Ecuador’s national football team has given much to talk about in the 2022 Qatar World Cup. Despite not being one of the favorite teams among the best 32 teams in the world, Ecuador turned out to be a country with great soccer. In their great performances against Qatar and the Netherlands, Ecuador was on the verge of qualifying for the round of 16. However, they lost their match against Senegal, which left them out of the World Cup. Even though Ecuador could not qualify for the round of 16, the Ecuadorian team showed great players such as Piero Hincapie, Pervis Estupiñan, Moises Caicedo, and Enner Valencia.
With this World Cup, Valencia became the undisputed goalscorer of Ecuador, both in World Cups and at a general level. Scoring six goals in World Cups, Valencia has proven to be the striker that Ecuador has needed so much. For these reasons, we will discuss Valentia’s career and how he has achieved his status as a great football player in this article.
Enner Valencia’s Background
Enner Valencia was born in San Lorenzo, Esmeraldas, on November 4, 1989. Valencia comes from a community of cow-milking farmers. Due to poverty, Enner faced many difficult situations in his childhood and adolescence. He spent a lot of time helping his family by selling milk on the streets of San Lorenzo. Despite these difficulties, Valencia never lost his vision of becoming a professional soccer player and started playing on the fields of his neighborhood.
The first team to notice Valencia’s potential
In an interview with the Daily Mail, Valencia said that he often told his parents he was going to school when, in reality, he was heading to the fields to continue practicing his beloved sport. After spending several hours a day playing in his neighborhood, he was recruited by Caribe Junior Football Club at age 15. Valencia was part of the Lago Agrio team until 2008 when Emelec of Guayaquil recruited Valencia.
Valencia’s early stages in professional soccer
Despite being part of Emelec, Valencia did not have the opportunity to debut in the first team until 2010. As he joined the team, Valencia showed his high level when he finished top scorer of the Copa Sudamericana 2013 and was champion of the Serie A of Ecuadorian soccer with Emelec. In this season, Enner made his debut with La Tri in 2012. However, he would not score a goal with Ecuador until 2013, when he scored a goal in a friendly match against Honduras.
Breakthrough and departure from the country
After his time with Emelec, Valencia left the country and was signed by Pachuca of Mexico. Valencia immediately joined Mexican soccer, becoming a permanent starter in the club. Scoring 18 goals in 25 games, several European clubs were interested in the Ecuadorian striker. Finally, the English club West Ham United ended up signing Valencia for US$20 million. What finally convinced the English team to bet on Valencia was his performance in the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. Despite eliminating Ecuador in the group stage of this World Cup, Valencia scored all three goals for La Tri.
He scored his first goal with West Ham against Hull City on September 15, 2014. Despite performing well for the English team, Valencia could only score ten goals in 68 games, playing three seasons. On August 31, 2016, Enner was loaned to Everton with an option to buy, playing one season with the team. This season, he scored three goals in 23 games. Valencia’s performances throughout his career in England led him to return to the Mexican league, as he could not find the goal-scoring rhythm that he had experienced at Pachuca in Mexico.
Return to Mexico
Remembering that the Mexican league was a place where he could adapt and demonstrate his goal-scoring skills, he returned to Mexico and was signed by Tigres UANL. With the Nuevo Leon team, he played three seasons, scoring 34 goals in 118 games. Valencia’s performances were key for the Mexican team that won La Liga MX 2 times in 2017 and 2019 and also won the Champions Cup 2 times. He also won two international titles with Tigres, the Champions Cup, and the CONCACAF Champions League. He currently plays as a starter for Fenerbahce of Turkey, with an impressive record of 41 goals in 90 games.
After his outstanding performance in the 2014 Brazil World Cup, Valencia has been an indispensable player in the Ecuadorian national team. Despite not qualifying for the 2018 Russia World Cup, Valencia scored five goals in the qualifiers. On the other hand, he scored in the Copa Americas 2015, 2019, and the Copa America Centenario. Valencia was the last player to score in a World Cup for the Ecuadorian national team, making him a vital addition to the Ecuadorian team. Valencia showed again the great striker he is and scored three goals in the first two matches of the 2022 Qatar World Cup.
With so many goals scored with the Ecuadorian national team, Enner became Ecuador’s all-time goalscorer with 38 goals. He is also Ecuador’s all-time leading scorer in World Cups, with six goals out of the 14 Ecuador has scored in the 4 World Cups it has played.
Comparison with players like Garrincha, Raul, Romario, Puskas, Cavani, and Mbappé
Valencia has been compared several times with Agustin «Tin» Delgado and Cristian «Chucho» Benitez for his great performance with La Tri. Both players were great strikers for the Ecuadorian national team. Delgado scored 31 goals in 72 games for the national team, while Benitez scored 24 goals in 61 games. Valencia’s career personally and with the Ecuadorian national team has changed the player’s perception. Enner is currently one of the best players Ecuador has ever seen and may continue to set records with La Tri’s jersey. Despite being 33 years old, Valencia may be called up for the following qualifying matches for the 2026 World Cup. Although Valencia will be 36 years old for his next World Cup, you never know how far the San Lorenzo-born player can go and where he may be able to play his 3rd World Cup.
Valencia has broken several records of great sports figures when comparing him to foreign players. For example, Valencia has scored six goals in 6 World Cup games, surpassing Garrincha, who scored five goals in 12 games; Raul, who scored five goals in 11 games, Romario, who scored five goals in 8 games; and Puskas, who scored four goals in 6 games. On the other hand, Valencia continues to outperform Cavani, who has five goals in 15 games, and Mbappé, who has scored five goals in 8 games. And Lewandowski, who has only scored 1 goal in 4 games. Even though these players are still playing in the World Cup, the only player to surpass Valencia in this statistic is likely France’s star player Mbappé.