Saturday October 1 2016
Poisoned chalice awaits Prandelli

Cesare Prandelli is set to be the next Coach through Valencia’s managerial revolving door. Feargal Brennan looks at the situation facing the Italian.

Another sacking. Another short-term replacement. Another upheaval. Erratic and snap judgements have become the order of the day at Valencia in recent seasons, with fans and neutral observers learning to expect the unexpected.

The dismissal of Pako Ayestaran last week, following Valencia’s poor start to the La Liga season, was greeted with little more than a resigned shrug of the shoulders by many of the club's supporters, who have unfortunately grown accustomed to Coachs breezing in and out of the Mestalla.

The truth is that with every sudden exit, Valencia supporters become less and less shocked by the decisions taken by their club. Valencia have become the soap opera of Spanish football, engaging and dramatic for outsiders, but increasingly heartbreaking for the Los Che faithful.

From Unai Emery to Ayestaran, the revolving door of management has destabilised the club to the point where they are almost unrecognisable from the title winners of 2001-02 and 2003-04 and strong challengers between 2005 and 2011.

Each new Coach that has stepped through the door has immediately been handed an unrealistic amount of pressure to catch up with Real Madrid, Atletico and Barcelona and bring about a return to the glory days of Rafa Benitez, yet no trainer has been given the time or resources to implement a strategy or improvement at the club, with the threat of dismissal constantly hanging over them.

Coaches have also had to constantly cope with the exits of star players, with little coming in the other way. Emery lost David Villa and David Silva in 2010, Juan Mata in 2011 and Jordi Alba in 2012, while Miroslav Djukic was pushed to sell Roberto Soldado in 2013. In the last 18 months, Nicolas Otamendi, Andre Gomes, Paco Alcacer and Shkodran Mustafi have all left.

Following his purchase of the club in May 2014, Peter Lim has seen his credibility within Valencia fans plummet to the point where he has now become the focus of their discontent. Shortly after his arrival, he sacked Coach Juan Antonio Pizzi, following an eighth- place league finish in 2013-14, and replaced him with Nuno Santo.

Nuno, despite getting Los Che back into the Champions League in 2014-15, stepped down November 2015 following an indifferent start to the season. Fans generally agreed with the decision, but not with Lim’s choice of successor, Gary Neville.

A managerial novice and business associate of Lim’s through their joint ownership of English non-league side Salford City, Neville’s appointment was seen by fans as Lim helping out his friend, with some even taking the view that the President was using the club as a testing ground for his ideas and investment strategy.

Yet, despite Lim’s belief in his protege, Neville’s time at the club was a disaster as he was sacked after just four months. Following the former Manchester United defender’s exit, Lim had no choice to listen to the fans and appoint Ayestaran in an effort to ward off civil war amongst fans.

However, Valencia failed to tempt a new Coach over the summer, despite a widespread club swaps from many capable La Liga bosses, the principal reason being that none were tempted by the challenge, put off by working with Lim and unwilling to risk their reputation on a club that have unfortunately developed a reputation as a poisoned chalice.

Thus the appointment of a foreign trainer looks all-but-certain, in the shape of ex-Italy boss Cesare Prandelli. Something of a left-field pick on first glance, he could prove to be exactly the type of character that they need.

The 59-year-old comes into the role with a significant amount of experience from across the continent, and his own power of personality could force a mentality change at Mestalla.

Consistently guiding Fiorentina to European qualification, despite their involvement in the Calciopoli scandal, marked Prandelli out as a tough operator, although just how resolute he is will be tested at Valencia, a side in firm need of an injection of self-confidence and direction, particularly with an imposing set of fixtures on the horizon.

Prandelli replaced Marcelo Lippi following Italy’s disastrous showing at the 2010 World Cup, immediately set about repairing player confidence and implemented a tactical structure that would see them flourish, eventually guiding them to the final of Euro 2012.

This likely to be his approach to his task at Valencia, making the supporters believe in the players again and making the latter believe in themselves and his system. The size of the job at Valencia will not faze the Italian, yet he needs to get off to a strong start to reintegrate a frustrated fan base that has grown tired of the constant upheaval.

Indeed, Prandelli’s failure at Galatasaray two years ago is the only black mark on his career, but his appointment by the Turkish giants came at a time of institutional uncertainty. The former Parma trainer claimed promises were broken over transfer policy upon his arrival, while the man who brought him in, Unal Aysal, resigned as President after just one game.

Nonetheless, there is a growing feeling that Prandelli is different to his Valencia predecessors in that the club will give him the time and money he needs to do his job and for Los Che’s inner beast to awaken.

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