Ruben Barraza sits on the Valencia bench this afternoon with the sole aim of guiding his team to a victory that will bring them closer to mathematical salvation than the Mestalla in the highest division of Spanish football. In the case of his first season as Primera coach, almost all games are debuts for the man from Valladolid, although the history of the clash against Real Madrid turns the page between results and anecdotes.
As a footballer, Barraza played 24 games against Real Madrid, three as a Valladolid player; One with Atlético and twenty with Valencia. They were mostly league matches, but there were also Copa del Rey matches and a Spanish Super Cup final in which the Whites came from behind. The balance favors the white team (6 wins, 4 draws and 14 losses for Barajas).
But in the global clash between the Madridistas and the Valencianistas, in which Rubén Barza took part, there are two encounters with a special story for the current Valencia coach. The first, a league match at the Bernabéu, saw Ruben Barra set up a spectacular free-kick for Iker Casillas in the 22nd minute of the game. The midfielder saved the barrier created by Real Madrid players with a strong strike, reaching the right height to cross Zidane – who did not jump – and penetrated hard and away from the goalkeeper of the white team. Kept on the post. In that game, the black and whites won, with Quique Flores on the bench, Raúl equalized on 37 minutes and Villa again unbalanced, with a penalty on minute 39, in a first half full of options. The match ended 1–2.
But this Sunday is another important game for Barajas to remember, with Valencia’s coach from Valladolid meeting Real Madrid at his Mestalla fiefdom. And at the same time, it also introduces some coincidences. And it is that Baraja’s last goal of his career was against Real Madrid, in the Mestalla and on the day of the 35th matchday of the league, which will be this weekend. This was in the 2008–09 season. Valencia lost steam after a torrid course amid the debut of Unai Emery on the bench, and a fragile situation due to non-payment to the squad in the first months of 2009.
Mata, Silva and Barja scored
But the tour of Real Madrid worked to revive the team in the last days. Mata (29′) and Silva (31′) turned the Valencian stadium – which turns one hundred years old this weekend – into an erupting volcano with almost two goals each in the first half. And Barja finished on 67′ with one of the most spectacular goals of his career and which he celebrated by diving into the goal he had just scored, an image matched by photographs from the MARCA archive. Pablo Hernández crossed from the right side of the semicircle, eluding opponents waiting to fend off four black and white players who were waiting to finish inside the area. Barja volleyed with his left foot and the ball slid past Casillas at the right post without stopping. The reaction of the then black-and-white captain was answered by Villa, the first to congratulate him, Alexis and Albiol – who went up to finish the previous corner – Mata or Michele Herrero.
Barja certainly did not know that this would be his last goal in the First Division or his last as a professional. He played one more season, but his appearances became less frequent in time and frequency. In fact, he was able to score in his farewell game against Tenerife on 15 May 2010, with another majestic free-kick that crashed off the crossbar.
This Sunday, against Real Madrid, he will not have any chances to score on the pitch, but will try from approach and the blackboard. And it is that it cannot be said that Barajas lacks experience against Real Madrid. Goré is, in fact, the most number of times he has played as a professional footballer, a total of 24, the same against Deportivo and two more than against Barcelona. Of course, the two goals scored against the Bernabeu team are far from his maximum, which marks seven goals against Espanyol in 21 matches.