We knew they were short of cash, but they managed to qualify for the Champions League this coming season. With messrs Villa and Silva finally on their way out of the door, how are things at Valencia? IBWM's Jeff Livingstone reports.
At what point does a player become bigger than his club? Sir Alex Ferguson clearly felt that things were heading in that direction when he decided to let David Beckham move to Real Madrid. Brand Beckham gone, Manchester United remain. No one is bigger than the club. Period.
Of course it’s never really been an issue for Real Madrid or for Barcelona for that matter, because both clubs have several of, if not the, biggest names in their ranks. You don’t really get much more famous than Leo Messi, but Xavi Hernandez and Andreas Iniesta are as synonymous with the name Barcelona as little Leo is. Real have Kaka, Casillas and Ronaldo, just for good measure; prior to that Carlos, Zidane, Figo and the aforementioned Becks.
It’s not so easy for Valencia though. Despite a very real claim to be Spain’s third club (or second if we say Barcelona are Catalonia’s biggest), Valencia can’t really invest in half a dozen ‘galaticos’ every 12 months. It wouldn’t be fair to say that Valencia live in the shadows of the other two, although they finished third in La Liga last season, but they can’t realistically compete on financial terms. Not right now anyway.
So when Valencia have not one, but two of the world’s best players in their ranks, it’s difficult to think that there might be anyone else at the club……and if those players leave; what’s left? Does it just end there? In Valencia’s case it could, but they are fighting to make sure it doesn’t.
Mention Valencia over the last two to three years and two players will immediately spring to mind; David Villa and David Silva. Both Spanish internationals, both hugely talented and both huge names on the world stage. Both have now left Valencia.
It had been coming for a long time. That Los Che had been able to retain the services of their two best David’s over the last twelve months, whilst staring into the abyss of complete financial meltdown, has been something of a miracle.
Villa has become the best striker in the world today, eclipsing his international partner Fernando Torres along the way. A move to Barcelona was completed within weeks of La Liga closing; so by the time South Africa 2010 had commenced, young David was already a Barca player. Valencia managed to hang on to David Silva a little longer, before Manchester City stumped up the necessary readies and took the gifted winger north to Eastlands.
So with €60m+ netted for their star players, shouldn’t that be enough to put Valencia back on an even keel moneywise? Sadly not. It’s not even touched the sides. The transfer fees received for their two superstars- while hefty - hardly make an impression on Valencia’s debts, which I’ll describe as crippling, because it’s the only word that comes close.
Faced with a creditors bill that was more than six times the clubs turnover, President Vincente Soriano resigned in June 2009 after facing up to the inevitable. He had no clue what to do and didn’t want to be known as the man that sold David Villa.
How did things come to this though? Valencia won La Liga and made two Champions league finals in the early noughties.
Just like so many other clubs in Europe, Valencia overstretched in trying to maintain this challenge. That they had already overstretched in qualifying for the Champions League in the first place just added to the mess.
Last summer, Valencia’s debts stood somewhere between £400-£500m, plus there was also the little matter of the new Mestalla stadium. This was originally due to be complete for the start of the 2009-10 season, but work has been suspended indefinitely, short of a few hairy arsed builders employed to ensure the club aren’t accused of abandoning the whole project. And getting another fine. The irony here is that Valencia has a loyal support that includes a massive waiting list for season tickets. Another 25,000 willing to hand over cash. If only there was somewhere to put them.
Disastrous management and the regular hiring and firing of coaches have done Valencia no use at all over the last ten years; the compensation payments that have been made to the departed (in a football management sense you understand) Ranierei, Flores and Koeman accounting for around €40m alone. Nice work if you can get it.
Last summer there really was nowhere left to turn, and it was only after the intervention of new president Manolo Llorente, invited to the helm by major creditor Bancaja, that Valencia were able to survive at all. Having poured all of their eggs into the basket marked ‘selling the land that our ground stands on to property developers’, Valencia were particularly well placed in the front row to observe a global economic downtown. This was felt particularly hard in the Spanish property market. Ouch.
But Llorente has operated shrewdly, not that he had a huge choice, and made a decision to retain the services of Villa, Silva, Juan Mata and several others. He also secured enough funding to keep the club going and ensure its players got paid. Happy days. And it was very happy days as the La Liga season closed in May with Valencia securing third place and much needed Champions League spot.
However Valencia fans have now accepted that as far as their star players are concerned, last season was just a stay of execution. Llorente has delivered another tilt at the Champions League, but with the club letting players and staff leave on a daily basis, they are unlikely to pull up any trees. Unless manager Unai Emery oversees some kind of miracle which clearly isn’t going to happen.
Villa has gone, Silva has gone and it’s just a matter of time before Juan Mata heads out of the door as well. In amongst the rest of the squad, the lofty Nicola Zigic was sold to Birmingham, but Valencia have still looked to recruit. Argentine midfielder Tino Costa has arrived and Valencia are already exploring possibilities in the loan market with Robinho and Manchester United new recruit Javier Hernandez already mentioned.
Facing up to next season is going to be tough for Valencia’s fans and how this season plays out depends entirely on whatever rabbits Llorente and Emery can pull out of their hats. Having managed to turn adversity into triumph already, both will want to repeat the trick again. If Valencia are going to survive, they don’t really have a choice.