We take a closer look at full-back José Gayà, barely 18 months into his senior career but already tipped as a future Valencia CF captain and tracked by Vicente del Bosque.
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UEFA.com continues its weekly wonderkid feature by looking at Valencia CF's highly-rated defender José Gayà.
They say …
"He is a player for the now, he's showing his quality and for that he's a starter for Valencia. We have him in mind; at the moment he is with the Under-21s, and in the next few months we will see the steps he can take."
Vicente del Bosque, Spain coach
"Gayà will sign a new deal and stay at Valencia. He will not be going to Real Madrid."
Amadeo Salvo, Valencia president
"He is, as he always is, relaxed and ready for the next game. Gayà is a Valencia player and he's happy here. He is Valencia through and through, and nobody should doubt that."
Nuno Espírito Santo, Valencia coach
"Gayà is a strong character, he is focused, he gives his all on the pitch and nobody can take that away from him."
André Gómes, Valencia team-mate
Born just down the coast in Alicante, Gayà joined the Valencia youth system aged 11 and came through the ranks at a club that has developed world-class left-backs Jordi Alba and Juan Bernat in its academy in the past decade.
He debuted for Los Ché in a UEFA Europa League game against FC Rubin Kazan on 12 December 2013 aged 18, before making his first Liga appearance last April. New coach Nuno Espírito Santo has put full faith in Gayà, confirming the youngster as first-choice left-back. His performances – spanning 29 Liga outings this term – have warranted that confidence, prompting media speculation about interest from Real Madrid CF among others.
Playing style …
Full of speed and stamina, Gayà effortlessly bombs up and down the left wing, aiding his side in attack without abandoning his defensive brief. He has all the ingredients (and more) expected of the modern-day full-back, boasting excellent technique, a frightening turn of pace and a terrific cross, so it is not hard to see why he is so highly regarded in his homeland.
Shades of …
With Gayà, the obvious comparisons are to fellow Valencia graduates Alba and Bernat, given he possesses very similar qualities to both as a marauding left-footer full of pace and trickery. The player himself cites Alba and German FIFA World Cup-winning captain Philipp Lahm as his footballing heroes.
Eureka moment …
With the departures of Bernat to FC Bayern München and Jérémy Mathieu to FC Barcelona, Gayà was given the chance to show his worth as a regular start. The teenager grasped it with both hands, starting 26 times in the Liga this campaign. Gayà scored his first – and, to date, only – Valencia goal in a 3-0 home win against Córdoba CF in September. With his side already leading, the No31 latched onto a loose ball towards the left edge of the box, thumping it first time past a helpless Juan Carlos.
Best-case scenario …
Capped at every age group up to, and including, U21, the 19-year-old will hope to make his senior bow for Spain soon; should he keep up his remarkable standards for Valencia, there is no reason why not. His talent, coupled with the fact he is a local, means he has been tipped as a future Valencia captain. However, whether or not they can hold onto him may dictate that.
He says …
"Personally, things could not have gone better for me. I'm young, but I think I'm ready and I am only thinking about continuing to improve. There's still things for me to learn, but I'm on the right path."