When it was announced that Unai Emery would be leaving, Valencia went in search of a Coach who would deliver the football so desired by the Mestella faithful and there were two that looked like they would fit the bill. In May this year it was said that it was a shoot-out between Miroslav Djukic and Mauricio Pellegrino. The fact that both were former players made them even more attractive.
Marca said that the club was leaning towards the Serbian but that Valladolid wanted compensation and, in the end, Pellegrino got the job and started the season with a great draw away against Real Madrid. The Serb’s answer to the rejection was to roll up his sleeves and get down to work at the Jose Zorilla. The results of that hard work now have many singing his praises in Spain. Last Saturday night the Valencia board, when sacking their Coach, seemed to confirm the mistake some said they made last May when they picked Pellegrino over Djukic.
There was no guarantee that Djukic would have lasted longer that Pellegrino but a quick look at both defenders’ CVs suggest that the Serbian might have been more experienced to take the job as he has been in management since 2007. There was also the fact that former Partizan Coach likes to play a passing game. In La Segunda, Los Pucelas won a lot of praise for their style of play. While they have had to tone it down a little and no more so than when they are on the road, where they try to play more on the counter attack, they are still a good side to watch.
Djukic, who is at the helm of a club with a debt of over €70m and with a measly budget of just €24m, knew that it would be a long hard fight for survival. They started the season well with victories in their first two games but then lost three in a row. In one of those games, against Atletico Madrid, Djukic got sent off and later claimed that the referees ‘didn’t know that General Franco had died’, saying that you can not speak to them. For some, his hot headiness was a reason why Valencia had decided against appointing him, but for others it showed his passion and love for the game.
To recover from the three defeats, Valladolid destroyed Rayo Vallecano at home with a 6-1 hammering. So far this season they have scored 21 goals, managing to go only three games without scoring a goal. Manucho may be far from the 40 goals a season he promised when he was signed, but he has knocked in four so far and is second top scorer. They had very little funds to play with in the transfer market but so far their acquisitions have paid off. They brought in Antonio Rukavina to play as right-back and he has added an attacking threat, whilst in front of him they also have Patrick Ebert who, for a change, is making the headlines on the pitch this season. Meanwhile, their main man has been Oscar Gonzalez, a midfielder, who has racked up seven goals.
However, Valladolid are more than just an attacking unit. They have the fourth best defence in La Liga and have conceded one goal less than Barca and they have kept five clean sheets, just one less than their rivals this weekend, Real Madrid. Playing great football but also keeping it solid at the back speaks volumes for the work that Djukic has done.
As the fans massed outside the Mestella, Djukic was preparing for Sevilla, a game he would win. He left the Sanchez Pizjuan as only the second Coach to win there this season, after Tito Vilanova, and also with his side’s third away win of the campaign. Right now Valladolid sit in seventh, just a point behind Getafe in the Europa League spots. Most expect them to slide down the table but they said the same last season about Levante and look how that ended.