Valencia’s hiring of Gary Neville as their new Coach shocked the footballing world back in December, but the La Liga club’s throw of the dice did not bring the success owner Peter Lim had hoped for.
Now, with it being announced that Neville’s contract has been terminated with eight games to play, Valencia must plan for the future. The third most-supported club in Spain should be qualifying for European competition every season, but a lot has to change for that to be the case.
Before Valencia’s directors even consider which Coach’s name to draw out of the hat this time, the club’s hierarchy must take a good look in the mirror. It would be far too easy to blame this disastrous 2015-16 campaign on Neville and his predecessor Nuno Santo, but the culprits have not only been in the dugout.
Lim’s arrival brought plenty of disruption to Valencia. The new Singaporean owner ousted President Amadeo Salvo and sporting director Francisco Rufete, and at the same time as he effectively auctioned off control of Valencia’s recruitment policy to Jorge Mendes. If that wasn’t odd enough, Lim even appointed Nuno, a Mendes client, as Coach before he had even completed his takeover.
Even more frustrating for Valencia fans was that his second managerial appointment was Neville, a personal friend. Neville may not have been the right man for the job, but the blame for that lies less with Neville, who was simply out of his depth, and more with the man who appointed him.
The Mendes influence is especially concerning given that Mendes will still be around now Neville is gone. Several B-list players with close links to Mendes have arrived at Mestalla in the Lim era, suggesting that Valencia may have priorities other than acquiring the best talent when it comes to spending their transfer budget. As well as encouraging expensive, and often unhelpful, signings, Mendes was behind last summer’s most controversial player departure. Nicolas Otamendi was a fan favourite, yet he was shipped off to Manchester City in a deal facilitated by his agent Mendes.
If Lim is serious about bringing success to Valencia, he must first of all stop being seduced by Mendes and any promises of transfer market domination. Lim has already seen that there is always a catch when Mendes promises the arrival of a player, such as the loss of a popular player such as Otamendi.
Secondly, Lim must appoint a proven Coach after the failure of the unproven Neville and the issues with the relatively unproven Nuno, who had only previously worked at Rio Ave in Portugal. Paco Jemez is one name linked with the job, but Lim must resist the temptation to appoint Jemez.
There is no doubt that Jemez is a talented Coach, but he is still young and remains rough around the edges. He has done well for Rayo Vallecano, but it would be a risk to assume he can adapt to the more demanding Valencia job. Instead, Lim should opt for Coaches with experience at big clubs, whether that be Rudi García, Manuel Pellegrini, Valencia legend Rafa Benitez or someone else. Lim cannot get another managerial appointment wrong.