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With 10 managers in four years, just what is going on at Valencia?

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When it was announced that Cesare Prandelli had presented his resignation as manager of Valencia just two days before the opening of the transfer window, it sent shockwaves around Spanish football. Not because Prandelli had been particularly impressive, he managed only three wins, three draws and four defeats in his ten games in charge, but because his resignation reflected just how deep the despair at Valencia is as he became the tenth manager to depart the club in four years, since now Paris Saint-Germain manager Unai Emery departed.

His unexpected walk out comes at a time when Valencia are in their lowest league position at this stage of the season since the club’s only relegation in their history over 30 years ago. Funds to sign players are tightly limited, largely down to financial fair play, and the squad is struggling. But just how has Spain’s fifth best supported club, with six titles to their name, come to this situation?

The easiest thing to do may be to point the finger at the managers who have failed to last. Particularly for English fans, it would be easy to look at the appointment of Gary Neville last season and lament the wrong choices of managers, but to do so would be foolish. Prandelli himself was previously the manager of the Italian national team and has also had roles at Roma and Galatasaray amongst others. Before him, Ernesto Valverde lasted less than a season but has since been a massive hit at Athletic Bilbao, Juan Antonio Pizzi is now national manager of Chile, Nuno is head coach at Porto and even supposed cheap option Pako Ayestaran had decades of experience at the very top of the game.

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The problem lies deeper than that. On one level, the current squad is not good enough. In attack, there is no real out and out striker. The likes of Rodrigo, Santi Mina and Nani have been trialled but none are best used in a central role and their goal tallies reflect that. Defensively, the quality is better, but Eliaquim Mangala, on loan from Manchester City, is one of many who have taken longer than expected to settle and improve the quality of their performances. That said, it should be performing better than a side only out of the La Liga relegation zone on goal difference. It boosts players of the quality of Diego Alves, Dani Parejo, Joao Cancelo and more, who should be expected to do better.

That has developed from the sale of top players, with the likes of David Villa, Jordi Alba, David Silva, Juan Mata and Nicolas Otamendi all sold previously. This summer, the problem reached its peak with Shkodran Mustafi, Paco Alcacer and Andre Gomes three key names to be sold and not effectively replaced. This summer, Los Che made a £65 million profit in the transfer window, having spent a shocking £122 million on 14 players in the summer of 2015.

Herein lies the biggest issue in recent years for the club – their recruitment has been appalling. Fueled by Jorge Mendes’ questionable influence over the club’s transfer policy, fees such as the £24 million paid for Alvaro Negredo, now on loan at Middlesbrough, have been exorbitant at best. Others have been needless, with none of the 11 signings made in the 2013/14 season still at the club. That kind of turnover is unsustainable, and every two seasons the squad has become almost unrecognisable. The most successful manager since Emery’s departure, Nuno, secured a fourth place finish in 2015, but the turnover in players means that very few of the key players of that side remain.

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So, where does the issue come from? Most blame Peter Lim, the Singaporean investor who took over the club in 2014. To do so could be harsh; Lim sunk €94 million in taking a controlling share of the club and stabilising it by paying off the massive debts, effectively securing the future of the club. However, things have turned sour, he hasn’t been seen at Mestalla for over a year and that has led to booing from the home crowd and questions in the look media like “who is Peter Lim? Does Peter Lim exist?”. Club president Layhoon Chan did little to ease fans fears when she responded by saying “I am Peter Lim. Do you understand? I am Peter Lim and I am here.” Right…

The complicated management of the club is not helped by constant speculation over the role of sporing director Suso Garcia Pitarch, largely held accountable for the poor transfer dealings but still at the club. Funds are reportedly running low, with claims that the club could not afford to sack Pako Ayestaran in the summer and now cannot afford to fund the transfers that Prandelli wanted in January. Agents are said to be reluctant to deal with the club as many are not convinced by the running of the club. Pitarch himself seems to be unclear, just two weeks ago he stated that nobody wanted to leave the club, and now the manager has.

What next for Valencia? Their top target as a managerial candidate would be former Villarreal boss Marcelino, but the Spanish FA have already prohibited that due to a rule in Spain which forbids any manager from managing two clubs in one season, and Marcelino left the Yellow Submarine after registration for the 2016/17 season. There are seemingly few candidates ready to step up and takeover, especially given the poisoned chalice that it has come to represent. An experienced manager would be the perfect fit and Manuel Pellegrini has previously been mentioned, but he is unlikely to take the gamble. Nobody wants to see an unknown quantity like Gary Neville again, but there seem to be few alternatives, particularly given caretaker manager Voro’s reluctance to take the roll on full-time.

With 12 points from 15 games and only narrowly above the relegation zone, forward Santi Mina summed it up perfectly when he said post-match after a defeat, “either we show our balls and our courage or we’re going to ****.” Improvements are need, and desperately fast. They do have a game in hand on their side, but that is against table toppers Real Madrid. A manager and a striker have to be the top priorities, or else you could only fear the worst for the club. Relegation from the top flight would be the first time in over 30 years, the only time in their history. With financial concerns off the field, relegation on it could be a death sentence for one of Spain’s biggest clubs. Whilst consecutive draws or defeats may have constituted a crisis a few years ago when Rafa Benitez led the club to league and UEFA Cup success in 2003/04, this is the definition of crisis.

Featured Image: All rights reserved by FC Barcelona Türkiye.

Sam is a football journalist focusing on English football at all levels and Spanish football. He also writes for Spain's biggest daily sports newspaper, MARCA, as well as The Boot Room. Find Sam on Twitter at @samleveridge.

Manchester United

Manchester United and Tottenham scout Valencia’s Ezequiel Garay – Could a move be imminent?

