Madrid (AFP) – There was to be no happy New Year for Valencia as their miserable season continued with a 4-1 thrashing at home to Celta Vigo late Tuesday to leave Los Che almost certainly out of the Copa del Rey.
Valencia are also in search of a coach after Cesare Prandelli’s shock resignation last week and sit outside the relegation zone only on goal difference.
Here, AFP Sports looks at what has gone wrong at one of the former giants of Spanish football.
– Lim in the firing line
Singaporean owner Peter Lim’s takeover in 2014 was supposed to herald a new era for Valencia after years of financial hardship, in part caused by the Spanish property crash whilst they were building a new stadium and training ground.
Lim’s millions and connections to Portuguese super agent Jorge Mendes promised to clear the club’s vast debt, complete the move to a new stadium and offer the financial muscle needed to compete for trophies.
Instead, his reign has overseen a collapse in standards graver than any Valencia fan could have ever imagined.
The money Lim has invested in the transfer market has largely been unwisely spent, whilst over 100 million euros of talent was sold at the start of the season to compensate for a lack of European football.
Tellingly, after saving most of their wrath for the players in recent months, the fans turned decisively on Lim — who very rarely attends games in Spain — on Wednesday, calling for him to sell the club.
– Managerial merry-go-round
Prandelli’s departure leaves Valencia without a permanent boss for the fourth time in just over a year, provoking not just instability but poorer results on the field with every passing coach as well.
Nuno Espirito Santo’s sacking in November 2015 just months after leading the club back into the Champions League kicked off the merry-go-round that has also seen Gary Neville and Pako Ayestaran come and go.
All four had no prior managerial experience in La Liga and Lim’s critics believe he has put his personal relationships — particularly in the hiring of Neville — ahead of what is best for the club.
– Questionable attitude
Prandelli tried to light the fires of an underperforming squad by ranting that anyone who didn’t have the passion to play for the club could get out ahead of his penultimate game in charge at Real Sociedad.
His reward for doing so was to go 2-0 down inside 25 minutes.
Midfielder Dani Parejo also confirmed many fans’ fears over their star players’ lack of commitment when he was filmed drunk in a nightclub during the winter break.
– No Mendes magic
Another close ally of Lim, Mendes, has been central to Valencia’s recruitment in recent seasons, but has served up a series of expensive mistakes.
Mendes-represented centre-backs Eliaquim Mangala and Ezequiel Garay were brought in just before the transfer deadline at the start of the season because two of the Portuguese’s other clients, 25 million euro recruit Aymen Abdennour and Ruben Vezo, now on loan at Granada, failed to make the grade.
Moreover, those who have impressed have been quickly sold on such as now Barcelona midfielder Andre Gomes.
– Left behind by Spain’s burgeoning second tier
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.
Sevilla have also usurped Valencia with a hat-trick of Europa League titles in the past three years.
Meanwhile, even Valencia’s neighbours Villarreal have shown what can be achieved with fewer resources and better organisation by consistently challenging for European places.
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