Confirmation of Jonathan Viera’s transfer to Valencia from UD Las Palmas came as little surprise, the deal had been talked about for quite some time and when Viera rejected an offer from Granada in January it became apparent he already had a deal elsewhere without another club. After all, the Andalucían club had offered Viera and UDLP more money but the player had other priorities, namely joining a big club. He’d also been the subject of Villarreal and Málaga approaches a year earlier.
Valencia eventually came to Gran Canaria, and they did so often. Braulio Vázquez and other figures from Valencia’s scouting department had been regulars at the Estadio Gran Canaria. They weren’t alone though as other Primera División and European based (Chelsea included) scouts watched on, looking to pick the Canary Islanders finest cantera produce. Valencia looked at him elsewhere throughout this season for good measure, including Las Palmas’ trips to Elche and Numancia, to assess the mentality of the 22-year-old.
What they saw in Viera, is a confident individual harnesses wonderful technical ability. Most importantly, collectively someone who can address the issues of balance in an often lopsided looking Valencia. Viera has a wonderful ability to drift effortlessly from his starting position, offering decisive movement both on and off the ball. Throughout his time at UDLP there was debate as where he was best suited, some felt in a wide left berth driving inside while others cited his ability to gain an overview of the final third from an advanced position in attacking midfield. I think the former is where Valencia sees him, though as Sergio Canales has shown in a Valencia shirt there will be a license to drop deep and start moves from central positions. He’s switched to the right on occasions too, but this has been extremely seldom and never from a starting position. Buying him as a right-sided player would be a surprise.
It is in that final third he does his finest work however. Viera will provide combination play with the full-back and various attacking players, exchanging one-two’s and darting between the lines. Juan Mata’s role before his departure took all of this on board, and Viera is capable of offering similar. Though not harnessing the level of pace Jordi Alba does, he can offer it in short bursts and instead uses intelligence and technical ability to evade opponents, allowing them to make the first mistake. He feints frequently with his right foot, working in tandem with his hips to deceive before driving into the penalty area in a straight or lateral movement. This use of body leverage explains the ‘Romario’ tag he’s been handed by UDLP supporters.
With the same right foot he can whip in excellent delivery from dead balls, be it corners or free-kicks, and can do similar while the ball is in rotation. Valencia have missed the presence of a figure who can provide impetus from the first defensive out ball, and Viera will look to provide that as he can switch effortlessly between a high and slowed down tempo. At UDLP he’s featured in a 4-3-3 and more often a 4-2-3-1, and there is a good chance Valencia will be playing one of those formations next season under whomever their new coach will be.
Viera’s figures are excellent too; he currently has 9 goals in his 28 starts, along with 12 assists. He’s not afraid of shooting either, hammering 85 efforts in making him the fourth most active Segunda player in this category. When he’s been absent, UDLP have been hit hard and it was no coincidence when he was suspended recently they failed to find the net in two games.
I wrote a piece in 2011 on the player, in which we saw much more rawness and less understanding of team duties. He’s worked on that area of his game since, and will need to much harder given the step up in both quality and pressure in the Primera División. Pablo Piatti came from another team in the Primera who had different expectations, and the Argentinean has had a difficult season overall, sometimes lacking the intelligence when it was most required. Viera will need to be wary of this too as upon joining Valencia it will be only his 3rd competitive season in Spanish football since debuting in 2010/2011.
Despite the many positives listed there are concerns. Viera’s mentality at times has come into question, firstly on the field as he’s looked disinterested and fades from games for long spells. Off the field his attitude has been questioned too, with several reports of late night drinking in some of the Canary Islands’ liveliest nightclubs. These are factors prevalent with players from the Canary Islands without wanting to generalise too harshly, and many clubs have had problems over the years in this regard.
Viera has finally got the move he’s craved since he was a young boy, wanting to play at one of Spain’s giants. Now, he must back up the claims that he will focus and work had, because his level of natural ability will be rendered irrelevant unless he does so.
The elegant Canary Islander has finally flown the nest as many expected he would, the level of work he puts in from now on will be the decisive factor in whether he’ll continue to soar at Mestalla.
“Jonathan Viera is an extremely talented player. To continue on and be a great player, he must be willling to work hard” – Manchester City’s David Silva in Diario Las Palmas, 2011.