“What’s up, man? Long time no see,” Martins said.
Valdez played alongside Martins at Russian club Rubin Kazan in 2011-12. Martins then moved to La Liga side Levante for one season before landing with Sounders FC, where he has established himself as one of the premier strikers in MLS. Now, after spending the last 15 years in Europe’s top leagues, Valdez is joining Martins and the talented group of forwards in Seattle.
After signing with the club as a Designated Player, Valdez took part in his first training session on Thursday. He speaks very little English, but the Paraguayan international says he has felt comfortable right away.
“I am feeling very happy, very proud to be here,” Valdez told SoundersFC.com through a translator. “I’m very happy with everything. I know Oba and I also know other players. The first practice went well. I’m feeling happy and hoping that we will have good times here.”
Valdez is one of two veteran attacking players the Sounders acquired this week. On Tuesday the club announced its signing of Andreas Ivanschitz, the longtime Austrian National Team midfielder.
The two spent much of their careers in the German Bundesliga, where Valdez played for Werder Bremen, Borussia Dortmund and Eintracht Frankfurt. He has 12 goals in 68 caps for the Paraguay National Team, including eight appearances in FIFA World Cup matches. The 31-year-old has also represented three different teams in the UEFA Champions League.
Valdez hopes his veteran presence will help Seattle reach its goal of winning an MLS Cup.
“I believe the people who know me know I am the type of player that will leave everything on the pitch for my peers and team,” he said. “I am a team player and hope I can help that way, with my experience, to help who’s by my side.”
As was the case with Ivanschitz, Sounders FC had been tracking Valdez for many years prior to this week’s signing. His main position is forward, but Valdez has also played outside midfield in recent years. Martins and Clint Dempsey have been very successful as a striker duo for the Rave Green, and Valdez’s versatility could give Head Coach Sigi Schmid the opportunity to use all three of his DPs at the same time.
Valdez has scored 89 times during his club career, including some memorable goals against significant opponents. With Spanish club Valencia CF, he scored in the Champions League against Bayern Munich. In his very first La Liga game, he netted a brace for Hercules CF in a 2-0 victory over FC Barcelona. And in 2009, Valdez clinched Paraguay’s spot in the World Cup by scoring the game-winning goal in a win over Argentina.
Just two months ago, his long-distance strike in a Copa America fixture helped Paraguay earn a draw with Argentina, which is currently No. 1 in the FIFA World Rankings.
“Nelson is very good at creating and scoring goals. His technical ability and smart movement can change games,” Sounders FC Sporting Director Chris Henderson said. “He has been influential with top club teams around the world and represented his country in the biggest tournaments.
“We have followed Nelson very closely the last few years and are thrilled to add him.”