Valencia have gone through a lot of problems on and off the pitch in the last two seasons, but they are still one of the most successful teams in Spain. Los Che was founded in 1979 and have gone to win six La Liga titles in their club history, which is quite impressive since the Spanish league is mainly dominated by FC Barcelona and Real Madrid.
Despite the transitional period the club are currently in, it's time to review the individuals who have played a key role towards the team's success, to form the Valencia XI of the 21st century.
Goalkeeper – Santiago Canizares
Given the nickname ‘Canete', Canizares completed over 400 appearances throughout his ten years at Valencia, proving how reliable and dependable he was during his time at the club. Before he was harshly forced out from the squad in 2007, the Spaniard was simply one of the best goalkeepers in La Liga over the last decade and became Valencia's personal Iker Casillas.
Canizares played a key role in two Spanish La Liga titles for the side and won the Zamora Trophy three years running, from 2000 to 2003. Once he left, Valencia looked from top to bottom to find a replacement for the shot-stopper and couldn't find one at all. Despite being just under six foot tall, Canizares made up for it with his impressive athleticism and unbelievable saves. He was a figure that everyone looked up to and will surely be remembered for his fantastic heroics in goal.
Left-back – Amedeo Carboni
Before he moved abroad for the first time and transferred to Valencia in 1997, Carboni was regarded as one of the best Italian left-backs and everyone witnessed him becoming one of the best in La Liga too. Despite most of his career being spent in Serie A, one of the main reasons he move to Spain was to enjoy another climate in his final years as a footballer. However, he surprisingly shocked everyone and became a part of one of the best defences in the world at Valencia.
Carboni was a hard-working full-back and very attacking minded once he had the ball, his consistency to perform week in and out was truly something that the Los Che fans had admired during the early years of the 21st century. Even at the age of 38, Carboni made 44 appearances for the team, showing how well he looked after himself as he went on to playing for many years. After he retired, completing just fewer than 350 appearances for Valencia, he became the club's director of football in May 2006.
Centre-back – Roberto Ayala
Nicknamed ‘The Mouse', Ayala played an important job for the team and helped them to be recognised as a defensively solid team in the beginning years of the 21st century. The Argentina was known as one of the best central defenders in his age group, with his leadership skill and fantastic aerial ability standing out the most, when he received praises from the best players in the world. Ayala spent seven years at the club, making over 250 appearances for the side.
During his memorable time at the Mestalla, Ayala formed a solid partnership with Carlos Marchena as they played their part when Valencia completed the league and UEFA Cup double in the 2003/04 season. Even the likes of Real Madrid and Manchester United were after Ayala whilst he was at his peak, however he remained at Valencia for another few years before moving to rivals Villarreal.
Centre-back – Carlos Marchena
Just like Ayala, Marchena was a no-nonsense and aggressive type of centre-back, who had all the qualities as a defender. Although his partnership with the Argentine was over in 2007, he carried on playing for a further three campaigns. Marchena was a tough and robust individual for attackers to beat, he was fantastic at reading the game and could sense any danger before it became a bigger problem. The Spaniard completed over 300 appearances in all competitions, during his nine years at the Mestalla.
As well as playing a pivotal role for the side during their league and cup success, his achievements doesn't stop there, as he earned a call-up to the national squad twice in the World Cup and several times in the European Championship. Marchena won each competition once and was also nominated in the Euro 2008 Team of the Year.
Right-back Miguel Angel Angulo
Valencia signed Miguel Angel Angulo for a fee of €7.5million, who put his soul and heart into every game he played for the club and became a key individual in the team. With Jocelyn Angloma ageing, he replaced the Frenchman and featured in a lot of matches as a attacking right-back in a 5-3-2 setup. During the summer of 2004, he was very close to joining Arsenal, fortunately for Valencia he pulled out of the transfer in the dying minutes before it was finalised.
Although his best position is as an attacking midfielder, Angulo had the ability to play in right-back as well as many other positions. With not many right-backs that deserved a place in the 21st century XI, the Spaniard with Brazilian blood in his veins, can easily be mentioned as one of the best full-backs in the world before he started to decline in 2007.
