Valencia left light by Birmingham and Villa

Birmingham City and Tottenham Hotspur fans must be rubbing their hands together with glee at the tantalising prospect of witnessing Nikola Zigic enter into combat with Peter Crouch at set pieces in games between the two clubs next season.

At a slightly lower altitude, but perhaps a higher plane of technical ability, it will also be fascinating to see what Jose Mourinho does to stop Barcelona’s new superstar David Villa from breaching his new Real Madrid defence next season. The new boss at the Bernabeu may end up wishing that this headline from last summer had actually reflected, y’know, real-life events and stuff.

Away from El Clasico, and a lot further away from St Andrew’s and White Hart Lane, Manuel Llorente will probably care little about the exploits of Villa and Zigic. The Valencia president has a distinct gap to fill as a result of their departures over the past fortnight. Try spotting a ‘FW’ among this lot.

To say the club is in a transitional period would be an understatement. Los Ches have Champions League football to look forward to, as a result of finishing just the twenty-eight points behind Barcelona. However, they are saddled with massive debts and only staved off enforced relegation as recently as August last year.

Llorente’s steadfast refusal to sell Villa last season, albeit after some flirtation with the idea of selling El Guaje to one of the big two, ensured that David Silva and Juan Mata both stayed. The gamble worked to the furthest extent that it could, with Valencia comfortably attaining a top four spot, but the debts are still there and the new stadium has not arrived.

Time to tighten the belts, then. Time to sell off the family silver and rebuild on a massive scale. Valencia will not miss Zigic too much. The gigantic targetman was seldom used last season and the £6million received from Birmingham was good money for a 29-year-old substitute.

Quirkily, it is the second time in twelve months that Llorente has ended his working relationship with a gigantic Serbian athlete. Before commencing his current term at the helm last summer, he was president of Valencia’s basketball team containing the 7 ft 2 in Kosta Perovic. Following the sale of the relatively miniature Zigic, Llorente will be hoping that his replacement does not cost a packet. have been fortunate to hold onto the likes of Vicente and Joaquin, despite the prominence of attacking midfielders Silva, Mata and Pablo Hernandez. Keeping any three of these five should be enough to remain competitive both in La Liga and the Champions League. Coach Unai Emery will, in all likelihood, be able to bring the best out of the likes of Silva and Pablo Hernandez in a more advanced position, should both stay.

Mata has recently been linked with making the same journey up the coast that Villa has already embarked upon, while Los Ches have confirmed the signing of highly-rated Grenoble youngster Sofiane Feghouli, surely not the first, tenth or hundredth player to labelled ‘the new Zidane’. Emery will be hoping that the young Frenchman does not turn out to be the new Adel Taarabt.

Filling Villa’s boots will be something rather trickier altogether. In January, the rumours spoke of Villarreal forward Nilmar as a replacement for the man from the Asturias. By last week, this had become Andre-Pierre Gignac in an article which also mentions Getafe’s Roberto Soldado and Lorient forward Kevin Gameiro as potential signings. The French market is certainly one familiar to Valencia’s scouts, Feghouli joining fellow Frenchman Jeremy Mathieu at the Mestalla.

In addition to the embarrassment of attacking riches at Barcelona and Real Madrid’s disposal, other top Spanish clubs are able to call on a wealth of strikers. Sevilla, final-day Champions League qualifiers at the expense of Mallorca, have the ubiquitous Luis Fabiano, Fredi Kanoute and Alvaro Negredo available as well as Javier Chevanton and Arouna Kone returning from loan. Europa League winners Atletico Madrid possess not just Diego Forlan and Sergio Aguero but also the promising youngsters Eduardo Salvio and Ibrahima Balde.

Valencia, on the other hand, have many to supply the goods but no-one to pay the bills. Wanted: one world-class centre forward. Minimal cost attached. Apply within.

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David Bevan

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