Gary Neville on Valencia stint, reveals Simeone ‘was almost torturing me in football terms’

Gary Neville has opened up on his managerial stint at Valencia four seasons ago and attempted to analyse what went wrong during his time in Spain.

The former Manchester United player admitted he made multiple mistakes in his first managerial job following his appointment in December 2015.

Neville’s brother Phil had previously been caretaker manager and continued to work with his brother at the club, but Gary encountered multiple problems including his inability to speak Spanish.

“I lost my confidence. It got to the point where I didn’t even want to take training sessions – I was handing it over to my coaches. I felt embarrassed doing the sessions in broken English where everything was done through a translator,” Neville told the Off Script podcast on Sky Sports in a wide-ranging interview.

Having played the entirety of his professional career under Sir Alex Ferguson, Neville explained how his biggest mistake at the Mestalla was failing to take his former manager’s advice.

“Early on, it was clear that some players were unhappy,” Neville continued. “I should have made big decisions on players that weren’t committed to club at that point. I remember speaking to Sir Alex Ferguson quite early on and his advice was: “Just get rid of them, son. Protect yourself. Only have people in the dressing room that are facing the same direction as you.”

“But I didn’t listen. I tried to talk some players round to staying until the end of the season. But they weren’t happy. I ignored Sir Alex Ferguson’s advice. Not my wisest moment.”

However, the most revealing comments Neville made was on his rivals in the opposite dugout during his stint at the club.

The former England international – who still had a coaching role with the nation during his time in Spain – made a point of referencing Ernesto Valverde, then at Athletic Club Bilbao, along with Diego Simeone.

“The press and media out there were brutal. I came out of many press conferences feeling like I’d been given a right grilling,” he added. “There was no fellow managers putting their arm around me either. And truthfully, at times I was totally out of my league up against some of them on the touchline.

“Ernesto Valverde especially. He went on to manage Barcelona but I faced him when he was at Athletic Bilbao. He changed his system three times over the course of the game and he was always one step in front of me. It felt like he was toying with me, like I was a little puppet. I could feel it on the touchline. That’s what inexperience feels like.

“Against Atletico Madrid, I felt like Diego Simeone was strangling me gently. He was almost torturing me in football terms over 90 minutes. At the end of the game, I went to shake his hand and he stormed past me. I didn’t like that. Whatever happens, you go and shake your opponent’s hand – that’s respect. I thought he was one horrible so-and-so.”

Tags Diego Simeone Gary Neville