Mario Kempes arrived at the Mestalla in the summer of 1976 for 40 million pesetas (roughly £0.5 million) from Rosario Central. Valencia chairman, Ramos Costa, agreed to the staggering transfer fee despite never having actually seen Kempes in action. 

Costa was a frequent reader of legendary Argentinian football publication El Gráfico, who’s pages were full of lavish praise for the young striker’s exploits. The then 21 year old Kempes had scored a staggering 96 goals in just 120 games games in his homeland.

The move payed off instantly as Kempes’ first two seasons of European football would see him score 24 and 28 league goals respectively, making him La Liga’s top scorer two years running.

The summer after his second season with Valencia would see Kempes achieve global fame as he starred for Argentina at the highly controversial 1978 World Cup on home soil. Manager Cesar Menotti had a rule that no foreign players should be included in the squad, though in the end Kempes’ form was simply too impressive to ignore and he became the only foreign based player in the side.

The decision payed off massively as Kempes’ six goals, including two in the final, would see him crowned a World Cup winner as well as top scorer and best player at the World Cup. He was still just 23.

The following season would see Valencia clinch the Copa Del Rey, Kempes scored both in an emphatic 2-0 win over Real Madrid.

This triumph qualified Valencia for the next season's European Cup Winner's Cup and Kempes once again starred as Valencia overcame Rangers and Barcelona on the way to meeting Terry Neil’s Arsenal side in the final.

The final in the end would be a drab affair and despite a miss from Kempes, Valencia would clinch the cup on penalties. In a familiar tale Kempes would once again finish the tournament as top scorer.

In total Kempes played just 7 years at Valencia, winning 3 cups but his influence is undeniable. Just this year he was named Valencia’s greatest ever player in a poll of 100,000 fans.

In the end Kempes’ star burned extremely bright and didn’t last, but Valencia fans will always remember the very best of ‘El Matador‘ 🦇


Words by Andy Gallagher


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