A player who has wowed fans of clubs in his homeland Chile, during his impressive sojourn in the fiercely competitive Brazilian league and now at current side Al Ain in the United Arab Emirates, Jorge Valdivia is a No10 in the traditional sense. Dubbed ‘El Mago’ (The Magician) by followers of Brazilian outfit Palmeiras, Valdivia blends silky skills with a fiery disposition, a trait which has proved his undoing on more than one occasion.
Equally adept at laying on goalscoring opportunities for his team-mates and eluding defenders to fire off a shot himself, El Mago came up through the youth ranks at Colo Colo, though it was on loan with Universidad de Concepcion that he made his top-flight debut in 2003. Unable to secure regular first-team football, he made another loan move to Spanish side Rayo Vallecano in 2004, followed by Swiss outfit Servette FC the following year, though made little impact at either.
However, on his return to his Chile and Colo Colo he coincided with the likes of Alexis Sanchez, Humberto Suazo, Matias Fernandez and Arturo Vidal, all of whom will line up alongside him at the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™. This stellar line-up stormed to the Apertura 2006 title, with Valdivia’s performances earning him a big-money move to Palmeiras. After a shaky start, victory in the 2008 Paulista state championship helped El Mago win the hearts of O Verdão’s faithful, who even forgave his swift subsequent departure for the Emirates.
Valdivia’s first taste of the national team set-up came at U-23 level under coach Juvenal Olmos, in the squad that failed to negotiate South American qualifying for the Men’s Olympic Football Tournament Athens 2004. Olmos did not take the player to that year’s Copa America in Peru, though he did use him in six qualifiers for Germany 2006, a tournament La Roja also missed out on.
He was a mainstay of Nelson Acosta’s era as Chile coach, however, and was called up for the 2007 Copa America in Venezuela. But an act of indiscipline at that event cost him a 20-match ban, later reduced to ten, which forced him out of the early stages of current boss Marcelo Bielsa’s time in charge.
His return for La Roja came in defeat against Brazil in a South Africa 2010 qualifier in September 2008. Despite picking up a red card in that game, Bielsa continued to hand him opportunities for the remainder of qualifying. Valdivia repaid that faith with a goal in the 4-2 away win over Colombia that clinched Chile’s place at the finals.