La Liga Legends: Gaizka Mendieta

Today we would like to remember one of the most legendary players of Valencia CF, the one and only Gaizka Mendieta.

Gaizka Mendieta was born on 27 March 1974 in Bilbao. He started his professional career at CD Castellon, playing as a full-back in the Segunda Division.

It took him only 16 appearances to announce himself as one of the most talented players in Spanish football. Valencia secured his signature in 1992, but the 18-year old spent the vast majority of his first year with the reserves, making his first-team debut in June 1993 against Cadiz.

Mendieta quickly became a regular first-team player, while his breakthrough season came in 1997-98 when Claudio Ranieri deployed him to central midfield.

The Spaniard scored 10 goals in his 30 appearances in La Liga, establishing himself as the leader of Valencia FC.

He developed in an all-around midfielder, who had an excellent technique, top tackling skills, and great vision, as he was capable of creating goals both for himself and his teammates.

Mendieta guided Los Ches to a Copa del Rey triumph in the next season, netting five times in seven games, including the second goal in the 3-0 victory over Atletico Madrid in the final.

In 2000 and 2001 Valencia, driven forward by their skipper Gaizka Mendieta reached the final of the Champions League, only to suffer defeats from Real Madrid and Bayern Munich respectively.

The Spaniard was named the best European midfielder for both seasons, as he scored five in 1999-00 and four in 2000-01 on the way to the final. He also netted the opener in the 2001 Champions League Final against Bayern, but Los Ches lost the game after a very intense penalty shootout.

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In the summer of 2001, Mendieta was on top of European football. He was one of best the midfielders in the game and a regular first-team player in the Spanish national team.

On 19 July, Italian giants Lazio, looking for a replacement for Pavel Nedved who had just joined Juventus, paid €47.7 million to Valencia for Mendieta, making him the most expensive Spanish player and sixth costliest footballer of all time.

Unfortunately, his move to Seria A didn’t work out, as Mendieta didn’t manage to get a goal in his first season with the Biancocelesti.

Valencia at the other hand, won the Spanish league in the first season without their captain, finishing seven points clear of second-placed Deportivo La Coruna.

The Spaniard was loaned to Barcelona for the 2002-03 season and to Middlesbrough in the following year. He picked up his form in England, leading Boro to a League Cup triumph in his first season at Riverside.

They signed him permanently in 2004, but a string of injuries, including one which caused him to miss the 2006 UEFA Cup Final kept the midfielder away from the football grounds in the final four years of his career.

Gaizka Mendieta retired in 2008. He will always be remembered as one of the greatest players in the history of Valencia CF and Spanish football.

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