La Liga set to welcome Mat

Townsville Bulletin - - SPORT - TOM SMITHIES

S O C C E R O O S g o a l k e e p e r Mathew Ryan is poised to join a club with am­bi­tions to shake up the dom­i­nance of Real Madrid and Barcelona in Span­ish football.

Ryan was due to have a med­i­cal with Va­len­cia overnight af­ter agree­ing to terms for a trans­fer from Club Brugge, where the 23- year- old has shot to promi­nence in the past two years since mov­ing from the Mariners.

The move fur­thers Ryan’s re­mark­able ca­reer tra­jec­tory, hav­ing won the Bel­gian League’s goal­keeper of the year award in both of the past two sea­sons, as well as the Bel­gian Cup and the Asian Cup with the Soc­ceroos.

But even more will be de­manded of him at a club bankrolled by S i n g a p o r e a n bil­lion­aire Peter Lim, hop­ing to re­store Va­len­cia to the level where it won La Liga in 2004 and reached the fi­nal of the Cham­pi­ons League in 2000 and 2001.

Va­len­cia have qual­i­fied for next year’s Cham­pi­ons League af­ter fin­ish­ing fourth in La Liga last sea­son.

Ryan is likely to get an ex­tended op­por­tu­nity to es­tab­lish him­self, with first- choice g o a l k e e p e r Diego Alves out un­til next year with knee l i g a m e n t dam­age suf­fered at the end of last sea­son.

Va­len­cia – coached by P o r t u g u e s e Nuno Espir­ito Santo, with for­mer Ever­ton cap­tain Phil Neville as his as­sis­tant – had been linked with for­mer Barcelona keeper Vic­tor Valdes, but in­stead made Brugge an of­fer that per­suaded Ryan ( left) to head for Spain.

“It’s been a joy to be at this club,” Ryan told the Club Brugge web­site. “They have done ev­ery­thing they could to keep me another year which made it even harder for me to make this choice.

“I’ve had a won­der­ful time at the club but now it’s time to take this next step. Last sea­son I al­ready de­clined a nice of­fer, but this time I couldn’t. I’m very grate­ful that the club gave me this chance in Europe.

“For a young lad there’s no bet­ter club to de­velop, I’m their No. 1 fan from now on. And last but not least: a big thank you for the best fans of Bel­gium.”

Mean­while, Ryan’s Soc­ceroos team­mate Tomi Juric is likely to be of­fered a re­turn to the A- League, two months af­ter he quit the Wan­der­ers in search of a Euro­pean deal.

Perth are be­lieved to be pre­par­ing a bid for the striker, in the wake of Andy Keogh’s de­par­ture.

Keogh walked out of Perth yesterday af­ter talks to rene­go­ti­ate his con­tract – at the cen­tre of the salary cap scan­dal that cost the club a place in the fi­nals – proved fruit­less. It’s thought that Keogh has a lu­cra­tive deal lined up in Thai­land, though he had also been linked with the Wan­der­ers.

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