Vicente Rodriguez: Back to basics for Seagull from Spain

The double La Liga winner with Valencia is determined to soar again on the South Coast, writes Nick Szczepanik

Not too many players who have won two Spanish League titles and the Uefa Cup ,as well as 38 caps for Spain, end up playing in the Championship. So Brighton's signing of Vicente Rodriguez, the Valencia winger once linked with Manchester United and Real Madrid, was a coup for Seagulls manager Gustavo Poyet.

Most of the 30-year-old Vicente's triumphs had come in the first five of his 11 seasons at the Mestalla, after which a series of chronic injuries restricted his appearances. He was out of contract this summer and looking to fulfil an ambition of playing in England when Poyet convinced him that the Amex Stadium was the place where he could enjoy his football once more.

He joined Brighton in early September, and gradually worked his way towards match fitness. On his debut as a substitute in the Carling Cup tie against Liverpool, he won a penalty after attracting an injudicious challenge from Jamie Carragher. On his first start, at Ipswich, he ran from his own half before scoring from 18 yards.

"It was emotional to leave Valencia, because it is my city and I had played for the club for a decade," he said. "But it was time to move and I had always wanted to try playing in England. I had to wait for a few games, which was a bit frustrating, but I knew that I needed to get fit before I would be ready to play. I expected English football to be faster than Spain, and it is. Some of the challenges are hard, but they are in Spain, too. Maybe I can say that they are more basic here."

He first made an impression in England during Valencia's 2000-01 Champions League campaign when his cross from the left created the equaliser, a Wes Brown own goal, in a 1-1 draw against United at Old Trafford. He is likely to have a more central playmaking role at Brighton.

"Wherever the coach wants to play me is OK. I don't think I'm suddenly always going to be a midfield player or a 'No 10' and I'm happy to play wide if that's what the plan needs. Often my role will depend on the other midfield players. We can play in several different formations."

Unfortunately, Vicente's arrival in the team coincided with a loss of the form that took them to the top of the table early on – Brighton have yet to win when he has played and will be looking for a first victory in eight matches when they entertain West Ham tonight.

Although he has only been learning English for a matter of weeks, lack of communication with his team-mates is not the issue. "On the pitch there's no problem. The football words are easy to learn. Players are the same everywhere, always joking. Sometimes I understand the jokes, sometimes not."

Some of the Brighton players and staff are learning Spanish, too – Liverpudlian Craig Noone, allegedly, so that he can ask Vicente about former Liverpool and Valencia manager Rafael Benitez, under whom Vicente had his greatest successes. However, current manager Unai Emery seemed reluctant to find a berth for him even when fit and his departure at the end of his contract last season was inevitable.

Several English clubs were interested, some able to offer more money, but Poyet's powers of persuasion won out. "I've said that coming here is not about money, it's about enjoying playing again and knowing a different football culture," Vicente said. "The manager talked to me about football, about the city, about the club and how he wanted the team to play – attacking and keeping the ball. Money, no. He knows exactly what he wants and explains it very clearly. You have to have a coach who believes in you, and who lets you know what he expects of you."

Shirts bearing Vicente's name and No 15 are prominent at the club shop, and his signing was taken by many Brighton fans as the most important indication that the club was serious about doing more than surviving in the Championship. "The crowd in Valencia were more laid-back. Fans here are very intense, and the atmospheres in the stadiums are very good. I understand that the Brighton supporters have some expectations of me and I hope I can fulfil them."

So far he is enjoying life in England. "It's different, and it's a bit colder, but of course I expected that. Brighton's a nice city, smaller than Valencia, but it's got a good ambience and it's still near the sea, even though the beach isn't exactly like a Spanish beach. The rest of the season? We have to end this bad run and win some games again so we can get to where everyone wants to be."

Brighton v West Ham is on Sky Sports 1 tonight, kick-off 7.45pm

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

Dame Harriet Walter interview

The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

Bill Granger's winter salads

Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links