Rising Star: Hugo Duro

Hugo Duro’s first ever match at Valencia’s Mestalla stadium was heart-breaking for the young striker. Just a few years on, however, the 22-year-old has become the hero of the Valencia faithful. His path to the team’s starting line-up has been an unconventional one, but Duro is now Los Che’s third top scorer across all competitions this season, with six goals in LaLiga Santander and two in the Copa del Rey.

It was during the 2018/19 Copa del Rey that Duro first gave the Valencia fans something to cheer about, albeit unintentionally. Back then, the striker was playing for his boyhood club Getafe in the competition’s quarter-finals and the Azulones were poised to progress on away goals at Mestalla. As Jorge Molina took a shot that could have killed the tie off, his own teammate Duro was in the way and accidentally blocked it, before Valencia went up the other end to score and progress, going on to lift the trophy that season. Miguel Ángel Román’s commentary of “Tocó en Hugo Duro” – “It hit Hugo Duro” – became legendary and his name was involuntarily immortalised in Valencia history.

That Copa del Rey defeat hurt Duro more than most. He was only 19 at the time and it was only his eighth appearance for Getafe, the club he grew up supporting and whose academy he joined at the age of five. Some young players might never have recovered from a moment like that. But he’s as resilient as they come; in fact, his surname translates as “tough.”

He kept working hard, combining training with his mechanical engineering studies, and helped Getafe qualify for the 2019/20 Europa League, with the club returning to the continental competition that Duro had previously watched as a supporter from the stands of the Coliseum Alfonso Pérez.

By the end of the COVID-interrupted 2019/20 season, Duro had emerged as one of Getafe coach José Bordalás’ favourite players. Despite that, Duro was loaned out to Real Madrid for the 2020/21 season to play for Castilla, the club’s reserve team. Working under Spanish legend Raúl, Duro added more to his game and became an even more intelligent striker, scoring 12 goals in 20 games for Castilla. Duro’s efforts even saw Zinedine Zidane give him three appearances with the Real Madrid first team, including in a Champions League knockout tie against Atalanta.

By the summer 2021, Duro was one of the clear rising stars of Spanish football. His rights were still owned by Getafe, but he was loaned out again when Bordalás moved to the Valencia dugout. A return to Real Madrid was discussed and might have materialised had Castilla earned promotion to LaLiga SmartBank, but Getafe looked at other options and found that their former coach was very keen to work with the young forward again. So, Bordalás and Duro joined forces, although, curiously, not before Duro had already played for Geta against Valencia on the opening day of the season.

When the transfer was confirmed, Valencia put together a creative social media campaign to announce his signing, with the commentator Miguel Ángel Román recreating his famous line to tell fans of Los Che that “Now he’s going to hit it for you.” Duro was on board with the idea, as he knows that moments like that have made him stronger.

Upon arrival at Valencia, the striker got to work to try to force his way into the line-up, as he wasn’t expected to be a starter when he signed. Quickly, though, he used everything he’d learned over the years at Getafe’s academy and under Raúl to prove himself and to become one of the first names on the team sheet. Thanks to a stoppage time brace in an epic 3-3 draw against Atlético de Madrid, his strike against his former Real Madrid teammates, and crucial goals in this year’s Copa del Rey quarter-finals and semi-finals, Duro has been the author of some of the most important moments of Valencia’s season. As Valencia push for a European spot and cup glory, he’ll be as important as anyone else in Jose Bordalas’ squad.

It’s not fully clear what the future holds for the 22-year-old, as Valencia have a purchase option in their loan agreement with the player’s boyhood club Getafe. Anything is possible, as his road to this point has been unconventional, but Hugo Duro is simply enjoying the ride.

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