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Rubén Baraja Vegas (born 11 July 1975 in Valladolidmarker, Castile and Leónmarker) is a Spanishmarker professional footballer who currently plays for Valencia CF, in the Spanish first division.

A complete central midfielder with good tackling and offensive qualities together with accurate passing and goalscoring ability, Baraja was also a consistent part of the Spanish national team from 2000 to 2006.

Club career

Baraja started his career at local club Real Valladolid before moving to Atlético de Madrid, where he would spend two 1/2 seasons with the the B side, first appearing with the main squad on February 7, 1999, playing the second half of a 1-2 defeat at UD Salamanca. In 1998-99, with the B's in the second level, he netted a career-best 11 goals.

When Atlético was relegated at the end of 1999-2000, Baraja left the club in a 2,000 million pesetas transfer to that season's Champions League finalists Valencia CF, who were looking to strengthen their central midfield following the sale of first team players Gerard and Javier Farinós.

In his first season at Valencia, he was a key element in Valencia's 2000-01 Champions League campaign, as the club was beaten in the final for the second year running, this time losing in a penalty shootout to Bayern Munich, with Baraja scoring on his attempt.

The 2001-02 season would see Baraja's first trophy win, where his goals late in the campaign helped Valencia to their first league championship in 31 years. He finished the club's top scorer in the league with seven goals in only seventeen league games.

2003-04 was another big year, winning both the domestic championship (with eight Baraja league goals) as well as the UEFA Cup, beating Olympique de Marseille 2-0 in the final.

In 2006-07, he only appeared in 14 league contests, as Valencia finished fourth.

International career

Baraja made his debut for the Spanish national team on 7 October 2000, in the 2002 World Cup qualification 2-0 win over Israel. Consequently, he was picked for the final stages, where the team reached the quarter-finals before being sent out by South Korea on penalties, though Baraja, as the year before with his club, once again scored on his attempt.

Baraja also took part in the disappointing UEFA Euro 2004, where Spain was eliminated in the group stage by later finalists Portugal and Greece.

In the 2006 FIFA World Cup, Baraja was left out of the Spanish squad as his club presence was also diminished due to recurrent injuries.

Personal life

Baraja's younger brother, Javier, is also a professional footballer, currently with Real Valladolid.

Honours

Team Award Year(s)
Valencia Spanish League 2001-02, 2003-04
Valencia UEFA Cup 2003-04
Valencia UEFA Super Cup 2004
Valencia Spanish Cup 2007-08


References

  1. Players to watch - Rubén Baraja; BBC Sport, 25 May 2004
  2. Valencia break club transfer record; The Namibian, 2 August 2000
  3. Aragonés finds no place for Baraja; UEFA.com, 15 May 2006
  4. Baraja muscled out for Valencia; UEFA.com, 21 August 2006
  5. Valencia get bad news on Baraja; UEFA.com, 8 March 2007
  6. Baraja blow deepens Valencia woe; UEFA.com, 25 January 2008


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