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Garay

Valencia based newspaper SuperDeporte claim that Manchester United had two scouts and Tottenham also had a scout at Valencia’s first La Liga fixture to keep an eye on central defender Ezequiel Garay, who has previously played for the likes of Benfica and Zenit St. Petersburg.

What would he bring to the Premier League?

The 30-year-old has great experience, with 68 appearances in European competition throughout his career and a further 32 international caps for Argentina, where he has played alongside the likes of Marcos Rojo and Sergio Romero.

He is also known for his focused style of defending which rarely sees him make individual errors. His leadership and concentration are real assets which see Garay often stand out as the key presence in a back line.

Furthermore, Garay is good on the ball and has an impressive range of passing for a defender. He often looks to launch counter attacks with a long ball from the back, often looking to the wings to launch a pass to play a winger into a dangerous position. That could fit in well in Mourinho’s United team.

Is a move likely?

The report states that both Manchester United’s head of scouting in Spain, Carlos Ruiz, and their chief scout, Javier Ribalta, were at Valencia’s opening day win over Las Palmas on Friday to watch Garay, which could suggest a very real and strong potential interest in the defender.

Defence is a position in which the Red Devils are already well stocked, with the likes of Eric Bailly, Phil Jones, Chris Smalling, Victor Lindelof, Daley Blind and Marcos Rojo already covering the heart of the back four. However, Garay may add experience if any of those options opt to leave the club for more regular first team football.

Spurs too seem to be covered in the position after the arrival of Davinson Sanchez, but Garay could be a long term option if they lose any of their current options with such experience in short supply in the Spurs squad.

Valencia have shown in previous transfer windows that they are often happy to sell if the right offer is on the table. Given their financial struggles this summer, they may be happy to offload the Argentinean at a bargain price if Manchester United or Tottenham do come calling at some point.

Ezequiel Garay to Manchester United or Tottenham
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Transfer Likelihood
The Boot Room's Verdict
He may become a long term target if either club feels that they could get him at a cheap price, but he would surely not be an immediate priority.
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Chelsea

Who is Tottenham and Chelsea target Joao Cancelo?

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Cancelo

Chelsea are the latest club to have been linked with Valencia right-back Joao Cancelo, by Sky Sports, only days after the Daily Mail claimed that Tottenham may make a £25 million move for the full-back.

Who is he?

A 23-year-old Portugal international, Cancelo is primarily a right-back but can play anywhere along the right hand side and has also previously featured on the left. Heading into what could be a fourth season at Valencia, he has become one of La Liga’s most exciting talents.

Where has he been?

The full-back came through the ranks at Benfica back in Portugal, though he only made one first team appearance for the Eagles. He played mostly for the Benfica B team, registering 18 assists and scoring twice in 52 games, but was then sold to Valencia for an undisclosed fee after a loan spell. Cancelo has now established himself as first choice at Mestalla over the past two seasons, with four goals and nine assists in 90 games to date.

What’s his style of play?

Cancelo is an attacking minded full-back who can play anywhere along the right hand side. He would fit in well at wing-back or anywhere on the right flank. Cancelo loves to bomb down the wing on long dribbles before whipping the ball into the box, much like the wing-backs currently at both clubs.

What would his arrival mean for either side?

For both sides, it seems likely that Cancelo would simply add depth. Neither squad is particularly strong at wing-back and both will be looking to add to the ranks in order to keep competition up with the likes of Victor Moses or Kieran Trippier. Neither of those players have recognised senior players competing with them for a starting spot at their respective clubs.

Cancelo may also offer a versatile option to play on the left flank if required or even further forward on the right. That is more likely to be deployed at Chelsea, where he may cover for the likes of Pedro or Willian.

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Tottenham Hotspur

Tottenham target Valencia’s Joao Cancelo to add depth at right-back – would he be a good signing?

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Cancelo

The Daily Mail claim that Tottenham could look to make Valencia’s 23-year-old full-back Joao Cancelo their first summer signing with a £25 million bid. Capable of playing anywhere on the right flank, he would be the first addition to Mauricio Pochettino‘s squad since last summer.

What would he bring to Wembley?

Primarily, cover for Kieran Trippier. After the former Burnley man was forced off with injury at Wembley on Saturday against Juventus, it’s clear to see why fans are beginning to panic about the lack of depth with it now possible that young Kyle Walker-Peters may step in.

Cancelo is a strong attacking full-back who has established himself in Spain during his time at Valencia. His quality has been proven to the extent that he was strongly linked with a January move to Barcelona by Sport and has been linked with Juventus, as the Mail report states. With an average of an assist every five games in his career to date, it’s clear to see why.

However, unlike many players of similar style, he is also strong defensively. A good tackler and very rarely caught out of position by his runs down the wing, Cancelo is reliable and solid at the back. Also capable of playing further forward on the wing, he can offer versatility too.

Is a move likely?

Speculation has surrounded Cancelo for some time, and Valencia have shown that if the right offer comes in then they will be more than happy to accept. Whether their asking price will match that of Tottenham is unclear, but a deal could feasibly be done.

Tottenham have been slow to act in the transfer market this summer, but injury to Trippier may force them into action with a move for Cancelo. They are clearly reluctant to spend unless required, in this case it is a necessity.

Given the collapse of Valencia in recent years, the Portugal international is likely to be keen to return to the elite level and Champions League football as soon as possible. Tottenham could represent the perfect opportunity to do just that.

Joao Cancelo to Tottenham Hotspur
3.5
Transfer Likelihood
The Boot Room's Verdict
A move for Cancelo would be ideal for all parties. However, Tottenham have not been active this summer, and it remains to be seen if the talent of the full-back will be enough to get Daniel Levy into action.
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