Legends of LALIGA: Juan Carlos Valerón, the magic midfielder who became a hero in Las Palmas and La Coruña

Valerón became a legend at Deportivo de La Coruña before returning to the Canary Islands and his boyhood club UD Las Palmas, where his professionalism made an impact on current Amarillos player Sandro.
juan carlos valeron

(Football news) Born and raised in the town of Arguineguín in the Canary Islands, Juan Carlos Valerón probably didn’t imagine that he’d go on to become one of the all-time club legends of Deportivo de La Coruña, the team from the Galician city located some 1,855 kilometres away. But, that’s exactly what happened as the Canary Islander went on to make the fourth-most appearances in the history of Dépor.

As a youngster, Valerón’s dream was simply to play for the football club of his island, UD Las Palmas. He achieved this dream too, although it wasn’t easy. With Arguineguín located on the opposite side of the island of Gran Canaria from the UD Las Palmas facilities, opportunities to impress the club’s scouts were few and far between. It was actually when some of Los Amarillos’ talent-spotters came to take a look at Valerón’s older brother, Miguel Ángel, that the young Juan Carlos was also able to catch their eye and earn a place in the prestigious UD Las Palmas academy.

After rising through the ranks and impressing with the club’s B team, the midfielder made his debut for UD Las Palmas’ first team at the beginning of the 1995/96 season, when Los Amarillos were down in the third tier of Spanish football. Playing alongside big brother Miguel Ángel, the experience of representing the island’s team was made even more special, and that season ended with promotion to LALIGA HYPERMOTION level.

By the summer of 1997, Valerón’s talent was well-known and he was signed by another island club, RCD Mallorca, ready to make his debut at LALIGA EA SPORTS level. After impressing there and after forming part of the Spain squad that won the 1998 UEFA European Under-21 Championship, another transfer materialised, this time to Atlético de Madrid. Los Colchoneros were going through a turbulent period and were relegated at the end of the 1999/2000 season, but Valerón certainly wasn’t to blame and his performances earned him a move to the newly crowned Spanish champions, Deportivo de La Coruña.

The Valerón and Dépor love story

It was at the Estadio Riazor, almost 2,000 kilometres away from the Canary Islands, that Valerón felt most at home in a football sense. Under the coaching of Javier Irureta, Valerón was the perfect midfielder for that Súper Dépor side, able to showcase his range of talents. Technically brilliant, tactically aware, brave as anyone and a master of the pause before a pass, Valerón was both an artist and a machine. Not only was his play aesthetically pleasing, but it was effective and he helped Deportivo de La Coruña to pick up another Copa del Rey and Spanish Super Cup.

On a personal level, his best season was surely the 2003/04 campaign, in which Deportivo de La Coruña reached the semi-finals of the Champions League, enjoying epic night after epic night at the Estadio Riazor. The most legendary game was when the Galician outfit overturned a 4-1 away loss at AC Milan by winning 4-0 at home in their quarter-final second leg, a game in which Valerón bossed the centre of the pitch and etched his name on the scoresheet.

As the years passed, injuries reduced his playing time. In 2010/11, when the team was relegated from LALIGA EA SPORTS level, the midfielder barely surpassed 1,000 minutes, which goes a long way to explaining the team’s struggles. Despite the relegation, Valerón remained loyal and stayed, spending his 12th season at the Estadio Riazor at LALIGA HYPERMOTION level. “I’m just as excited to play for Dépor in the second tier as I am to play for the national team,” he stated after that relegation, which meant a lot considering Valerón relished every one of his 46 Spain caps.

The decision to stay paid off, as Valerón and Dépor won the LALIGA HYPERMOTION title and promotion, before he stayed for one final top-flight campaign in Galicia, that of 2012/13.

An emotional return to UD Las Palmas

In the summer of 2013, Valerón decided to return to his native Gran Canaria and to UD Las Palmas, a team he hadn’t played for by this point in 16 years. Los Amarillos were in the second tier when he made his comeback and the midfielder was one of the best players in the division, helping the islanders to promotion in 2014/15, before staying on for one final experience of LALIGA EA SPORTS in 2015/16, after which he hung up his boots at the age of 40.

Those final three seasons with his hometown team made quite an impression on the youngsters of the island, and even on other Canary Island footballers such as Sandro Ramírez. Recalling the career of Valerón for LALIGA, Sandro stated: “I remember it and I would describe him in one word. He was magic. He was always there and always gave his all for the badge and for his hometown club. He always turned up and supported the team, always speaking well of the club. He won over the fans because, for us, he was always a leader.”

Now, Sandro is following in Valerón’s footsteps, having returned to UD Las Palmas later in his own career. If there’s one lesson to take away from the career of Juan Carlos Valerón, it’s that it is possible to become a hero in more than one city in LALIGA EA SPORTS. Valerón achieved that through loyalty, respect and, of course, his brilliance on the ball.

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