizing the great Juán Román Riquelmé in a recent interview with ligue1.com. Unlike Riquelmé, Vada isn’t, strictly speaking, a flair player. However, like many younger players in skill positions, he can sometimes be guilty of a bit of overconfidence, and he could also do better to adopt a more defensive mindset towards the latter stages of matches: he is often substituted late on with Bordeaux looking to preserve a result.
Building fitness (Vada had first become a regular towards the end of the 2015/16 season, but struggled with an abductor injury suffered early this season) and a more flexible approach to a given situation will come with time, but for the present he has all the tools to continue to be a player to watch. He is superb at set pieces, has a great range of passing and is also a regular threat to score, with six goals in the league.
Used in a box-to-box role, he will need to sharpen his defensive instincts as well, but could see even further success played at the tip of a diamond in a 4-4-2 or as an orthodox number ten. For now, though, with less than 3,000 professional minutes played and Vada still just 21, there is time for all of this to change, and his play should be savoured in part for its rawer, unpredictable qualities.