He really hurt them. They really loved him, and they felt he betrayed them. To them, he was an icon. When Paco Alcácer completed his €30million move to Barcelona, signing a five-year deal, Valencia fans went ballistic. Video footage emerged of some of them taking to the streets to set fire to the replica shirts of their former hero.
“He insisted to us that we accept the offer from Barcelona,” admitted Valencia President Chan Lay Hoon.
“He was a very important player to us – an icon, it did not make sense to us as to why he wanted to leave. When he told us of his decision we were hugely disappointed, not angry because we see him as our child because of his background and what he represents.”
“Some will understand and others will not,” the forward told reporters about the situation.
“People need to understand the decisions of others and respect them, they can take them well or badly. I will always carry Valencia in my heart after so many years and when I can, I will go to the Mestalla to watch matches.
“When I found out there was an offer from Barcelona I was honest with the President and I told him to listen to it because it was good for me. It is a step forward in my career and it is also positive for Valencia.”
Alcácer also voiced his pleasure at being alongside the devastating attacking trio of Lionel Messi, Neymar, and Luis Suárez. “I am very happy. I need to thank all the clubs I have been at, they have made it possible for me to be here,” he said. “I am very excited to start this new chapter and to try to give as much as I can. It is a privilege to be alongside the three best players in the world.”
Only, Alcácer isn’t alongside the “three best players in the world”; he is behind them on the bench. And that’s where he has been for the majority of the season. His move, though expensive and so fervently desired, has hardly been worth it. At this point of the season, the Spain international has made just 14 appearances in all competitions for the Catalans, scoring a mere three goals, the first of which took 11 games to arrive.
“The good thing is he’s [scoring] in training and it would worry me if he wasn’t getting chances [in games],” said manager Luis Enrique when Alcácer was six games into his drought. “Suárez struggled as well [to score his first goal]. It will arrive naturally. I like the reaction of the supporters [to his misses] and how focused he was in order to find those chances.”
Bought as a designated “fourth forward,” charged with the responsibility of coming up with goals if the attacking trident of Messi, Neymar, and Suárez, better known as “MSN,” for some reason could not, Alcácer has found the role difficult to adapt to. More than that, he has found the step up to Barcelona difficult to adapt to.
He was not the club’s first choice, as Barcelona had spent last summer pursuing other targets like Kevin Gameiro, for example, but the Frenchman opted for Atlético Madrid instead, knowing full well that he had a much better chance of getting regular game time there. And so, Barcelona settled for Alcácer who, prior to his big money transfer, had scored 24 league goals over the previous two seasons.
A poacher-type striker, he thrives on using his instinct to get into goal-scoring positions, being in the right place at the right time. At Barcelona, however, given opposition defences are often camped inside their own penalty area, forwards are required to link up with team-mates using clever pass-and-move combinations as well as be able to take players on with the ball at their feet.
“Against a team so deep, it’s difficult to find space,” he said after he broke his duck against Hércules in the Copa del Rey back in December.
Alcácer has struggled to impact games because he has struggled to adapt his style to suit his new club. Of course, the lack of playing time, which for one thing hinders the development of a proper understanding with team-mates, hasn’t helped either.
He finds himself in a tough spot, as a result. Once everyone is fit, a consistent run in the team is hard to fathom, given who is ahead of him in the pecking order, meaning that he has to take his chances, however few and far in between they are, when they do come.
Fight for the treble could open door for Paco Alcacer and Andre Gomes https://t.co/I2fCtOJsRA
— SPORT English (@Sport_EN) March 10, 2017
Two goals in his last two appearances against Athletic Bilbao in a 3-0 win and Sporting Gijon in a 6-1 mauling, both at the Camp Nou, is certainly a step in the right direction.
He is still a talented player and, at 23 years of age, still has a long career ahead of him. Barcelona will very likely keep faith in him, but if he is to repay it, then he has much work to do.