July 01, 2009

Manchester United sign Antonio Valencia

Antonio Valencia factfile

Born: 04/08/1985; Lago Agrio, Ecuador
Previous Clubs: El Nacional, Recreativo Huelva (loan), Villarreal, Wigan Athletic
International record: 34 appearances, 4 goals (for Ecuador)
Wigan Athletic record: 83 appearances, 7 goals

Ecuadorian winger Antonio Valencia became United's first summer signing in 2009 when he joined the Reds from Wigan Athletic on 30 June. The skilful 23-year-old has more than 30 caps for his country, including one in the 1-0 defeat to England in the 2006 World Cup. His performances at the tournament earned him a nomination for FIFA's Best Young Player award and raised a few eyebrows among Europe's top bosses.

It was Wigan boss Paul Jewell, however, who won the race for his signature and he arrived at the JJB Stadium on loan that year, having previously enjoyed stints in Spain at Recreativo

Huelva (loan) and Villarreal. It was the latter who first spotted his talent, bringing him to Europe from Ecuadorian club El Nacional in 2005.

In his three seasons at Wigan, Valencia made 83 appearances, scoring seven times. One of his most memorable games actually came against United in January 2009, when he ran riot on the right wing in the Latics' 1-0 defeat at Old Trafford.

Steve Bruce, who spent two years managing Valencia at Wigan, regards him as one of the most exciting prospects in the English game. His pace and ability to go past a man and reach the byline were key to Wigan’s rise

under Bruce, and his supply to Emile Heskey helped ensure the team’s survival in the top flight in 2007/08.

"Valencia has got that thing which not many players have anymore – the ability to dribble," Bruce said.

"People who can run with the ball, take it up the pitch and beat a man are a dying breed – there aren't many around. We don't produce players who want to dribble, we seem to produce the archetypal steady English player. If a player does want to take his man on and run with the ball, people will want to pay to go and see him."