On April 27, 2023, came the one day of the week when Javi often returns home late in the evening. At around 9:30 p.m., he finished work, after which he went out with friends for a late dinner. “What I wouldn’t give so I could work regularly at this time on Thursdays – and even better if it were Tuesdays and Wednesdays,” he thought almost unconsciously before falling asleep. On that day, he was not yet aware of the significance of his professional achievement: in front of over 42,000 people, he turned into a damn David Copperfield, and he acted as if it were just another boring day at the office. “I didn’t attach any importance to it,” he stated.
Despite returning home late, Javier Guerra Moreno (born 13 May 2003) didn’t oversleep for desayuno – just in case, he could always count on almuerzo, but he woke up relatively early. His mother, who is a hairdresser and runs her salon, was already at work. She always trimmed her tall son’s distinctive, luxuriant hair with undisguised pleasure; she could see that this 20-year-old young man was maturing at an alarming rate and might soon want to live with his girlfriend. The Spaniard, born in Gilet, where he lives to this very day, briefly logged into Twitter (or, as one prefers, X) at 11 a.m. and thanked the Valencia CF fans for an unforgettable night.
It was his first goal in the colors of Blanquinegros and perhaps one of the most important, memorable goals in the history of the club, which ended the 2022/23 season just two points above the relegation zone. If it weren’t for that victory at Mestalla against Real Valladolid, with Guerra’s goal in the 93rd minute of the match, who knows whether this well-deserved club wouldn’t be on the right path to sharing the fate of the once big team, Deportivo La Coruña. Guerra was baptized by Valencianismo that night. A new hero was born; someone to identify with.
Despite his age, Javi’s journey leading up to this moment was long and demanding. He began his career at the age of just five at UD Puçol, which plays its matches at the Estadio José Claramunt – a stadium named after one of the greatest legends of Valencia CF. He was so young that he wasn’t registered, and started his journey as a striker (just as Carlos Soler), playing with kids two-three years older than him.
The fact that he played high up the pitch and scored a lot of goals could be startling for some when he was just breaking through in Valencia’s first team – Hugo Duro swore he had never seen him score in training before Guerra netted his debut, left-footed golazo, that got his club out of the relegation zone after Matchday 31 – but in the 2023/24 campaign, after netting three in the first six LALIGA games, everyone is well aware of his remarkable drive into the final third. “My coaches kept changing my position, and when I moved to an 11-a-side football, I played in central midfield,” recounts Javi.
It became apparent that UD Puçol quickly got too constricting for him, and he took a big step by joining Villarreal CF. Fast forward to March 27, 2019, he was honored by the club with a yellow submarine statuette for spending ten years in the club’s Cantera Grogueta. The problem was, he never really saw a clear path to the first team there. Torn between a football pitch and a tennis court as a teenager, he decided to join Valencia CF in the summer of 2019. It was a natural destination. He’s a Valencianista at heart.
His father, Javier, is a former footballer, and although he didn’t have a great career, he represented Valencia’s Juvenil A team for a year, and for the next four years, he played for the club’s reserves – VCF Mestalla. But there’s one more person in the versatile midfielder’s life who is just as important as his parents are: it’s his grandpa.
“The first person I played football with was my grandfather Antonio. It was in Canet, in the gardens by the seafront. We would set up the goal between two palm trees, and he would shoot the ball to me.” It was Antonio who accompanied Javi since day one, it’s him who took Javi to training all these years, and it’s he who instilled the love for Valencia Club de Fútbol in Javi. “He’s one of the most important people in my life.”
Javi Guerra made his professional debut on January 16, 2022, against Atlético Baleares in the Round of 16 of Copa del Rey, with Pepe Bordalás at the helm at Mestalla. It was just a one-minute cameo – and a lesson to be patient. He made his league debut exactly 15 months later, on April 16, 2023, against Sevilla.
His progress has slowed down a bit, and voices from his entourage like “he’s getting a bit bored” could be heard. He was playing in Segunda Federación, Spanish fourth division, after all. Still, at the end of 2022, reports emerged that Real Madrid and FC Barcelona will try to take advantage of the fact that he’s not playing for the first team, and his contract runs until June 2024. But then, things happened.
In February 2023, the club legend, Rubén Baraja, took over the team, replacing Gennaro Gattuso, and put trust in young people from the VCF Academy, seeing the club’s young blood – now known as La Quinta del Pipo – as something necessary to overcome the big crisis that was hanging like dark clouds over Estadio Mestalla.
