Cyle Larin, Valladolid

Valid in Valladolid: Cyle Larin’s blockbuster start to life in La Liga

Cyle Larin is one of those players who has struggled to find consistency throughout his career. His time in Turkey wouldn’t be described as a roaring success, despite finishing joint second top scorer in the Super Lig with 19 goals in 2020-21. The Brampton-born striker has however, hit the ground running at Real Valladolid in Spain after his January move, and may help ‘Los Pucelanos’ in their bid to stay in La Liga this season.

Cyle Larin (L) of Besiktas during the Turkish Super league football match between Besiktas and Hatayspor at Vodafone Par

Cyle Larin’s Journey

Larin signed for Besiktas, one of Turkey’s most historic clubs, in 2018, after a falling out with MLS side Orlando City which involved him missing training, which many believed was an effort to force a move elsewhere. From a young age, it was clear that Larin was a rare find in Canada, a striker with a combination of power, intelligence and a keen eye for goal. His form in Turkey was a mixture of highs and lows, finishing as the division’s joint-second top scorer and winning the Super Lig. crown in one season, but only managing 4 goals in the next.

However it certainly helped him develop character, as player who had been the subject of off-the-field problems during his time in the US, the Turkish League has had many players who have been the topic of controversy in their careers (Mario Balotelli & Arda Turan just to name a few) who have shone bright again and reshaped their career paths.

Larin was signed by Belgian giants Club Brugge in the summer of 2022 on a 3 year deal, but after a slow start which involved a change in head coach with the appointment of former Chelsea and Fulham midfielder Scott Parker, and was loaned out to spanish side Real Valladolid in January 2023.

Upon arrival in Spain, Larin was faced with the challenge of keeping last year’s Segunda Division runner-up Valladolid in La Liga. ‘Los Pucelanos’ sat 16th in the table, but had only managed 13 goals all season, numbers that would need to improve if they were to ensure survival. Larin made his debut at the Estadio José Zorrilla on the 29th of January against Valencia, coming on as a substitute in the 76th minute and scoring in the dying minutes to win a vital 3 points for his new club.

A week later, Larin would score in his 2nd game as Valladolid again picked up a 1-0 win away to high flying Real Sociedad. Another substitute appearance, another goal 15 minutes after coming on, Larin was beginning to look like the perfect impact substitute for Valladolid. Another goal would follow 2 weeks later against Real Betis in Seville, but unfortunately his side were beaten 2-1.

Goals against Elche and Athletic Bilbao followed in March as Larin continues to make an impact, starting from the beginning in every game in the month. 5 goals in 8 games for a side that only manage 3.8 shots on target per game on average suggests that his signing has made a positive impact, it’s just a question of how many he could end up with.

The Presence of ‘O Fenomeno’

Real Valladolid have a very well known president and majority holder at their club. Ronaldo Luís Nazário de Lima, or known to many football fans around the world as simply Ronaldo or R9, is one of the greatest players to have ever played the game and arguably the greatest player to ever wear the iconic number 9 shirt.

Having grown up in the 2000’s and playing as a striker from a young age, it’s likely that Larin may have modeled parts of his game off of the Legendary Brazilian, especially when you consider his use of both feet, his sheer dominance of the penalty area and his intelligence as a striker. Ronaldo is also ever present at the Jose Zorrilla, so he’ll get plenty of time to see his new signing in action, a signing he likely had a big say in making given his knowledge of the forward position.

Playing in the presence of one of the all time greats can often add a lot of pressure to a player, but given his time in Turkey, playing for a club with the stature of Besiktas, in a league where the fans treat the sport like a religion, it’s not something that’s likely to affect his time at Valladolid in a negative way, and could be the catalyst to help him reach the heights he would have wanted to reach as a young kid in Canada.

Can He Keep Them Up?

Only time will tell. Valladolid are locked in a very tight relegation battle this season, with only 6 points separating 11th and 19th place in the table. La Liga has statistically been the lowest scoring league of the traditional ‘big five’ this season, so any side that can find a reliable source of goals gives themselves a big opportunity to survive.

Sides like Getafe (Unal has 13 goals) and Celta Vigo (Aspas has 12, Veiga has 9) have reliable goalscorers and will see this as a competitive advantage over the next 15 games, but if Larin can continue to score at this rate he should finish the season with at least 12+ goals, which could ultimately be enough to secure Valladolid’s status in La Liga for another season. They currently sit in 16th place but only 2 points above the drop, and with 14 games still to be played, anything could happen.

Photo Credits
Photo 1 – imago images/Seskim Photo
Photo 2 – Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/GettyImages
Photo 3 – EPA