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Leagues: La Liga

Five keys to Valencia’s demise

Madrid (AFP) – La Liga giants Valencia are searching for their ninth permanent coach in the past four years following the sacking of former Liverpool assistant manager Pako Ayestaran.

The six-time Spanish champions are enduring their worst start to a league season for 17 years as four straight defeats to start to the campaign leaves them rooted to the foot of the table.

Here, AFP Sports looks at what has gone wrong under the auspices of Singaporean owner Peter Lim.

– Lim project peters out

Lim’s nine-figure takeover of the financially-stricken Los Che in 2014 was met with great enthusiasm off and initially on the field.

The new owner promised to clear the club’s debts and return Valencia to Europe’s elite.

Just a year ago the plan was still on track as Valencia returned to the Champions League for the first time in three years on the back of a fourth-placed finish in La Liga.

Yet, the project began to go awry when Nuno Espirito Santo was sacked following a slow start last season. Former Manchester United captain Gary Neville’s tenure ended just four months later after a mere three La Liga wins in 16 games, to be replaced by Ayestaran.

But Lim shipped out Valencia’s best players in the summer. Captain Paco Alcacer and Euro 2016 winner Andre Gomes headed north to Barcelona and Shkodran Mustafi moved to Arsenal as Valencia recouped over 100 million euros.

Little of that was reinvested into a squad that finished 12th last season.

– Instability

The last time a Valencia coach remained in charge for at least two seasons was current Paris Saint Germain boss Unai Emery between 2008 and 2012. Emery finished third behind Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona and a Real Madrid armed with Cristiano Ronaldo in his last three seasons, whilst selling Valencia’s best players in David Villa, David Silva and Juan Mata.

The managerial merry-go-round and constant upheaval of the playing squad has only served to see Valencia fall behind not just the traditional giants of Spanish football, but facing a battle just to remain in the top flight.

– No Mendes magic

One of the fiercest criticisms of Lim has been his reliance on Portuguese super agent Jorge Mendes in the transfer market, which has only served to dish up a series of expensive mistakes.

Record 30 million euro signing Rodrigo has scored just 12 goals in three seasons, whilst Mendes represented centre-backs Eliaquim Mangala and Ezequiel Garay were brought in just before the transfer deadline last month because the two they bought last year Aymen Abdennour (25 million from Monaco) and Ruben Vezo, now on loan at Granada, failed to make the grade.

– Property bubble burst

The root of Valencia’s financial problems which precede the Lim era, but continues to dog the club, was the crash of the Spanish property market in 2008. Back then the club’s stadium, Mestalla, was set to be sold for hundreds of millions given its prime city-centre location in one of Europe’s most burgeoning property markets with Valencia moving up the road to a 60,000-capacity new Mestalla.

Construction had even started on the new stadium when the market collapsed, the price of land where the Mestalla sits plummeted and the club was left without the funds to finish the new ground. A now rotting concrete bowl still stands on the outskirts of the city with no certainty it will ever be completed.

– Atletico pull away as third force

Valencia’s upheaval has coincided with a period of unparallelled success for Atletico Madrid to supplant the former as Spanish football’s third force.

Atletico have reaped the rewards of stability brought by Diego Simeone’s five-year reign as coach having had a similar record of ditching bosses before the Argentine’s arrival. Los Rojiblancos have reached two Champions League finals in three years, similar to Valencia’s run to back-to-back finals in 2000 and 2001.

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