By Mike Rice.
Alex Valera’s rise in Peruvian football has begun a little late, but now has plenty of momentum.
In 2016 he was without a club, keeping himself sharp playing beach soccer where, in 2018, he was called up to the Peruvian Beach Soccer side to play in the Copa America.
He owes a lot to this style of football. “Beach soccer helps you increase your physical power and also improves the way you hit the ball,” he said. “Playing in small spaces and on an irregular surface like the sand demands a lot of skill.”
The time Valera dedicated to beach soccer, representing his country, reignited his desire to return to eleven-a-side football.
He has since travelled the length of Peru in search of his Liga 1 opportunity. Starting out in Chiclayo in 2017 with Pirata FC, he then moved south to Cusco to play for Deportivo Garcilaso in 2019.
After competing in the Copa Peru for both sides, he moved north again at the end of the season to help Deportivo Llacuabamba gain promotion to Liga 1. He was rewarded with a contract extension to continue at Llacuabamba in Liga 1 for the 2020 season.
Alex Valera is the talk of the town. He is a pure grass roots player in Peru, just like Andy Polar and Sandro Rengifo.
Before Llacuabamba, he only played in the Copa Peru for northern clubs.
His last 3 clubs.
Molinos el Pirata
Deportivo Garcilaso pic.twitter.com/WURqBHTPbk
— Brian Bertie (@BrianBertie1998) September 10, 2020
Valera kept his place in Llacuabamba’s side and got his first experience of Liga 1 football. After a difficult first season in the top flight, Llacuabamba, only formed in 2011, were relegated to Liga 2, though Valera himself had shown his promise and potential.
He managed to score nine goals and assist four in 21 matches and was awarded the Newcomer of the Year award ahead of Deportivo Municipal’s Matias Succar, who has since moved to LASK in Austria.
That season he also received his first call up to the Peru national team but sadly was unable to play due to contracting Coronarvirus and being required to self-isolate.
In 2021, Valera moved to one of the biggest sides in Peru, Universitario, where he has played and scored in the Copa Libertadores as well as remaining part of the national side.
Valera received the call up to the World Cup Qualifiers squad ahead of Mexico-based Santiago Ormeño, who is still being eligible for Mexico and is having a strong season in Liga MX with Puebla.
Valera has taken to the challenges in front of him without fear, continuing to thrive as he’s stepped up to bigger clubs and faced stronger sides.
The 25-year-old forward starred in Universitario’s first win in the Copa Libertadores this season, scoring twice in a 3-2 win over Independiente del Valle to give his side hope of securing the Copa Sudamericana spot in the group.
— CONMEBOL Libertadores (@TheLibertadores) May 19, 2021
Valera is a strong and busy forward, with plenty of energy. He works hard both in and out of possession. He puts opposition defenders under pressure and uses his strength to compete for the ball.
In Liga 1 for Llacuabamba and La U, he averages 31.47 duels per 90. This side of his game may have impressed Peru head coach Ricardo Gareca who knows the role of centre forward in his side is often required to be combative and energetic.
With a powerful left foot, Valera is able to score from different areas of the pitch. He times his movements well in line with his teammates, in order to arrive to receive the ball in good positions.
He shows good intelligence and an understanding of defenders movements, and is also able to accelerate well onto crosses or through balls.
He is rarely found waiting for the ball in the box. He is industrious and determined to create space for himself. Both of his goals against Independiente del Valle came via his movement off of the ball, ensuring he was the player to get control of the ball to finish ahead of the opposition defenders.
From Beach Soccer national team to the eleven-a-side national team, Valera’s rise over the past five years has been impressive.
He has been rewarded for his hard work and determination to improve as well as take his chances. This mental strength has been vital in adapting and progressing with every challenge that has come his way.
Seeing as Gareca has decisions to make on the future of the centre forward position in the national side, Valera has put himself in a strong position to make it his.