One Step Forward, Two Back For Valencia
Arms outstretched, face emotionless Valencia coach Nuno watches his former team succumb to Sevilla. Sevilla coached by Unai Emery, the very man who drove Valencia to three of their strongest consecutive finishes. Nuno, however, knows this is to be his last game in charge of Los Che; his players though, do not. All had seemed to be bright at the start of the season, they had stormed to their highest league position in years and finally La Mestalla would be hosting Champions League football again.
Valencia had seemed to turn a corner under their little known Portuguese coach Nuno, a former goalkeeper. The football they played was full of reverberating character, immense intricacy and at times utter devastation. They stormed up the table, famously beating Real Madrid twice on their way to Champions League qualification, their first in two years. The black cloud that had been hanging over the club looked as though it was clearing, and that ray of sunshine came in the form of businessman Peter Lim. Lim has previously expressed interest in several other clubs inclusive of Rangers and Liverpool.
Their new saviour bought a shedload of cash, and with that optimism. Players started arriving, mainly from Portugal, as the puppet strings began to tug. With a flood of players coming in from Portugal, one would rightly assume that Jorge Mendes was somewhere close by, and yes, the worlds biggest ‘super-agent’ claimed to be a close friend of Valencia’s new owner, as did Nuno. Nuno claims that he will still remain friends with Lim, despite being forced out.
Spanish football still remains in the 1700’s, well, at least in the board room in Valencia. On the arrival of Lim, there was what can only be described as a civil war type power struggle, as ex-President Armando Salvo was forced out, followed this summer by Sporting Director Fuente, and before the takeover former manager Pizzi had been relieved of his duties in a shambolic way. Salvo, rather apologetically, explaining that Pizzi had no future at the club after the takeover. And so it was. Lim arrived, rocked the boat, and the old guard fell out.
Hop on board, Jorge Mendes. At first, the dream seemed to be very real – Alvaro Negredo arrived from Manchester City, Enzo Perez from Benfica. Results took an upturn, Paco Alcacer was called up to the Spanish national team and Valencia needn’t sell their best players every summer. But as the new season rolled around, Nuno’s contagious character has disappeared. So too had the results, even worse Negredo was banished to the stands after slagging off Nuno’s new style of play in the newspaper AS. Rightly so, the expansive football that Los Che has played vanished. Lateral, conservative passes matched Nuno’s flat, dull character. Critics would also say that matched his new assistant coach, Phil Neville.
His final game against Sevilla was dreadful, his team – or should we say former team – did not even muster a shot on goal. Javi Fuego described Valencia quite eloquently with this quote “We lose confidence, we don’t get results, we lose confidence even more …”. The performances had slowly but surely gotten worse and the identity that Valencia had built up over the previous season had gone. So had Nuno. Hours before the match with Sevilla, he told Lim that he wanted to leave. His players didn’t know of his decision until the pre-match press conference. Even then, his resignation was not confirmed by the club until Monday evening. In a strange way, it is surprising that Nuno had lasted 13 match days, as the rhetoric for the season had been one of the fans wanting him to leave.
A few months ago, everything seemed so rosy at Valencia. The Champions League anthem could be played in the historic Mestalla stadium once again, the €300,000,000 debt that had hung over them like a soaking wet coat had disappeared after the arrival of Lim. It looked as though Valencia would be back where they belong, at the top of the table. Like the project was going to work. But since the influence of Mendes tightens and board-level backstabbing continues to happen, the fans aren’t so sure anymore.