Memories of Mendieta
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Noureddine Naybet is a confirmed admirer of Middlesbrough playmaker Gaizka Mendieta who he remembers well from the midfielder's hugely successful spell at Valencia.
The Spanish international is back in action after missing most of last season with a cruciate ligament injury and will be seeking to recapture the form which made him one of the most sought after players in world football.
Mendieta operated at the heart of the Valencia side that reached two Champions League finals in 2000 and 2001 before Lazio swooped to take him to Rome in a £28.9m transfer. The move did not work out and, after spending a season on loan at Barcelona, he joined Middlesbrough in August 2003 - initially on loan.
"He is very special player," considered Noureddine, who came up against the now 31-year-old during his time in Spain with Deportivo. "When he was with Valencia he was the best midfielder in Spain, maybe the world.
"He possibly didn't adapt to the football at Lazio and has since suffered injuries. This is football, I don't why one of the best players in the world moves to another club and his form goes down.
"It is good he is back now and will have the chance of playing many games at Middlesbrough again after injury. He is player of great experience who plays good football. I played against him while I was in Spain and Valencia at that time were one of the best teams in La Liga."