Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: Valencia are preparing for a great season ahead, they’ve assembled quite a good squad and both the players and their staff are excited and most of all, optimistic about the upcoming campaign. Everything is in place, and despite some early hiccups, Los Che managed to get back on track and are looking to end the season on a high note.
But suddenly, it happens again. Crisis strikes, the coach is sacked, the upper management doesn’t know who to keep and who to bin, they’re fighting among each other and the fans are in disbelief. It happened again, the Bats just did “a Valencia”. Soon, the storm is somehow weathered and the cycle is ready to go again, unbroken, unchallenged and everlasting.
And as fate would have it, the very same thing happened this year again. But let’s start at the beginning and go a bit back for some context and background.
It has been a while since Los Che were at the absolute top of the food chain in Spain. Some of their most successful periods date all the way back to the 1940s and then they’ve had a good spell in the early 1970s but that was almost it for quite a long time. No one could steer them back to their glorious days they’ve experienced under Edmundo Suarez or say, Eduardo Cubells some 20 odd years before him.
No one bar Rafael Benitez, that is. Rafa managed to restore them to great heights at the beginning of the new century, clinching two La Liga crowns in three years – once in 2001/2002 and the second time in 2003/2004. Sure, Quique Sanchez Flores did his best in the two years he was in charge, taking third and fourth place respectively, and similarly with Unai Emery and his spell that maintained Valencia as the third-best team in Spain in three consecutive seasons, but it was not as good as before.
In the years following the sacking of Emery, the Bats of Valencia have gone through six different managers, each with a different philosophy and a different approach to the beautiful game. Ernesto Valverde got them as far as fifth place, but that wasn’t enough, and despite the team playing well, he was sacked after they missed out on Champions League football. Juan Antonio Pizzi plunged them to eighth place and was gone before he could turn around, Nuno Espirito Santo got them back to fourth and got them back into Europe but the fans turned on hm. Then came Pako Ayestaran, the legendary Voro, and finally Marcelino, their last coach and their greatest chance at success once more.
But despite going through such a turmoil and the changing of the guard, the coaches, for better or worse, didn’t really play that big of a role in their undoing. Valencia have that tendency to shoot themselves in the foot whenever there’s something good happening at the club. It seemed like for every Mario Kempes or every David Villa, there was something just around the corner to crush it all down to pieces.
In 1986 that was their first-ever relegation to the Segunda division, in 2004 they clinched the “Doblete” of La Liga and the UEFA Cup but followed it up with an economic crisis that almost sent the club into bankruptcy.
From two Champions League finals between 2000 and 2004, two league titles and the UEFA Cup, they managed to plunge to incredible lows, going through five sporting directors, three director generals, three medical chiefs, extraordinary debt and most importantly, no trophies to show for.
The club had to turn to a different model and soon, they went from a star-studded squad to a low-cost one that was easier to sustain. But the tension was building and there was always that eerie feeling they were only prolonging the inevitable. And it was very much true. In 2014, the biggest creditor for the club, the Spanish bank Bankia, restructured the club’s debt, paving the way for a new owner.
Selling the club to billionaire Peter Lim was their way out and he was successfully lured into the picture. Valencia were saved for the time being but once again the external influences hampered down all and any chances that might have existed of their rise to the previous standards. Once again, they almost brought themselves down after a successful period. And not for the lack of trying, as well.
In 2015 president Amadeo Salvo and sporting director Rufete left the club because of an alleged clash in the upper management, something vaguely similar to what’s happening at the very moment for the Bats. But as it usually happens, the storm was once again weathered and new optimism arose at the club with the appointment of Marcelino Garcia, their current head coach.
And finally, Valencia are moving up once again – Marcelino got them to the quarter-finals of the Europa League and even more importantly, he clinched the Copa del Rey title, beating Barcelona, the defending champions in the final. Valencia were well and truly back but for how long? If history is anything to go by, this will undoubtedly be followed by a similar outburst, and the signs are already there.
The latest crisis was slowly brewing but is now seemingly under control, at least for the moment. The owner, Lim, wants to have a bigger hand in the club’s transfer policy and he wants his adviser Jorge Mendes at his side while doing it. But Valencia’s CEO Mateu Alemany and Marcelino don’t want any big changes now that they’ve finally hit the ground running. The clash was inevitable and for a moment, it spelt disaster for Los Che all over again.
But now, if the latest reports are to be believed, Alemany has survived the outburst and he’ll remain in his position. This comes as a compromise in order to keep Marcelino at the club, who himself was willing to bail if his trusted CEO were to be binned by the owners.
Luckily, the situation seems to now be in control but for a brief spell, it seemed like it was happening once again. As soon as they tasted the glory and the success, Valencia were keen on self-destructing. Back in the 1980s it was relegation after the superstar era, after Benitez’s success and the peak of their powers it was an economic crisis and changing of the management and now, in 2019, after being crowned the kings of the cup, they were a step away from sacking the people who brought them back among the best in Spain.
This regular occurrence is definitely something they should be worried about despite the fact the issue seems to be resolved for the time being.
Valencia are among the elite in Spain regardless of the trophy drought as of late. But they haven’t really been acting like that for a long time now. Whenever it seems they might, something happens to make sure they don’t. And whether they like it or not, the fault seems to be theirs and theirs only.
For some reason or the other, the only thing standing between Valencia and success in the past 30 years or so have been Valencia themselves.
Will they remain to be their own worst enemy in the future as well? Only time will tell but let’s hope that’s not the case.