Since his first Primera División appearance in April 2023, Guerra made it clear that he’s not going back to Mestalleta, and played in every single Valencia game until now, renewing his contract until June 2027 along the way, on May 16, with a release clause that should be dissuasive: €100m. The list of teams that are closely tracking him is really long, though: Real Madrid, FC Barcelona, Manchester City, Bayern, Atlético, Paris Saint-Germain, Arsenal, Manchester United, Newcastle, Tottenham and West Ham all joined the race to sign the next big thing in European football.
Los Ches decided to react; Miguel Ángel Corona, Valencia CF’s sporting director, contacted Daily Mail to make it clear, particularly in English media: “It’s not in our plans to sell him to any club.” As a graduate of Caxton College, a highly rated private, bilingual school, Javi knows English quite well. The idea behind Corona’s message to his target audience – Premier League clubs – makes more sense now, no? We live in an era of easily accessible information, and every big club that keeps track on Guerra probably did a quick research by now. Especially that the kid is currently valued at €50m.
His constantly improving set of abilities resulted in being on Luis de la Fuente’s pre-list, consisting of 49 players, for October 2023 call-ups for the senior Spain national team. He has also been named the LALIGA EA SPORTS Under-23 Player of the Month for September, with his goal, scored in an impressive 3-0 win against Atlético Madrid, being nominated for the Goal of the Month Award.
Despite being 187 cm tall, he showed his great dribbling skills and took a great shot from outside of the area to beat Jan Oblak. It’s easier to count his very few weaknesses than to fully characterize his skillset: he could play as a number six and a number eight, but he’s simply suited for playing as a box-to-box midfielder. “I think I have improved defensively,” he said back in 2021, after renewing his contract with Valencia, and could easily tell the very same thing after his renewal two years later.
This season, one can really see that the midfield was built around him: the new signing, Pepelu, is doing a lot of hard work defensively, and André Almeida (who’s playing as a mediapunta this campaign, a thing many Valencia fans don’t understand) is just as compatible, with Baraja giving the Portuguese a lot of freedom.
If Almeida finds his form at the position that is new for him or will be moved several meters deeper on the field, Javi Guerra will have an absolutely brilliant player to play one-twos with, which will make him even more unpredictable and harder to mark. Power, tackling, positioning, short passing, long passing, final pass, short and long-range scoring – Javi Guerra has it all.
What’s he like in private, you wonder? “He’s a shy, introverted, and calm person,” tells his father. “He’s not a boy who likes social networks, in fact he posts just enough, neither does the media hype… He likes to stay calm at home,” he adds. “He’s a lazy boy (laughs), he can be lazy sometimes with certain tasks, he enjoys being on the couch watching series. In fact, you won’t see him playing PlayStation much… And the naps he takes are champion-level, an hour and a half or two,” Javier senior reveals.
“At first, he’s very quiet, very shy, but once he integrates into the group, he shows himself as he is, makes jokes like everyone else…,” Miguel Ángel Angulo, VCF Mestalla coach, said about Javi. Guerra’s dad made it clear, though: “When he steps onto the field, he’s a completely different person; he has character and spirit. I believe his cool-headedness has helped him manage everything that’s happening to him.”
These words were echoed by Javi Guerra himself: “I drive the Skoda that the club has given me, and before that, I used my father’s car. I don’t want more – why should I when we have three cars at home? I haven’t changed my life much, and I don’t need to.” The 20-year-old starboy grows by leaps and bounds, with Sergio Busquets, Toni Kroos, Dani Parejo and Frenkie de Jong being his role models.
There’s literally a flood of exciting talents coming sooner than you think in Valencia: Javi Guerra, Fran Pérez and Diego López are an example for even younger gems – and are already running the show for Spain’s U21 side. After Rubén Baraja took over Los Ches, he’s slowly building a healthier environment around the players; especially around those young lads who stepped up in the most difficult moments of the previous season.
If this change has a face, it’s Javi Guerra’s. Guerramanía can be seen everywhere and is reflected by shirt sales: this season, the student of Marketing is leading the way for the most official shirts with a printed name sold by Valencia in mid-October, with 37%. Only José Luis Gayà, Valencia CF’s captain and a club legend in the making, comes close, with 33%. The fans can only hope for the team to finish the 2023/24 season as high up in the table as possible so that one of the hottest names on the market stays in the club of his life for a long, long time.
By: Michał Kosim / @en_kosim
Featured Image: @GabFoligno / Quality Sport Images / Getty Images