Antonio Valencia’s Journey from the Jungles of Ecuador to one of the World’s Biggest Soccer Teams. • Latino Sports

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Antonio Valencia’s Journey from the Jungles of Ecuador to one of the World’s Biggest Soccer Teams.

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In the aftermath of Portuguese soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo’s $131 million move from English soccer giants, Manchester United, to European football kings, Real Madrid, a world record transfer for a soccer player, an intriguing story has arisen about another blossoming soccer star effected by this record deal whose rise to stardom is a remarkable story all to its own.

Upon confirmation by Real Madrid that they would pay Manchester United such a massive amount for Ronaldo’s services, United quickly moved to find a replacement for the current World Player of the Year. Given the massive budget to work with from Ronaldo’s fee, United had the luxury of scouring the world for the kind of player to rival Cristiano’s speed, agility, footwork, and goal scoring abilities.

 

The answer they come up with was a 23-year old Ecuadorian playing professional soccer with English club Wigan. His name: Antonio Valencia.

Recognized as a growing talent, but not yet considered one of the world’s top 5-10 players, Valencia has plied his trade in England for the past two seasons following a loan move from Villareal, the Spanish first division team that signed him from club El Nacional of Ecuador when he was 19 years old. Valencia has starred for the Ecuadorian National team since 2005.

Although the move to Manchester United seems amazing given the choices and budget that Sir Alex Ferguson had, the legendary coach and winner of 11 League titles and 2 European Cups believes that Valencia is the perfect choice to replace the reigning “Best Player in the World.” Said Ferguson, "Antonio is a player we have admired for some time now, having spent the last two years in the Premier League with Wigan. "I am sure his pace and ability will make a significant contribution to the team."

Manchester United paid $30 million dollars for Valencia’s rights from Wigan.

The story of Valencia’s journey from Ecuador to one of the world’s biggest clubs is one of great irony and a little bit of luck. Valencia was born and raised in Lago Agrio, deep in the remote jungle region of Sucumbios province, and began playing organized soccer at age 10. Valencia was one of only a handful of kids from a tryout of over 200 players selected to play for Sucumbios’ under-12 team. At 13, Antonio was selected from another tryout to play for Club Caribe Juniors, and at 16, he began his career in Ecuador’s capital, Quito, playing for El Nacional’s youth team. He moved up to the senior team in 2003 at the age of 18.

Valencia has been hugely successful in his homeland and is the unquestioned leader of Ecuador’s national soccer team. Already a big star in Ecuador, it is believed that his move to Manchester United will provide the team with an additional “13 million Ecuadorian fans,” says Les Dickens, a consultant with Ecuador’s soccer association.

While the football world sets its sights on Cristiano Ronaldo’s debut season at Real Madrid this upcoming Fall, the country of Ecuador will be more focused on Manchester, England, where their “boy from deep in the jungle” will be the centerpiece of one of the world’s most successful clubs.

About Julio Pabón

Julio is President and Founder of Latino Sports LLC., the parent company of Latinosports.com. Julio is a product of the South Bronx where he still lives and runs his businesses. Julio has written and has been interviewed for numerous publication and networks on sports & political issues. He has been an activist promoting social justice and respect for all communities. He is a recognized motivational speaker, was an adjunct professor of American History and presently volunteer's as a lecturer in local South Bronx High Schools. His primary goal is to make Latinosports.com a multi-facet sports portal that will engender social and economic empowerment to the Latino community.