After making a splash at the 2014 World Cup and grabbing headlines for evading arrest while playing for his national team, where did Ecuadorian striker Enner Valencia go next? Alasdair Hooper tells the tale…
I’m a West Ham fan, and we all know our success rate with buying strikers has never been the best.
Ever since David Sullivan and David Gold took over the club back in 2010, they have splashed out on a vast number of strikers with minimal success – think Simone Zaza, Modibo Maiga, and many, many more.
Perhaps it’s no surprise that West Ham’s current strike force consists of converted wingers Michail Antonio and Jarrod Bowen after that string of luck.
One arrival in July 2014 was Ecuadorian striker Enner Valancia, and much was expected of him.
The forward had stood out at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, scoring all three of his country’s goals, and Sam Allardyce decided he could be the man to add something new to his squad’s attacking line-up.
He signed from Mexican club Pachuca and later confirmed he didn’t know much about West Ham as a club – he’d mainly heard of them thanks to hooligan films, such as Green Street.
It soon became apparent that Valencia was not really the answer West Ham were looking for – but it did start off in a promising fashion.
He scored his first goal for the club against Hull in a 2-2 draw – a screamer from 25 yards – and went on to develop a strong strike partnership with Diafra Sakho as Allardyce settled on a diamond formation with Stewart Downing playing in the hole.
Valencia worked hard, but it was Sakho getting all the goals, and eventually West Ham’s form effectively fell apart midway through the season despite their strong start. In his first campaign Valencia only managed four league goals.
His second season was disrupted by injury, in what proved to be a successful campaign for the club. It was their final season at Upton Park with Slaven Bilic as manager, as West Ham ended up finishing seventh.
But Valencia’s contributions were generally minimal – he appeared 19 times, scoring four league goals again – and he was subsequently loaned to Everton the year afterwards.
The Ecuadorian’s fortunes at the Toffees followed a similar trend: there was something there, but for whatever reason it just wasn’t clicking. He only scored three times and returned to West Ham when his loan ended, despite Everton having an option to make it permanent.
But while he was an Everton player, in November 2016 the most bizarre episode of Valencia’s career played out. The striker had a warrant issued for his arrest in Ecuador for an alleged failure to pay child support.
During a World Cup qualifier between Ecuador and Chile police were supposedly on hand ready to arrest him after the match – but Valencia had other ideas.
With Ecuador winning 3-0 he feigned injury and was stretchered off towards a waiting ambulance. That footage was soon shared around the world, with police officers in hot pursuit of the medical cart that was ushering the footballer away from the stadium.
Not long afterwards, a judge was soon persuaded to rescind the arrest warrant.
Despite those pictures etching themselves into the memories of football fans everywhere, Valencia’s time in England came to an end following his Everton stint.
He was sold by West Ham to Mexican side Tigres UANL for an undisclosed fee in July 2017, where his goalscoring form returned.
Valencia scored 17 goals in all competitions during his first season back in Mexico, and 15 in his second. That then dropped to just two goals in his third season before he moved back to Europe.
In August 2020 he moved to Fenerbahce on a free transfer – a club where many ex-Premier League footballers seem to find themselves – and that’s where he still plays his football now.
He has only scored seven goals thus far at his club, where he can call Mesut Ozil and Papiss Cisse teammates – but at the age of 31 he still has time to make his mark.
You can follow Alasdair on Twitter at @adjhooper1992