Ever Banega’s enigmatic nature threatens to force Valencia’s hand

Ever Banega again finds himself at the centre of attention in Valencia, and again for an act of indiscipline. Just days after posting on Twitter of his happiness to remain with the La Liga side for another season, his brother posted on Facebook a picture of the midfielder wearing a Real Madrid shirt.

The timing could not have been worse, and in spite of the player’s rediscovered commitment to the club, the issue sits as the latest in a long line of ill-conceived acts, and such is his relationship with the club and its fans, it again brings into question his future.

It follows April’s ill-advised declaration from Banega that had angered fans, when after a season that had promised a lot more on the pitch than the Argentine was able to deliver, he declared he would consider offers this summer to leave the club.

Frustration surrounds the central midfielder, as for all the continued actions of arguing with teammates and his Coach and consistently proving a source of indiscipline, he remains one of Valencia’s most talented players of recent seasons.

Indeed, his initial return to the Mestalla for the 2009-10 campaign under Unai Emery saw the potential that prompted Valencia to pay €18m for a then 19-year-old begin to develop into a finished product. His emergence as an integral player in Emery’s midfield even promised to confine previous controversies to the past.

Tactically representing a hybrid between a defensive midfielder and an enganche, Banega was not only showcasing a propensity for energetically winning back possession in front of the defence, but a know-how and organisational capacity to bring his teammates into play with a wide range of passing. Such was his turnaround during 2009-10 leading up the World Cup, there was outcry at his eventual omission from the Argentina squad.

However, despite Emery’s positive work with the youngster during this spell, the 2010-11 campaign was something of a return to past form away from the pitch. Notoriety had encapsulated the player’s first 18 months in Spain after his arrival in January 2008, from the release of an internet video of the player performing a lewd act, to being caught drink-driving and his over exuberant nightlife persuading Atletico Madrid not to make his 2008-09 loan move permanent.

Significantly, November 2010’s episode with Emery publicly highlighted that for all the good work in 2009-10, that all was still not well. The Coach invited the whole team for a meal to celebrate his birthday and made a public show that his relationship with Banega – rumoured to be frosty – was in fact good. However, Emery’s attempts were undone when it emerged that Banega stayed out after the meal, missed the next day’s training and was subsequently dropped for the following weekend’s key game with Sevilla.

Last season had reports paint the picture of a player once again losing focus, as his form became increasingly irregular. Frequently failing to turn up to training on time and subsequently being fined was matched only by further lateness, whilst the player’s diet also drew concern at the club.

In an attempt to bring this under control, the club ordered that he took meals three days of the week at the Ciudad Deportiva – Valencia’s training complex – but with his increasingly degenerative lifestyle of fast food and alcohol, his physical conditioning and ability to maintain performance on the pitch declined through 2010-11.

The mounting frustration at failing to get the best out of Banega, and his deteriorating relationship with the coaching staff, had both parties preparing for a move post-Copa America. Banega confirmed he would consider his options after the tournament – in turn angering the supporters – whilst Valencia believed they could secure an €8m fee for him, particularly amid interest reported in Italy and Spain from Inter.

Banega’s subsequent poor performances though – that eventually saw him ironically lose his place to Fernando Gago, the man Banega had replaced at Boca, and who had barely featured for Real Madrid last season – saw interest effectively end. Player and club intimated a desire to move forward together, before this latest episode, one that although President Manuel Llorente has declined official comment on, he has not hidden his displeasure over.

Whilst the timing of the release of this photo heightens the issue and is perhaps unfair on the player in light of his latest commitment to the team, it is another reminder for Los Che, that for all the good the midfielder is capable of on the pitch that can otherwise build up a positive relationship, he cannot be trusted away from it to undermine that same relationship.

Teammate David Albelda looked to downplay the incident, suggesting that whilst it is something ‘a player should not do’ that it is surely ‘a joke that the player will have to explain when he returns to Spain’.

That comes this week when Banega is set to meet with both President Manuel Llorente and Coach Emery to not only discuss this latest issue, but to also ensure it is last between them, be that through the player’s behaviour or departure.

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