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By ESPN Staff

Valencia - Squad Profiles

Santiago Canizares (goalkeeper)
Born: 18.12.69
Nationality: Spanish

Canizares

Lost out to Iker Casillas for a place in the Spanish goal for the World Cup finals, but there is no doubt that this goalkeeping veteran is the first choice at Valencia.

A star of their impressive performances in the Champions League over the last few years, he is an agile and reliable last line of defence. Made his name at Celta Vigo before moving on to Real Madrid and then accepting an offer from Valencia in 1998. A hero at the Mestalla Stadium


Group A: Barcelona | Bayer Leverkusen | Inter Milan | Newcastle
Group B: Ajax Amsterdam | Arsenal | AS Roma | Valencia
Group C: AC Milan | Borussia Dortmund | L Moscow | Real Madrid
Group D: Basle | Deportivo | Juventus | Manchester Utd

Robert Ayala (defender)
Born: 14.04.73
Nationality: Argentine

Ayala

Ayala made his way into Argentina's World Cup squad during the summer, and has the experience to go with his obvious class.

He started his career in European football at Napoli, and had a stint at Milan before arriving in Spanish football with Valencia in 2000. Sent off in the Champions League first phase game at FC Basle, Ayala is never one to shirk a challenge.

Amedeo Carboni (defender)
Born: 06.04.65
Nationality: Italian

He started out at Sampdoria - but it was with Roma that Carboni shot to fame, and he was a steady performer with the capital city side for seven years.

Part of the Valencia set-up since 1998, he is as steady as they come at the back. May be a little underrated, and that view is backed up by the fact he has not enjoyed a successful career with the Italian national side.

Curro Torres (defender)
Born: 27.12.76
Nationality: Spanish

A star of the Valencia side that clinched the Spanish championship last season, Torres is the rock around which the defence can be built.

A full international who has always looked the part at the highest level, he is never afraid to put his foot in where it hurts and often finds himself getting on the wrong side of officials as a result. Made his name at Tenerife before shining in the Spanish top flight last season.

Fabio Aurelio (defender)
Born: 24.09.79
Nationality: Brazilian

Joined the club midway through the 2000/01 season and made an instant impact with some solid performances.

A player who also adds plenty to the attack, he scored against FC Basle and Spartak Moscow in the first phase and has also been in scoring form in La Liga. Unfortunate not to have been recognised by the Brazilian national team.

Carlos Marchena (defender)
Born: 31.07.79
Nationality: Spanish

A full international with Spain, Marchena made his debut in the friendly against Hungary earlier this season.

A cultured performer who signed from Benfica in summer 2001, he enjoyed a decent first season in Valencia colours and, at the age of 23, this is an important season in his career. He is a first team regular at club level and wants to be the same in the national team set-up.

Mauricio Pellegrino (defender)
Born: 05.10.71
Nationality: Argentine

A tough-tackling performer, Pellegrino has been a star turn for Valencia since his move from Velez Sarsfield.

He spent a spell on loan at Barcelona - but since he broke into the Valencia side, there has been no stopping him. A powerful defender alongside his compatriot Roberto Ayala, he missed a penalty in the Champions League Final shoot against Bayern Munich in 2001.

Pablo Aimar (midfielder)
Born: 03.11.79
Nationality: Argentine

Aimar

There are plenty of Argentine players at the Mestalla Stadium, but none of them have more class than Aimar.

A member of his national team's failed World Cup effort in the summer, he will be desperate to make up for that disappointment by finally capturing the Champions League crown after coming so close in the past. With silky skills and a cool head in the midfield, he is the player who gets this exciting attacking team ticking.

David Albelda (midfielder)
Born: 01.09.77
Nationality: Spanish

His form as Valencia closed in on the La Liga title earned him a place in the Spain squad for the World Cup finals, and he made a couple of appearances in the Far East.

His midfield partnership with the brilliant Ruben Baraja has pushed Valencia towards the pinnacle of European football in the last couple of years. Albelda was a member of the Spanish Olympic team that claimed a silver medal in Sydney 2000.

Miguel Angulo (midfielder)
Born: 23.06.77
Nationality: Spanish

Never looks out of place among the stars at the Mestalla Stadium - and that is a tribute to a player who was initially forced out of the club in a bid to prove his worth.

A spell in the lower leagues was enough to see Valenica take him back, and now this attacking midfielder is a star turn. Made his mark in the club's run to the Champions League Final in 2000, and relishes playing in this competition.

Gonzalo De Los Santos (midfielder)
Born: 19.07.76
Nationality: Uruguayan

After making his name at Malaga, it was inevitable that this talented performer would earn a move to a top club - and Valencia duly signed him in summer 2001.

Started out at Penerol back in South America, but always had enough class to mix it with the best in Europe. Made it to the World Cup finals, yet failed to make a big impression in a struggling Uruguay side which went out in the first round.

Kily Gonzalez (midfielder)
Born: 04.08.74
Nationality: Argentine

A little genius on the ball, Kily Gonzalez has it all. With great touch, a masterful poise and a great eye for goal, he has been at the centre of Valencia's rise to the top and shows no signs of letting that mesmeric form dip.

The Argentina link at the Mestalla has been a key to Valencia's recent successes, and Gonzalez is regarded as one of the most gifted performers currently playing in Spanish football. All that is missing is the Champions League title.

Ruben Baraja (midfielder)
Born: 11.07.75
Nationality: Spanish

The kingpin of the Valencia and Spain midfield has been at his best this season. He joined the club in the summer of 2000 and has been a brilliant playmaker ever since, chipping in with his share of crucial and often spectacular goals.

Scored a great goal against Liverpool in the first phase of the Champions League and in both ties against FC Basle. If Valencia are to be at their best, Baraja must be buzzing.

Francisco Rufete (midfielder)
Born: 20.11.76
Nationality: Spanish

Signed from Malaga in summer 2001, there can be little doubt that Rufete has been a success in his time at the Mestalla.

Hard-working and with no little skill, he has matured into a consistent performer who rarely has a bad day at the office. Highlighted his importance to this side with the winning goal in the first phase game against Liverpool at Anfield.

Vincente Rodriguez (midfielder)
Born: 16.07.81
Nationality: Spanish

He was unfortunate to miss out on the World Cup with Spain, but Rodriguez has shown signs he can make up for that setback by leading Valencia to success this season.

A consistent member of the first team under coach Rafael Benitez, he has also proved his worth at international level as Spain have started their Euro 2004 qualifying campaign in solid form. At the age of 21, there is plenty of time for him to reach the top - and he is well on the way there already.

John Carew (forward)
Born: 05.09.79
Nationality: Norwegian

Carew

A big target man who provides a cutting edge in a team packed full of tricky and skilled performers.

A full international, he was signed from Norway in 2000 and has been in decent form this season, scoring twice in the 6-2 first phase defeat against FC Basle. While the opposition worry about Kily Gonzalez and the rest, they ignore Carew at their peril.

Juan Sanchez (forward)
Born: 15.05.72
Nationality: Spanish

Not one of the biggest stars in this Valencia side, he still has a vital role to play, and proved as much with an impressive brace in the Champions League win over FC Basle.

While he is often used as a back-up striker, he is a loyal servant to the club - and no player has scored more Champions League goals for them than Sanchez.

Mista (forward)
Born: 12.11.78
Nationality: Spanish

A man in form in the first half of the season, Mista has taken the chances that have come his way with the Spanish champions.

He started out at Real Madrid and was involved in controversy as he moved on to Tenerife against the wishes of the capital city giants. He has always been a prolific scorer and can be relied upon to come up with the goods if called upon by Rafael Benitez.