Valencia CF, who have not won a La Liga fixture since October 16th, are in serious trouble.
Since then, a run of four defeats and four draws for a side that wasn’t exactly flying anyway sees Los Che, one of Spain’s traditional big four, deep in the relegation mire.
To make matters worse, they currently do not have a permanent manager. After falling out with the club’s ownership and presiding over the latest dreadful run, Cesare Prandelli resigned on December 30th, leaving Voro Gonzalez as caretaker manager for the second time this season.
Unsurprisingly, Valencia fans are getting restless. Indeed, after last Tuesday night’s dreadful 4-1 home cup defeat to Celta Vigo many protested outside the Mestalla calling for owner Peter Lim to go.
They blame him for the crisis, and it’s difficult to argue against that position.
The Singaporean businessman’s takeover in May 2014 rescued Valencia from financial collapse. While fans had hoped for more local ownership, they were nevertheless thankful.
And early optimism grew as Nuno Espirito Santo led them to a fourth place finish and Champions League football in the first full season of the Lim regime.
Serious money was then invested in the squad in the summer of 2015 – a net spend of €80 million that saw the arrival of the likes of Rodrigo, Andre Gomes, Aymen Abdennour and Alvaro Negredo. But a poor start to the season saw Espirito Santo depart and ultimately replaced by Gary Neville.
The Englishman, however, could not arrest the slide. And the two men who followed him, Pako Ayestaran and Prandelli, fared little better. In fact, things have gotten steadily worse.
This season has been a shambles. Ayestaran was sacked in late September after Valencia lost their first four league games. Voro steadied the ship a little as caretaker before the arrival of Prandelli who oversaw only a single win in his eight league games in charge.
Incredibly, Valencia have won just three of their 15 La Liga fixtures.
Los Che’s ownership stands indicted. Under Lim, the club has lacked direction and is bedevilled by miscommunication, mismanagement, and bad decision making.
Critics claim the owners simply don’t know enough about football and were foolish to edge out long-time club officials in favour of Lim appointments. Their knowledge and feel for the club is being sorely missed.
Confusion around Valencia’s transfer activity illustrates the problems. Having spent big in their first season in full control, the club has since sold off key players to comply with Financial Fair Play (FFP) rules.
Prandelli reportedly quit because assurances made in early December by Lim in relation to player recruitment were reneged upon just as the window was set to open. Club officials insist that they were hemmed in by FFP. But there’s a pattern.
Back in the summer, Ayestaran claimed publicly he had been assured that key players Shkodran Mustafi and striker Paco Alcacer were not for sale, only for both to leave before the window closed.
Both instances raise serious issues. Firstly, both managers were either led up the garden path deliberately, or because club officials didn’t know what was going on? Either suggestion is a serious failing. Secondly, if FFP had become such an issue – why did the club not foresee it when spending big in 2015?
Linked to the confusion has been the scattergun player recruitment of sporting director Jesus Garcia Pitarch, which left recent managers struggling with a critically imbalanced squad.
His wheeling and dealing (if indeed he is fully charge in this area) sees Valencia without a specialist defensive midfielder and recognised strikers (after the sale of Negredo and Alcacer).
The club instead has a surfeit of wingers and inside forwards, which has resulted in Nani often trying to lead the line, perhaps explaining the club’s crippling lack of goals.
Lim and his team’s managerial selections have been just as questionable. Neville had never managed a club before, Ayestaran was best known as a number two and Prandelli arrived after a disastrous period at Galatasaray, his best work some way behind him.
Ultimately, the lack of direction and leadership and the instability borne of the Lim regime’s revolving door managerial policy has had a disastrous impact on the field of play, one that threatens the famous club’s La Liga status.