A fine and experienced Portuguese international left back, Nuno Valente arrived at Goodison in August 2005, after Alessandro Pistone was struck by a career ending injury. Valente had previously been a member of Jose Mourinho’s FC Porto team that won back-to-back UEFA Cup and Champions League accolades in 2003 and 2004 and came on the recommendation of his former manager, who was by then in charge of Chelsea. Indeed Mourinho clearly rated Valente highly: in 2002, when he left União de Leiria to manage Porto, Valente followed his manager, becoming his first signing at Estádio do Dragão.
Nearing his 31st birthday when the £1.5million transfer was completed, Valente’s signing ran counter to David Moyes’s stated policy of signing only younger players. Indeed the onset of his Everton career was replete with mistakes and hesitancy. In one of only his first appearances – a UEFA Cup horror show against Dinamo Bucharest – Valente suffered a nightmare and was constantly caught out of position and second best to the Romanians’ winger, even seeming to dive out the way of a goal bound shot.
But over the course of the 2005/6 season, after settling in, Valente proved his value, bringing experience, composure and a touch of gamesmanship to the Everton squad. A tough, cloying full back, Valente liked to get in close to his opponents and jockey them out of possession. His passing was accurate and intelligent and although never particularly quick, his forward runs were a useful outlet for the attack. Never the most naturally athletic of players he was sometimes caught for pace, but overall his astute reading and veteran’s calm set him apart as a fine left back. At the end of his debut campaign he was part of the Portugal squad that reached the World Cup semi finals, and was outstanding in his country’s quarter final victory over England.
Alas, injuries diminished his contribution to the Everton cause beyond this first season. In his absence Joleon Lescott proved an outstanding auxiliary left back, and after Leighton Baines’ arrival in 2007, Valente slipped further down the pecking order. Moyes nevertheless recognised his value as a squad member twice extending his contract so that he remained an Everton player until June 2009, when he announced his retirement.