Mendieta in 1995
|Full name||Gaizka Mendieta Zabala|
|Date of birth||27 March 1974|
|Place of birth||Bilbao, Spain|
|Height||1.73 m (5 ft 8 in)|
|2002-2003||-> Barcelona (loan)||33||(4)|
|2003-2004||-> Middlesbrough (loan)||31||(2)|
|* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only|
Gaizka Mendieta Zabala (Spanish pronunciation: ['gaj?ka men'djeta ?a'?ala], Basque: [gais?ka mendieta s?a?ala]; born 27 March 1974) is a Spanish former professional footballer who played as a midfielder.
A versatile player, with good technique, offensive capabilities and tackling skills, who was capable of creating goals both for his teammates and himself, he played mainly for Valencia, and finished his career with Middlesbrough in England. Over the course of ten seasons, he amassed La Liga totals of 263 games and 48 goals.
After just one season he moved to La Liga after signing with Valencia CF for 30 million pesetas, but spent the vast majority of his first year with the reserves, making his first team debut on 13 June 1993 against Cádiz CF; he played 34 of 42 games during the 1995-96 season as the latter finished runners-up, their best result since 1990.
The 1997-98 campaign was Mendieta's breakthrough season, under new manager Claudio Ranieri. Moving to a central midfield role he played 30 league matches and scored ten goals, soon making his debut for the national team. In June 1999 he won his first trophy with the club, beating Atlético Madrid in the Copa del Rey; he found the net in wins over Levante UD, FC Barcelona (both legs) and Real Madrid during the run to the final, where he scored a memorable goal: controlling a cross on his chest, he flicked the ball over his own head and two defenders before turning to volley past the goalkeeper.
Under new manager Héctor Cúper, Mendieta had an even better year in 1999-2000. He helped Valencia beat Barcelona 4-3 on aggregate to win the Supercopa de España, and netted a career-best 13 goals as the Che finished third. However, the biggest triumph of the season was helping his team reach the final of the season's UEFA Champions League, a 0-3 loss to fellow league side Real Madrid; later, he was awarded the "European Midfielder of the Season" award.
Valencia reached the final of the Champions League in the following year and lost it again, this time to FC Bayern Munich after a penalty shootout. Mendieta scored an early penalty in normal time to give his team a 1-0 lead, and also converted his attempt in the shootout, being again named "UEFA Best Midfielder of the Year".
Mendieta was one of the most sought-after players in the 2001 off-season, eventually earning a EUR47.7 million transfer (or a reported 8 billion pesetas) to Italian club S.S. Lazio, being at the time the sixth most expensive player of all time. However, he disappointed in Serie A, spending only one year in Rome while failing to match the performances of departed playmakers Pavel Nedv?d and Juan Sebastián Verón.
Mendieta was loaned to Barcelona for the 2002-03 season- he started most of the fixtures, but the Catalans could only rank sixth - and subsequently he moved to Middlesbrough, choosing the Premier League club over offers from his homeland (Atlético Madrid and Athletic Bilbao) due to a desire to play in England.
In his first season at Middlesbrough, Mendieta was part of the team that won the Football League Cup, bringing the Teesside club its first ever silverware. In July 2004, the move was made permanent with no transfer fee involved.
In his last two years, a string of injuries (including one which caused him to miss the 2006 UEFA Cup Final) and long spells of regaining match fitness relegated Mendieta to the substitutes bench. He fell out of favour with manager Gareth Southgate, who made it clear that the player no longer featured in his first team plans. Reports suggested that Real Sociedad, Athletic Bilbao and Málaga CF were interested in purchasing the midfielder in the January 2007 transfer window, however no concrete agreement was ever made, and the transfer deadline passed amid speculation that the player was set for a move to Los Angeles Galaxy; towards its end, he was quoted to have said that he would fight for his place at Middlesbrough. A day later, Boro's chief executive Keith Lamb disregarded his comments saying that there was "no chance" of him featuring in the first team. He played his last game on 26 December 2006, against Everton.
On 5 December 2007, according to a Spanish newspaper, Mendieta announced his retirement from professional football when his Middlesbrough contract expired at the end of the 2007-08 campaign, He was finally released on 13 May 2008, ending a successful 17-year professional career.
On 3 November 2009, Mendieta was quoted as saying a part of him would be interested in football management when interviewed by the BBC. He said: "A part of me can see the excitement and challenge of being a manager, definitely." After retiring, he settled with his family near Middlesbrough, in Yarm.
In March/May 1996, Mendieta was part of the Spain under-21 team which was runner-up in the UEFA European Championship. He made his senior side debut on 27 March 1999, coming on as a substitute for Juan Carlos Valerón in a 9-0 thrashing of Austria for UEFA Euro 2000's qualifying stages; he was included in the list of 22 for the competition in Belgium and the Netherlands, helping the national side reach the last eight.
Despite his form slump at Lazio, Mendieta was picked for the squad at the 2002 FIFA World Cup, scoring one goal in three matches for the eventual quarter-finalists, against South Africa (3-2 win). The last of his 40 caps was earned in a friendly with Bulgaria in Granada, four months after the World Cup.
Mendieta was sponsored by sportswear company Nike, and appeared in commercials for the brand. In a global advertising campaign in the run-up to the 2002 World Cup in South Korea and Japan, he starred in a "Secret Tournament" commercial (branded "Scorpion KO") directed by Terry Gilliam, appearing alongside footballers such as Luís Figo, Thierry Henry, Hidetoshi Nakata, Roberto Carlos, Ronaldinho, Ronaldo and Francesco Totti, with former player Eric Cantona the tournament "referee".
Mendieta's father Andrés was also a footballer who played as a goalkeeper. Originally from Lekeitio, Biscay, he spent his final years as a player at Castellón and later worked on the club's staff, raising his family in the region. Thus, Gaizka emerged through their youth system despite his Basque birthplace.
Fellow Bilbao-born Spain internationals Ander Herrera and Roberto Ríos had similar origins, learning their skills in the cities where their footballing fathers (Pedro and Eusebio respectively) were based professionally. However, both later signed for Athletic Bilbao, while Mendieta never featured for a Basque club; him and his father both represented Spain at the Olympic Games tournament, the latter in 1968 and the former in 1996.
Mendieta was a talented athlete as a youth and came close to pursuing middle-distance running as a career over football. He was a fan of music, and in particular had a passion for DJing; he also appeared on-stage at the Benicàssim festival in 2015 during a set by the band Los Planetas, whose song referenced him in its lyrics.
|1.||5 June 1999||El Madrigal, Villarreal, Spain||San Marino||9-0||9-0||Euro 2000 qualifying|
|2.||7 June 2000||Josy Barthel, Luxembourg, Luxembourg||Luxembourg||1-0||1-0||Friendly|
|3.||21 June 2000||Jan Breydel, Bruges, Belgium||FR Yugoslavia||3-3||3-4||Euro 2000|
|4.||25 June 2000||Jan Breydel, Bruges, Belgium||France||1-1||1-2||Euro 2000|
|5.||24 March 2001||José Rico Pérez, Alicante, Spain||Liechtenstein||4-0||5-0||2002 World Cup qualification|
|6.||24 March 2001||José Rico Pérez, Alicante, Spain||Liechtenstein||5-0||5-0||2002 World Cup qualification|
|7.||1 September 2001||Mestalla, Valencia, Spain||Austria||4-0||4-0||2002 World Cup qualification|
|8.||12 June 2002||Daegu World Cup, Daegu, South Korea||South Africa||1-2||2-3||2002 World Cup|