Ahead of Chelsea's trip to Spain to play Valencia in the Champions League on Wednesday night, we investigate the threat that young playmaker Sergio Canales will pose to the Premier League club.
Player: Sergio Canales
Date of birth: February 16, 1991 (age 20)
Place of birth: Santander
Height: 1.73m (5ft 9in)
Current club: Valencia (on loan from Real Madrid)
Former club: Racing Santander
|Background: When Valencia welcome Chelsea to the Mestalla for Wednesday's Champions League fixture they will gaze enviously across the turf and see resplendent in blue a player who until this summer had been their main creative force: Juan Mata.The Spain international's £26 million move to Stamford Bridge in August deprived Valencia of another key attacker, just 12 months after the financially-crippled club had been relieved of David Villa and David Silva by Barcelona and Manchester City respectively.
But under Unai Emery, a consistent talent drain has not resulted in a downturn in Valencia's fortunes. They have lost only one of five league games and other players have taken the chance to shine in the wake of star departures. One such emerging talent is Canales, signed on loan from Real Madrid this summer in a move designed to rejuvenate a career that stalled for a year at the Bernabeu.
Because just over 18 months ago, Canales emerged from obscurity to become one of the most desirable young talents in European football. When the teenager scored two high-quality goals for his hometown club Racing Santander against Sevilla in December 2010 he became a YouTube sensation.
In his breakthrough La Liga season of 2009-10 he was involved in 10 goals (scoring six and claiming four assists) - the youngest player to reach double figures across the top five European leagues. His precociousness convinced Real Madrid to pay around 5m euros to sign the playmaker at the end of the season.
But introduced to a squad that included Mesut Ozil and Kaka, Canales struggled to make an impact under Jose Mourinho, completing 90 minutes on only two occasions. His only assist for Madrid came in March 2011 when teeing up Cristiano Ronaldo in a game against Malaga.
So it was to Valencia that he turned in an effort to enjoy regular football as the Spain youth international moved to the Mestalla on a two-year loan deal. He has already become an important player for the Che, playing off striker Roberto Soldado in a classic No. 10 position, and could well be Valencia's key creative influence against Chelsea.
|Analysis: (from Valencia 2-2 Barcelona on September 21)4' - Though playing through the centre in support of Soldado, Canales displays his inclination to drift out to the left flank when racing to close down Javier Mascherano by the touchline.
6' - Tasked with set-piece duties, the 20-year-old delivers a dangerous free-kick from the left wing. However Adil Rami's appeals for a penalty are ignored after he is sandwiched between two Barca shirts.
12' - Frenchman Jeremy Mathieu finds space on the left wing and delivers a teasing cross. Both Canales and Soldado race into the box and, under extreme pressure, Eric Abidal turns the ball into his own net.
16' - Abidal is caught in possession by Canales, who accelerates away and squares for Jordi Alba in an instance when he is not bypassed by Barcelona's metronomic midfield.
29' - Canales shows his impressive technique when controlling a flick-on, racing away from Mascherano and forcing Abidal into making an important clearance in the Barcelona box.
31' - The midfielder produces a glorious back-heeled pass to release Alba and then follows up to block from Carles Puyol after Barcelona retain possession.
49' - Alba intercepts a slack pass from Cesc Fabregas and feeds Canales in the left channel. He turns a quick pass into the path of Soldado but Valencia cannot test Victor Valdes.
52' - Canales arrives at the near post to meet a cut-back from Pablo but he can't get his boot to the ball.
57' - The midfielder shows his combative side when snapping into an excellent tackle on Sergio Busquets to win possession deep in the Valencia half.
64' - His run in behind the Barcelona defence is perfectly timed, but Ever Banega gets his pass all wrong.
69' - Emery replaces him with Jonas and Canales gets a generous reception from the Mestalla.
Approximate value: £12m