Mista: "Our trust in Benitez made us believe"

The Valencia ex-striker recalls the double in 2004


Mista: The feeling in Gothenburg was that we were going to win the UEFA Cup

Valencia player 2001-6 and in the league winning team of 2003-4

The Murcia striker won 2 league titles (2002 and 2004), the UEFA Cup and the European Supercup (2004) with Valencia. In 2006 he signed for Atletico then moved to Depor and finished his career in Toronto.

The Ullevi Stadium in Gothenburg. 19 May 2004. The venue and date when Valencia sealed their triumph in Europe. That Rafa Benitez team was a real steamroller. They squashed the Marseille team of Barthez and Drogba to win the UEFA Cup a few days after winning the Spanish league title in Seville. The European title was the first in 24 years. Today is the eighth anniversary of the Valencia double in 2003-4. The words team, in all its senses, and unit describe that group of players, directed by the coach from Madrid, who brought the greatest joy to the Valencia people, and who went on getting praise and who were deemed to be the Best Team in the World 2004 according to the IFFHS.

That night in Gothenburg, as usual, the group was the important thing, but two names stood out, as they had all season, for the goals they scored. Mista, on half time, was fouled in the box by Barthez. Vicente put the penalty away. The Valencia man in the second half crossed from the left for Mista to make history.

Imagen“When you are in the world of football, where everything happens very quickly, maybe you don’t fully appreciate your achievements. As time goes by, whenever I talk with a mate we fully realise that what was important was that we did it for Valencia and not just for us” recalls Miguel Angel Ferrer (Mista, Caravaca 12.11.78) for ABC who particularly stood out in that campaign, when he received international acclaim for scoring 19 goals in the league and 5 in the UEFA Cup.

That season Mista may not have been a Valencia player. He arrived in 2001-2 and made his debut with Marchena but it was hardly noticed. Mendieta announced he was leaving for Lazio. The same season that Benitez came. The same one the Mestalla overcame the Madrid of the ‘galacticos’ and Barcelona and ended up winning the league title after 31 years. His contribution to the team grew. Then came a period of transition. His UEFA standing rose and he talked of a change. Mista remembers that in the summer of 2003 “I had an offer from Sevilla. Valencia said ok. But I had doubts right up to the last minute. I decided to stay without knowing if I would play but Carew left for Roma and I stayed. They signed Oliveira. I was not in the starting line-up.”

But his time arrived. “It began in the Calderon. At half time. Rafa Benitez took off Oliveira during the break. We ended up winning 3-0 with a goal by Vicente and two from me. And this was the turnaround. I started most games afterwards,” he explains.

At that moment. For Mista, the team began to be what it was going to become in that successful season. “We moved up the table. We began going from round to round in the UEFA Cup. We began to believe we could win the league with our experience. But the UEFA Cup was something that no-one realised could happen. Suddenly we were in the semi-final second leg against Villarreal after a 0-0 draw. We won 1-0 and got to the final without causing a stir.”

It was a question of confidence. A winning mentality. It was something we had worked at since the 2001-2 season. At Paterna. At the matches in the Mestalla and the away games. The team talks. The recurring message from Benitez who instilled confidence with every word. “After winning the title in Sevilla we were convinced we could win and we were perfect physically when we got to Gothenburg. We believed we would win and we had lots of confidence.”

The confidence factor and trust were marked in that team since winning the title in 2002. “We looked at Rafa and the technical staff who had complete faith in us. And we believed we could do it. It was the ‘galacticos’ league because Madrid had signed Beckham, Zidane... but we thought we don’t have those big names, but we do have a team and fans who pull together. Always looking forward.”

The double season was Mista’s. “I lived at pace. It was a great season for me. For a striker to achieve what we achieved and be a major part of it is great. But I had the best possible people around me at the time. Because we had Rufete on the right who was flying and could put things on a plate for you to score. Or Vicente who had an extraordinary season. Ricardo Oliveira scored 3 hatricks. Aimar was playing well as was Juan Sanchez. Angulo and I in attack. We were all playing at the highest level. Then the pairing of Albelda-Baraja was everything a team could want. And Marchena, Sissoko, Ayala at his best, Carboni, Curro Torres who had his best year and an exceptional Canizares... That season we got a lot of points in the second half of the season and if it had lasted a month longer, who knows."