Barcelona goalkeeper Victor Valdes, who is set to leave Barcelona within the next 18 months, has spoken about his love of the English game.
Valdes, 31, announced in January that he had no intention of renewing his current Barca contract, which ends in June 2014, and has since been heavily linked with Premier League clubs including Arsenal and Liverpool.
The Catalan keeper, who impressed in Spain’s recent 1-0 World Cup qualifier win against France in Paris, told FourFourTwo that he was attracted by the style of play in England and the atmosphere at Premier League grounds.
"I like the Premier League, of course,” Valdes said. “They shoot a lot. I like the respect of the crowd towards footballers in England. It is a different way of living football. They clap a simple tackle in England. We are not used to that [in La Liga]. I like it."
Valdes said that his affection for English football began when he lived in the Canary Islands as a boy.
“I lived in an area of Tenerife where there were a lot of British people,” he said. “I watched them go into football bars wearing their shirts in the middle of the day. Each team had a different bar, one for Chelsea or a different one for [Manchester] United. I would see fans celebrating in the street in the middle of the day, dancing in the sun with beers. It was funny, I had not seen this before.”
Valdes' decision not to renew at Barcelona, having come through the La Masia youth system to win a host of trophies including three Champions Leagues and five La Liga titles, came as a shock to many who assumed he would follow the lead of team-mates Xavi Hernandez and Carles Puyol in committing to finish his career at the Camp Nou.
He has since been linked to more exotic new destinations, such as joining former team-mate Samuel Eto'o at Russian side Anzhi Makhachkala and even a move to Brazilian club football, and admitted that a wish to travel and see the world had been part of his decision to seek out a new challenge.
"I want to try new cultures, new football, new challenges," he said. "I have had great times here, I love it at Barcelona. I will always come back here, but I have this wonderful job which allows me to travel. And I want to travel."