Since rocking up in mainland Spain from Belgian side Club Brugge during the January transfer window, striker Cyle Larin has already repaid Real Valladolid’s trust in him with goals. Important goals.
Larin has won mid-tabling Valladolid four points in three games after netting winners in his first two appearances. In his third, he almost secured another 1-0 win, this time against Osasuna, but couldn’t quite force home an inviting cross in the latter stages. Still, not bad for someone who has barely played more than an hour of professional soccer in his new home, with all his cameos arriving off the bench.
The 27-year-old forward has World Cup experience for Canada and a dozen or so minutes in the Champions League for Brugge, where he has struggled to stamp his authority. With one of the best goals-per-minute records in the league at present, he certainly is now—although it remains early days in Castile and León.
On closer inspection, the Ontario-born man’s purple patch in purple isn’t repaying Valladolid much when you think about it. The Canadian joined the La Liga side for free, does not appear to feature among its top earners, and, as an initial loan signing, the club has virtually nothing to lose with him. His stay runs until the end of June with an obligation to move permanently (Spanish) for as little as €1.5 million ($1.5 million) reportedly—a convenient and probable outcome.
Valladolid has its sights on cementing a place in the league, and turning to Larin halfway through the season could prove key to achieving that. Staying in the top division means receiving more to spend on its squad from La Liga—with its superior status and CVC money—compared to the tier below. For Valladolid, a side showing defensive solidity lately, a clinical forward means more points and financial muscle in the long run.
It has a lot to play for and many to face. Despite being owned by Brazilian legend Ronaldo Nazario, Valladolid is one of the weaker forces in the field and risks falling into a relegation battle if results slip. As the competition hots up, its cluster of rivals seems set to range from Getafe and Valencia in the drop zone to Mallorca in the middle. It would require a remarkable turnaround for last-placed Elche to avoid demotion.
Regarding its sporting ambition, Valladolid has invested little compared to most around it and is happy to cash in on stars—like Mohamed Salisu and Marcos André. Its most expensive ever signing was another goalscorer, Shon Weissman, for just €4 million ($4.3 million) three years ago before it lent him to Granada. In Larin, it seems to have hit the jackpot, finding a financially viable solution in pursuit of survival.
The irony in all this revolves around Ronaldo. The Brazilian maestro turned businessman was a prolific forward during his playing days and, after taking up his executive role, has seen a team lacking offensively on the field. La Pucela has the joint lowest goals scored this term, alongside floundering Elche six positions below, despite creating sufficient opportunities in matches.
If coach Pacheta and his players can find the formula in attack, there will be a knock-on effect. Staying amongst the top 20 teams means majority stakeholder Ronaldo—who has admitted he will not be at Valladolid for a considerable amount of time—will likely stay put for longer or sell for an attractive offer. Falling down a level would see the reverse happen. That’s where Larin—a physical frontman—can play his part in keeping the club in capable hands.
His significance stretches wider, meanwhile. Larin and his Canada teammates endured a tough World Cup but have transformed the country’s fortunes on the international scene. Not only that, Larin is the only Canadian playing in La Liga and just the second countryman after Julian de Guzman for Deportivo over a decade prior. After a promising start, he can boost the city and his homeland’s soccer standing further. He already looks like a steal.
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