Gaizka Mendieta, who captained Valencia CF to two successive UEFA Champions League finals, is to join FC Barcelona on loan from S.S. Lazio for next season, with a view to making a permanent move next summer.
The Spanish international, twice European midfield player of the year, is due to arrive in Catalonia today and will undergo a medical tomorrow before being presented as a Barcelona player. Lazio paid Valencia €40m for Mendieta last year but he failed to find the form that made him one of the most respected playmakers in Europe and such an outstanding performer for Spain at EURO 2000™.
On the sidelines
He spent much of last season on the sidelines in Italy, and was close to sealing a move to Barcelona in June. But the deal broke down over a clause in his contract which said that a penalty of €12m would have to be paid to his former club if he moved back to Spain before 2003. Valencia agreed to reduce that amount last week, giving the green light for Barcelona to make a renewed bid.
Mendieta told El Mundo Deportivo: "Barcelona are one of the biggest clubs in the world and it is something very important to wear their famous blue and purple shirts. It means I am returning to the Spanish league and I am also excited about that. There is no doubt that any player in the world would want to go to a club like Barcelona. They always aspire for the maximum and to win all the titles there are.
"The most important thing you need to play at your best is the confidence of the coach and to have the continuity I didn't get at Lazio," he added. "That's why I am excited to have a coach like Louis van Gaal, who has confidence in me. I know he wanted me for his team and it is vital for a player to feel important. I am sure I will be the player I was at Valencia."
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