Can Valencia continue to compete?
Valencia have undoubtedly been Spain’s number three team over the course of the Real Madrid-Barcelona domination of late, and have regularly finished in the Champion’s League in the top four since 2009. However, in 2012/13, Valencia were usurped by Real Sociedad for fourth place, and the club have a massive task on their hands to continue to compete with their rivals with a constantly increasing mountain of debt looming over the city.
Like a number of Spanish teams, Valencia are in serious financial trouble, but what makes Los Che stand out is why this debt has mounted up and how they intend to solve the situation. Valencia’s stadium, the world famous Mestalla, a football stadium with a genuinely fearsome atmosphere for opposing players and a rich tapestry of footballing history, is long overdue for a revamp, a view shared by fans and board members alike. On the 10th November 2006, the club unveiled a plan for the Nou Mestalla, a state of the art 75000 capacity stadium, with work beginning in 2007. That this stadium is still to be completed will probably tell you that complications arose, but Valencia are a club where even complications are taken to the extreme. The stadium, due for completion in 2009, had to be postponed indefinitely when the clubs loans reached an almost unbelievable €600 million, and the club entered full crisis mode. Players were sold, almost without exception, and turning a profit took priority over on-field success.
That then-manager, Unaí Emery managed to continue to finish 3rd in the subsequent two seasons is a testament to the man, but after his confrontational style ran down the board’s patience, his contract was allowed to expire. His replacement, Mauricio Pellegrino was unable to continue the club’s recent good performances, and after several managerial changes in just one year, the club succumbed to a fifth place finish, behind a resurgent Atletico Madrid and an inspired Real Sociedad (more on them here).
This season, the club has continued the theme of selling it’s best players with the sale of Roberto Soldado to Tottenham (Who as Spurs fans will already be noting, has the knack of scoring down to a tee, but still has very little else to his game), and Aly Cissokho to Liverpool (Who I rate highly, but is still very open to improvement). The club have opted for Real Valladolid’s promising young Serbian manager, and former player, Miroslav Djukic, a sensible and forward-thinking appointment, and after a re-organisation of the club’s debt, the construction of the Nou Mestalla has begun once again. Following a horrible period of off-field uncertainty, things are looking up. But will things on the pitch match the club’s new positive outlook? This is now a team without a bonafide star player, and star quality is lacking, especially in comparison to Sociedad’s attacking trio of Griezmann, Vela and Seferovic, and Atleti’s David Villa.
This is Valencia’s great conundrum. It has always been assumed that a stable, settled club breeds stable successful results. But with the Mestalla club, this seems to be the opposite. When the club has it’s back against the wall, with a mountain of debt crushing against it, the team’s players responded admirably, recording two back to back seasons of consistency. But now that the club is back on the right track, although admittedly not out of trouble yet, Valencia must try and turn this into a successful season. In Miroslav Djukic, they have a competitive manager who will get the best out of his squad, but the question mark remains over the squad he has in his hands.
This is a club that has sold, in the past decade alone, David Villa, Juan Mata, David Silva, Roberto Soldado, Aly Cissokho, Tino Costa, Jordi Alba, Pablo Hernandez, Joaquin, Isco (for a mere €6m at the age of 19), and Nikola Zigic for over €150 million euros, and although some of this warchest has been re-invested into the squad, it is hard to make such sales continuously without weakening the team. This season will go a long way then to see whether Valencia can continue to compete with the big boys in Spain, or will Valencia’s descent of last year extend into Djukic’s reign?
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