Alvaro Valles: Las Palmas’ Ball-Playing Goalkeeper

Back in Spain’s top-flight after six years, UD Las Palmas are loving life in La Liga and find themselves on track for a comfortable midtable finish. Garcia Pimienta’s side have enjoyed a smooth return to the big leagues and impressed with a free-flowing, possession-heavy style of play. They are averaging 60.2% possession — only Barcelona (64.8%) have more — and with just 35 goals conceded after 31 matches, they have the best defense outside of La Liga’s top seven.


One player who has proven vital in Las Palmas’ stellar return is goalkeeper Alvaro Valles Rosa. Born in La Rinconda, Seville, Valles left Andalusia and made the move to Real Madrid’s academy at the age of 10, spending eight years at La Fabrica before taking his talents to Real Betis. After being loaned out to CD Gerena in the fourth tier for the 2017/18 campaign, Valles headed to the Canary Islands and joined Las Palmas’ reserve side in the summer of 2018.


It wouldn’t take long before Valles made the step up to Las Palmas’ first team, making 21 appearances in the Spanish second tier and 26 the following campaign. The 2021/22 campaign would be a rollercoaster year for Valles, who didn’t make a single appearance until February 26…only to start every single fixture onwards. He built on this momentum in 2022/23, locking down the starting spot in goal and leading them to automatic promotion.



At 26 years of age, Valles has emerged as one of the finest goalkeepers in the top-tier of Spanish football, and his formidable maiden campaign in La Liga could very well earn the attention of Spain manager Luis de la Fuente. Whilst Unai Simon has cemented the #1 position in goal and David Raya, Kepa Arrizabalaga and Alex Remiro pose significant competition, Valles’ unique talents as a sweeper-keeper could take La Roja’s attacking dynamics up a notch.


Today, we’re taking a look at Valles’ breakout campaign at the Estadio Gran Canaria. Data for the visualizations used in this piece have been taken from Fbref and goal-keepers having played a minimum of 15-90s haven been taken for comparison. Data indication for Alvaro Valles has been highlighted in gold for easy identification, this methodology has been applied for all the visualizations used in this analysis piece.



Las Palmas were expected to face a relegation battle after being promoted to the Spanish top flight this season, but to everyone’s surprise, the Spanish team sits 12th, a whopping 12 points above the drop with seven matches remaining. The 26-year-old rose to prominence with a series of scintillating performances and continues to do so with his current form.


The shot-stopper’s reaction time has been his greatest strength, and he uses it to its utmost potential by positioning himself correctly to guarantee he gives everything he has to prevent opponents from finding the back of the net. Although Valles appears to be at ease assisting his side in the build-up, he is prepared to take risks in order to assist his team up front, but the keeper’s awareness to come out of the box to clear or retain possession has been exceptional thus far.


Las Palmas play with a high back line, accepting the risk of being outplayed by long balls, particularly during counter attacks, but Valles’ defensive contribution of getting off the line fast allows the club to play their style with confidence. He often follows his instincts, and instincts improve with experience.


Valles fulfills the role of a “sweeper keeper,” making him one of the players creating a name for himself this season. On multiple instances, the 26-year-old has stepped out of the penalty box to put his team in safety, he maximizes the use of the 18-yard box as his zone when receiving the ball and making plays. He can start a rapid counter-attack, switch sides of the field correctly, and maintain possession throughout.



The Spanish side has faced 120 shots on target at a rate of 4 shots per 90 minutes, conceded 32 goals, and preserved 7 clean sheets in 30 league games, demonstrating Las Palmas’ goalkeeper’s resistance, work rate, importance, and talent in the Spanish top division this season.


Las Palmas’ back line is being beaten at ease, leaving Valles as their last defensive player at times; he has had to work outside the box to clear and get his team to safety. According to statistics, no other goalkeeper has worked as much outside the penalty area as Valles, this has proven to be costly on more than one occasion.


Alberto Moleiro: Las Palmas’ Spanish Prodigy


Valles is frequently left in one-on-one situations with the striker; even though the goalkeeper has been brilliant in covering space to position himself for the one-on-one situations, he has conceded nearly 75% of the goals in this situation and set pieces where his team lacks concentration, allowing the opposition to pounce on empty spaces but the Spanish shot stopper’s quick reflex is one of his biggest strengths helping him gain confidence and evolve during the 90. 


He has impressed with his ability to reach long-range shots and is absolutely fantastic at forcing them out of play. Valles has been a sought-after man to beat in between the sticks when it comes to long-range shots or a carelessly congested penalty box, and this is only feasible if the player’s concentration is not disrupted by the flow of the game or the score. He has been one of the few goalkeepers to use their body when approached by strikers.


The Spaniard tends to make himself big and strong as he seeks to shut the angles by coming up the 6-yard-box, giving the striker little space and time to react accordingly. The only perspective that the Las Palmas shot stopper must adopt is his ball-playing ability when attempting to apply pressure; he launches the ball to safety when any man tries to apply pressure within the 18-yard-box; this is safe play, but if he wants to represent his country and move up the goalkeeper rankings, focusing on this key skill will help him climb the ladder.



The above image demonstrates how well the keeper asserts authority in the 18-yard box. Valles acts on his instincts depending on the scenario, coming up and closing in on angles, making it difficult for the attacker to finish, or keeping in place and covering angles if his teammates are still involved in the battle.


In the image, as the striker beats two men in yellow with a single touch to perfectly line himself up for the shot, Valles reacts quickly and gets directly above the penalty spot, making sure to position himself correctly to cover both frames of the woodwork to make the save.


Valles is one of his team’s most diligent players, and his agility in getting up and facing the second shot or rebounding balls is not surprising for a player of his standard. One of the few things the goalkeeper needs focus on is his ability to move more freely in deflected balls; he appears to be more brittle and trapped in deflected balls that are within his grasp.



Alvaro Valles is not afraid to indulge in order to acquire the ball at his feet and keep the game going; no other goalkeeper in the league has more involvements than Valles. The player’s key qualities are his reflexes, IQ, aerial authority, positioning, composure on the ball, and improvisation, the latter being the most important, which is why Valles has contributed the most to recoveries and clearances.


Garcia Pimienta’s aggressive style of play requires the goalkeeper to be the last man in defense and prevent the opposing striker from having ample space and time to shoot, and Valles has certainly embodied this philosophy. It seems all but certain that he will follow in the footsteps of Pedri (Barcelona) and Josep Martinez (RB Leipzig) and become the latest player to depart Las Palmas for one of Europe’s biggest sides. The Canarian club rejected an offer of €20 million for him in January, but with the player refusing to renew his contract past its current expiry date of 2025, they will seemingly have no other choice but to cash in on him this summer.


By: Sive Vishwa / @sive_vishwa

Featured Image: @GabFoligno / Denis Doyle – Getty Images