Valbuena powers Olympiacos in early stages of 2019/20 season
Olympiacos’ start to the season has been exceptional by all accounts. Two Super League 1 victories see them in good shape domestically, but it’s more the qualification for the UEFA Champions’ League that has supporters excited.
The Erythrolefki advanced through three rounds of qualifiers in order to book their place in the Group Stage of the competition defeating the likes of Viktoria Plzen, Istanbul Basaksehir, and FC Kransondar en route.
Pedro Martins has used a mix of youth and experience, of old and new players to make this happen. One of the new recruits that have hit the ground running is French midfielder Mathieu Valbuena. Olympiacos signed Valbuena on a free transfer last May after his contract at Fenerbahce had run out.
Some observers questioned whether the 34-year-old had any gas left in the tank after a 15-year career that his seen him play over 600 matches for club and country (52 caps for France between 2012-15). Valbuena has thus far silenced any critics becoming one of the main men for Olympiacos from the off.
Kostas Fortounis’ injury in preseason left a giant hole in the attacking midfield position for Olympiacos. Martins saw in Valbuena the ideal replacement and the manager has been proven right with the move. In six Champions’ League qualification matches, Valbuena scored a goal and dished out five assists. He scored the second goal from the penalty spot in the 2-0 home win over Basaksehir and was instrumental in both matches versus Krasnodar with three assists in total.
The former Marseille and Lyon man also score the game-winner against Larisa in league play just before the international break, once again converting from twelve yards.
While not necessarily signed to be a number ten, Valbuena has shown he can play centrally and his versatility has helped ease the pain of Fortounis’ serious injury. His seamless transition into the Olympiacos starting eleven and the playmaker role has been a key part of the club’s superb early season form. The French attacker’s experience and ability has proven to be a big asset to the Piraeus side and the supporters have taken to the veteran player immediately.