The Fall From Grace of Valencia CF

There was a time when Valencia were among the European elite, one of the top four in Spain alongside Barcelona, Real and Atletico Madrid. Their spell in the early 2000s saw them claim multiple domestic trophies.

Fast forward around 15 years, and you will see an entirely different club, unrecognisable from the glory days of Champions League finals and league title wins.

So how did all of this come about? How did a club who which was once a European super-power become domestic cannon-fodder?

It all started with the departure of Rafael Benitez, who left the club after a lack of support from the board and management to join Liverpool.

Beyond the Spaniard’s exit, Valencia went on to spend massive amounts of money on lacklustre talent. Several big-name players came to the club, but only David Villa proved to be a success.

Not only players, but several big-name managers in Claudio Ranieri, Quique Sanchez Florez and Ronald Koeman also joined, but each one of them walked away with a hefty severance package and a sacking on their CV.

President Juan Bautista Soler became angry as he wasn’t getting a return on the investment made on big-name players. Disappointed with the performances, he hoped to find money through the new stadium that was being planned to replace the Mestalla.

However, in 2007, the Spanish property ladder collapsed, and Valencia was left €125m in debt. They had a stadium with no buyers and a team that could not compete.

Due to their disastrous stadium plans, debt began to spiral out of control, and within four years it increased to €500m.

With the club set for bankruptcy, Soler sold it to Valencian businessman Vicente Soriano.

The new management set a strict set of rules and made it a priority to make money for the club in any form they can. The players were put on offer to visit birthday parties and weddings for those who could afford it.

Also, Valencia’s biggest name players were sold to raise funds. Raul Albiol, David Silva, David Villa, Carlos Marchena, Juan Mata, Jordi Alba, Roberto Soldado, Jeremy Mathieu and Juan Bernat all left.

Valencia fans will no doubt be looking at this list in anger at what their club could’ve been.

Replacements were brought in cheaply, and the quality suffered. Their domestic reign started to falter, and they hardly could trouble Madrid or Barcelona.

Qualification for the Champions League was helping the club reduce its debt, but as a side, they were not improving.

Chaos ensued when Sevilla pipped them on the last day of the 2012-13 campaign, shutting the door of Champions League qualification on them.

On July 5th, 2013, Amadeo Salvo took over the reins from Soriano and sacked manager Miroslav Djukic to bring in Juan Antonio Pizzi. The Spaniard secured some big wins for the club in his short spell, but unfortunately, that wasn’t enough to stay in the European places.

The turn in fortunes came when Singaporean billionaire Peter Lim bought majority shares from Bankia and took control of the club. Without wasting time, he hired super agent Jorge Mendes to bring quality players to the team.

Lim had the cash to both wipe out their debt and get back into the Champions League places. He also sacked Pizzi at the end of the 2014 season, and in came Nuno Santo – one of Mendes’ recruits.

Lim’s connections to star players in Portugal’s Primeira Liga saw the likes of Nicolas Otamendi, Andre Gomes, Joao Cancelo, and Alvaro Negredo coming in, many on loan deals.

A reinvigorated Valencia started playing competitive football as Los Che finished in the top four of La Liga once again. At that time, it looked like the return of glory days to the Mestalla was just around the corner.

However, the beginning of the 2015-16 season took another turn for the worse as Valencia had slipped down to ninth by November and a 1-0 defeat to Sevilla was enough to see Santo resign.

Yet, the club shot themselves in the foot and made the odd decision to appoint Gary Neville as manager. The former Manchester United player had no management experience or any connection to the club.

The club paid the price for the disastrous decision as they picked up just 14 points from 16 La Liga games. As a result, Neville was shown the door only four months after the appointment, handing over the reins to assistant Pako Ayestaran until the end of the season.

Pako managed to steer the club clear of relegation with three wins and two draws from the remaining eight games. The full-time post was then given to him.

Valencia offloaded 18 players over the summer, including the likes of Mustafi, Andre Gomes, and Paco Alcacer and brought in only seven.

Despite the arrivals of players like Nani and Elaquim Mangala, Valencia had another disastrous start to the season, losing their first four games of the season.

The situation demanded another managerial change and Ayestaran was sacked just one month into the campaign.

Valencia now sit in limbo, letting the fans down by false dawns. It’s an enticing challenge for any manager to take on, but it’s evidently a hard one.

The club will always remain massive in stature, but if they’re to be the same size in quality, consistency has to be shown.


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