Central midfield – David Albelda
If there is one player that has to be named as the rock in midfield when Valencia were successful, it has to be none other than David Albelda. The Spaniard who spent his early years as a centre-back, was a no-nonsense defensive midfielder that played an essential role for Los Che as well as being a player that other individuals looked up to for inspiration. In the summer of 2001, Albelda was rewarded with the club captaincy as he made over 400 appearances during his 17 years at Valencia.
Albelda formed an impressive and inseparable partnership with Ruben Baraja at the heart of midfield. Similar to the other experienced players, he faced a difficult time when Ronald Koeman became the manager of the club as he was taken out from the squad. Once he gradually returned into the starting XI, he played regular football for another two seasons, but it was too late as he was losing his confidence and touch.
Central midfield – Ruben Baraja
Once Gaizka Mednieta completed his transfer move to Lazio, Ruben Baraja had a big job on his hands as he replaced him in midfield and was given the duty of becoming the leader that the side needed. Baraja was regarded as one of the most complete central midfielders that the La Liga had seen, with the abilities he possessed to help Valencia on both sides of the pitch. Playing in over 250 matches for the team, he scored just over 40 goals which is not bad for someone who was mainly used as a defensive midfielder.
Baraja received his first individual award from the European Sports media, being selected in their Team of the Year of the 2003/04 season. The Valladolid-born star played regularly for Valencia and his consistency was never a problem even during the time he reached his early 30s. He enjoyed playing in a double pivot with Albelda, with both players dominating possession and protecting the back line behind them during the Rafael Benitez era.
Left attacking midfield – Vicente
Nicknamed ‘El Punal de Benicalap', Vicente was a fantastic winger on the left side for Valencia, especially in the early years of the 21st century. Although his debut campaign didn't go the way he wanted it to, with a lot of competition in the position he likes to play, he went on to thrive under new manager Rafael Benitez the follow season. His contributions were important to Valencia as it led them to their first league title in over 30 years. 2003/04 was Vicente's finest season as a footballer, completing 12 goals in the league, which is his highest tally in one campaign.
Unfortunately for the attacker, in 2004 he started to decline due to prolong injuries which led him to losing a lot of confidence and found it difficult to regain his old form. However, Vicente is still regarded as one of the best wide players the Los Che fans have witnessed at the Mestalla. He made over 300 appearances for the side, winning five major titles including two La Liga Championships.
Central attacking midfield – David Silva
A lot of football fans will remember him due to his well-known career at Manchester City in the Premier League. However, David Silva showed up on the big stage at a young age and instantly became the fans favourite. Following the loan spells during his early years, the Spanish sensation caused havoc in 2006 for Los Che and the only for way for Silva was up from there.
With Silva possessing the ability to play in any position in attack, he became a true gem for Quieque Sanchez Flores and Unai Emery. At the age of 20, Silva became a regular starter for the side and turned into one of the most wanted players in Europe. What made Silva more special to Valencia, is that he was a product from the club's youth system and he has gone to become one of the best central attacking midfielders in the world.
Right attacking midfield – Pablo Aimar
The playmaker was the main individual to make Valencia's matches more exciting and electrifying to watch. Pablo Aimar completed his €24million move to the Mestalla in 2001, which was a big amount at the time, however he proved to everyone that the money was well spent by the club. The Argentine showed how technically gifted and creative he was in the final third of the pitch. Unfortunately for Aimar, he was hit by a few injuries and struggled to recover his old form after he left the club.
In his first season at Valencia, Aimar played an integral role for the side, guiding them to the league title and to the Champions League final for the second year running. Keeping in mind that the side were utilised in a defensive setup under Rafael Benitez, Aimar was recognised as the go to man on the counter attack or the one to produce a defence splitting pass during his five years at the club.
Striker – David Villa
Truth be told, there isn't much competition regarding to who should be picked in this position. David Villa will surely go down as one of the best players to ever play for Valencia, bagging 129 goals in 225 appearances in all competitions. El Guaje's individual contributions was more than what Los Che had expected, from winning Spanish Player of the Year award in 2005/06 to finishing as the club's top scorer for four years running.
Villa's five year spell ended with the Spaniard averaging 21 league goals per season, helping Valencia finish in the top four on three out of five occasions. Following his departure, he went on to achieving league success at Barcelona and Atletico Madrid, but will always be remembered as a Valencia legend despite his short time at the club. At this moment of time, Villa remains in the Valencia top five goal-scorers of all time.