Player Focus: Enner Valencia Shines Despite Ecuador's Early Exit


Back in 1996, Manchester United signed Karel Poborsky from Slavia Prague for a reported £3.5m. The winger was part of the Czech Republic side that made it all the way to the Euro 1996 final, only to fall to a 2-1 defeat to Germany at the last hurdle. United swooped for the winger on the back of an impressive showing at the tournament, though it’s fair to say he failed to live up to expectations at Old Trafford.


While he won a Premier League winners’ medal during his 18-month stint at the club, Poborsky never replicated his European Championship performances with United. With a certain David Beckham well on his way to global stardom, the Czech’s time in United will be remembered for all the wrong reasons.


His signing, however, highlighted the dangers of acquiring a player on the back of a major international tournament. A player can perform well for his country at the right time, securing a big money move upon the culmination of a competition, only to flop for his new side. There have been a number of stand out performers at the 2014 World Cup - Lionel Messi, Thomas Müller and Karim Benzema, to name three - but teams are often keen on a landing a player who could potentially lead them to glory, regardless of the risk.


One player who may have done enough to earn himself a transfer this summer is Ecuador talisman Enner Valencia. The 25-year-old almost single handedly dragged La Tri into the last-16 stage of the World Cup having netted all 3 of their goals in Brazil. At the time of writing, only Lionel Messi, Neymar and Thomas Müller (all 4) have netted more goals in the group stages of the competition.


Plying his trade for C.F. Pachuca in Mexico, Valencia may not have been a household name amongst those watching in Europe, but his performances in South America have seen interest in his signature increase significantly. He is believed to have caught the eye of a number of Premier League teams, despite the danger that comes with signing a player on the back of a string of fine displays for his country.


Player Focus: Enner Valencia Shines Despite Ecuador's Early Exit


His goalscoring exploits for club and country though live up to the standards expected of him. Valencia’s second goal in Ecuador’s 2-1 win over Honduras last week was his 11th in his last 9 appearances and though he failed to find a way past Hugo Lloris in the disappointing 0-0 draw with France, the midfielder-turned-striker still performed well in attack, despite namesake Antonio Valencia’s dismissal in the 50th minute.


Valencia’s average WhoScored rating (7.52) was bettered only by goalkeeper Alexander Domínguez (7.66) of every Ecuador player in the group stages, though Domínguez’s rating is likely to have been boosted by his impressive display against France. England can testify to his ability after he headed the opener in the 2-2 pre-World Cup friendly draw in Miami and his average rating reflects the quality of his displays in Brazil, which saw him take a place in the highest rated XI of Group E.


While originally a midfielder, the capability to get into decent goalscoring positions is what has won him the adulation of his peers. Valencia has scored the most clear-cut goalscoring opportunities (3) at the World Cup and has missed just the 1. Not only is the Ecuador star capable to finding the space to be picked out by teammates in front of goal, but he is prolific when needed in these particular situations.


Valencia’s conversion rate (37.5%) ranks amongst the best of the 20 players to score at least 2 goals at the World Cup, while that return is better than top World Cup goalscorers Messi (28.6%) and Neymar (36.4%). Playing for Argentina and Brazil, respectively, the service provided for Messi and Neymar dwarfs that of Ecuador. While Reinaldo Rueda’s side boast the likes of Antonio Valencia and Christian Noboa, the lack of quality in depth compared to their South American counterparts makes Enner Valencia’s goalscoring exploits in Brazil all the more commendable.


The Pachuca ace may not be playing in one of Europe’s top leagues, but his form in Brazil has certainly attracted attention from scouts on the continent. There are reservations, of course, that he may not be able to transfer his performances from the World Cup to domestic action in a stronger league than Liga MX.


However, provided he can be signed relatively cheaply, a player of Valencia’s calbire is worth taking a risk on, though his asking price is likely to have risen on the back of his displays for the national team at the World Cup.


Do you think Enner Valencia's performances at the World Cup will earn him a big summer transfer? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below