It was a redemption season for Valencia. Traditionally one of the strongest sides in the League, they’ve sputtered to inconsistent finishes in the past decade. The dark cloud of a [still] unfinished Nou Mestilla hanging over their finances meant that the likes of David Villa, David Silva, Jordi Alba, Roberto Soldado, Juan Bernat and many others had to be sold to keep the club relatively afloat.
Enter Singaporean businessman Peter Lim. Spanish clubs have reason to be skeptical of foreigners. The prospect of foreign ownership, while enticing, hasn’t always bore fruit. Both Malaga and Racing Santander have felt the dark side of such investments. But for Valencia? So far so good.
Nuno Espirito Santo has done a fantastic job not only with his tactics and rotation but he’s instilled the belief in Valencia that they are in fact an elite club. Lead by a strong back line, particularly by Nicolas Otamendi, the fully-bearded Argentine defender who has become the leader of the group, they have frustrated and overrun their opponents in the center of the park. With their aggressive high pressing, Valencia became an exhausting team to play against.
Consistent goal scoring has been hard to come by for Valencia, thus the club relied heavily on a shared workload in that department. Captain Dani Parejo would lead the team in League goals with 12. Alvaro Negredo, their high profile loanee brought in from Manchester City, struggled with injury and to recapture his previous form. He would finish with a mere five League goals from 14 matches, though his holdup play was a vital asset. Paco Alcacer, the young Spain striker, equaled his total of last year with 14 goals and was the club’s overall leading scorer.
What’s next for Valencia? A lot of it will depend on if they can keep Otamendi or not. His agent is already posturing, claiming that the defender will do “anything to leave Valencia,” and that’s hard to believe as he’s become a symbol for the club’s comeback, not to mention his leadership on the pitch and camaraderie with the squad. That said, even with his massive €50m release clause chances are he could be on the move to a free-spending Manchester United in the summer.
Valencia was a tough matchup for the two giants in the League, in particular Real Madrid. Back in January their 2-1 victory ended Madrid’s 22-game unbeaten run and with only a few weeks left in the campaign the 2-2 tie at Santiago Bernabeu – a game in which Valencia found themselves 2-0 up initially – effectively ended Madrid’s title challenge.
They didn’t fare as well against Barcelona, losing both ties. But their impressive, stifling performance at Mestalla, where Barcelona had to rely on a last minute goal to win the game, further demonstrated their ability to hold their own against Spain’s elite.
Where Valencia fell short was to do with their inconsistency against teams that they should have zero problems with. Losses to Deportivo La Coruna and Malaga and draws with Granada revealed a lack of focus.
Valencia will likely bolster their squad even further now that they hold the enticing prospect of Champions League football again. And for all fans of Spanish football, that’s a good thing.