Valencia were one of the biggest forces in both Spanish and European football at the start of the millennium, with the club winning two La Ligas and appearing in three European finals between 2000 and 2004. After that, though, they went down the route of many clubs in the country and saw their progress hindered by crippling debts, which meant that key players like David Villa, David Silva, Juan Mata, Jordi Alba, and Jeremy Mathieu had to be sold in order to repay some of those dues.
Although the club won a Copa del Rey in 2008 and reached the Champions League group stage for three consecutive seasons under Unai Emery, they were clearly no longer what they once were and their financial problems, coupled with the departure of key players, was clearly starting to take effect in results on the pitch, which left Los Che in a tough situation going forward, especially after failing to qualify for Europe’s elite club competition in the two years following Emery’s own departure. It was clear Valencia were in need of some major changes in the boardroom and new direction was needed for them to return to the top and compete with the likes of Barcelona and Real Madrid.
They eventually took take place in May 2014, when Singaporean entrepreneur Peter Lim came in and bought 70 percent of the club’s shares. Immediately, he made a promise to free Valencia of its debts and bring quality players to the club who would help them get into the Champions League every season. It was a bold statement to make, but one that he managed to realise in just his first season as President, with Los Che qualifying for the competition as a result of a fourth-place finish in the League under the Coach hired by Lim, Nuno Santo.
His other promise looked to have been fulfilled too, with the likes of Nicolas Otamendi, Shkodran Mustafi, and Andre Gomes coming in to lead the strongest Valencian team assembled since the likes of Silva, Mata and Villa were around. Things looked to be going great, but they already seem to be falling apart.
Valencia's poor start to the season saw Nuno resign in late November, and his replacement was shockingly Lim’s friend and business associate, the Manchester United legend Gary Neville, who had no managerial experience prior to his appointment at Mestalla. A move most were puzzled with, it's clear that things haven't quite worked out for the Englishman as of yet, with Valencia's early exit from the Champions League and failure to win a single League match in seven attempts under Neville turning this season into a nightmare of sorts – and we’re only in January.
Lim’s tendency to put professional relationships, mainly with super-agent Jorge Mendes and Neville, over astute decision-making for the good of the club has put Valencia in a hole, which will be tough to climb out of. Their financial state might be improving, but having spent over €100m, in the summer and with the team languishing in mid-table, it won't be long before they suffer more problems on that front again unless dramatic improvements are made in the near future.
The sale of Otamendi also proves that the club are still not in a situation where they can keep hold of their prized assets. The Argentine replacement turned out to be Monaco’s Aymen Abdennour who has failed to convince since his summer move. What do these two have in common? They're both represented by Mendes, who is and always will be looking to move his clients on to bigger and better things for his own personal gainsm even if he admittedly does an outstanding job of doing so.
Valencia will never have the stability that Lim pledged for, as long as people like Mendes are around and representing several of the players already there and the ones who come in. It won’t do much for them in terms of long-term sporting success, even if the financial gains will be impressive. The soul of the club is slowly being lost in the midst of Lim and Mendes’ swimming pool of money, and the vocal fans will surely not tolerate it for much longer.
The club looked to be on a good direction just six months ago, but now it’s a very turbulent and unsure one with all the problems they have suffered on and off the pitch ever since. Lim has got to figure out a solution and bring Los Che back to the level they were at last season, otherwise he will only ever again be seen as just another rich man who bought a club to treat as his own playground he can make money in, without respecting the history of the club and the values they truly stands for.