The former skipper of the Spanish club believes they should not be underestimated by their big-spending English opponents in Wednesday night's Champions League clashEXCLUSIVE
By Rob Stewart
Former Valencia captain Gaizka Mendieta has warned Chelsea not to under-estimate their Spanish Champions League opponents even though his old club keep selling their best players.
Mendieta is certain that the La Liga side can give their wealthy Premier League rivals a run for their money at the Mestalla on Wednesday night despite having seen star playmaker Juan Mata join the Blues over the summer.
“Valencia have a tradition of having to sell their top players – such as Mata, David Silva and David Villa and Raul Albiol – but they also a philosophy that means they keep rebuilding their squad when they lose them and history shows they are successful at it,” Mendieta told Goal.com.
“They might not have won La Liga for a few years but that is very difficult when you are up against Real Madrid and Barcelona but they always seem to be near the top because they keep bouncing back. They are very smart in business.
“When someone leaves the club Valencia always seem to have a plan to make sure that it is not the end of the world because they always ensure someone is lined up and they are clever at negotiating and spend their money wisely."
He added: "Mata has gone to Chelsea but they still have very good players and I am looking forward to seeing their game. Roberto Soldado will give Chelsea plenty of problems because he is a very good striker. It should be a good game.
“They keep evolving. That is why they keep doing well and it is why they make sure that it is tough for Chelsea, especially when they have home advantage because they will go for it and take the game to Chelsea.”
The 37-year-old Mendieta captained Valencia to back-to-back Champions League finals in 2000 and 2001 but his team lost on both occasions to Real Madrid and Bayern Munich respectively.
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An attacking midfielder, he scored 45 goals in 231 appearances for Los Che before a £30 million move to Lazio that made him the sixth most expensive player in the world, and even though he is now based in London, where he works as a television pundit, he has fond memories of the Spanish club.
“I had a great time at Valencia and I played with some really great players but it is just a shame that we did not quite have enough to win the Champions League,” said Bilbao-born Mendieta, who also played for Barcelona and Middlesbrough as well as representing Spain on 40 occasions.
“It was always great playing at La Mestalla and that was a big factor in us doing so well because the atmosphere was fantastic. For me it is one of the best stadia in Europe, especially when the fans are behind you because it is such a compact ground and it almost feels that the fans are on top of you.
“There will always be a special place in my heart for Valencia and I always want to see them doing well."
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