José Bordalás took Getafe to the promised land, yet tougher tasks and higher expectations lie await at Valencia.
When Valencia fell to a 3-2 defeat against Barcelona in early May it saw them drop to within six points of the La Liga relegation zone with four matches to play.
The result was quickly followed by the sacking of former Watford boss Javi Gracia having won just eight games all season. The six-time Spanish champions once again called on assistant manager Salvador Gonzalez ‘Voro’ to temporarily lead the first team.
Voro guided Valencia to two wins and a draw from the remaining four matches – with emphatic 3-0 and 4-1 home wins against Valladolid and Eibar helping ensure safety.
Five days after the season came to a close, Voro once again stepped into the shadows. The time had come for another permanent figure to lead the ship as Jose Bordalas was called upon.
José Bordalas had taken minnows Getafe to the promised land by scaling lofty heights and just missing out on Champions League qualification. All of which seemed unimaginable when he took over a team facing relegation from the Segunda.
As soon as Valencia’s interest became known, Bordalas asked Getafe’s president Angel Torres to terminate his contract with a year remaining so Valencia could avoid paying his release clause.
However, word got around that Torres felt a change could be best for all parties following an underwhelming final 2020/21 season which saw their side finish in the bottom half and post the league’s lowest goalscoring record.
All of which brought together the new marriage of Valencia and Bordalas.
Bordalas is known for his love of football’s dark arts. He prefers his sides to sit off teams, awaiting a mistake before hitting on the counter, opting for a 4-4-2 with combative midfielders and high-pressing strikers.
Like Diego Simeone, Bordalas is a rather conflicting character in a Spain which is revered throughout football for technical ability and on-the-ball talent. Though if their methods gains results, as Simeone did once again with Atletí last season, is there anyone who can really call against them?
Nevertheless the pressure and task awaiting Bordalas at Valencia is an entirely different beast.
When Marcelino triumphantly brought the Copa Del Rey back to the Mestalla in 2019, who would have thought he would be sacked from his role three months later? The events that have run course since has shocked the club to its core.
Marcelino was quickly replaced by Albert Celades, who was then sacked due to poor results, while sporting director César Sanchez resigned that same season. That made it six different managers and another six sporting directors by 2020 for Valencia’s erratic owner, Peter Lim.
Lim, the son of a fishmonger and a former stockbroker with links to third-party agreements in players, as well as a stake in Salford City FC, hasn’t made many friends in and around Valencia.
Lim appointed Javi Gracia for the 2020/21 season only to quickly tarnish whatever aspirations they held. Lim insisted on a fire sale of the first team squad – with Dani Parejo and Ferran Torres among the likes sold for less than half their official market values.
This close season the squad has seen only one newcomer, Omar Alderete on a loan from Hertha Berlin. Much pressure lies on the shoulders of the likes of Jose Gaya, Carlos Soler, Gabriel Paulista and Maxi Gomez as they approach the new season, whilst Kang-in Lee and Yunus Musah will hope to scale further heights.
Their long-awaited plans for Nou Mestalla remain on long-term hold. Having started on the building in the summer of 2007, construction was stopped two years later as funding ran out and the project was suspended. The stadium’s shell has now fallen into a state of disrepair with no maintenance in over a decade since.
“They’re trying to make sure we don’t sell the club to anyone other than them,” Peter Lim said recently in an interview with the Financial Times with comments then published by Marca.
“These people argue, ‘we’re Valencianos, we know the club’, but with the Valencianos they went bankrupt, right? I don’t want to belittle the club, it’s 102 years old. They’ve never won the Champions League and want to win it at all costs. They’ve got birds in their heads.”
Such comments will do nothing to adhere him to the Valencia faithful.
Whilst five wins from six pre-season matches offers some promise for Jose Bordalas and his Valencia tenure, he would be wise to remember that much tougher tests lie ahead once the season is officially underway – both on the field and in the boardroom.
The sudden increase in ticket prices across UEFA club competitions is football’s quiet scam, with away fans losing out more often than not.
With Valencia following the recent Spanish trend of upping ticket prices once drawn against English opponents, Manchester United officials reacted by announcing they’ll again be returning the favour.
3,800 Valencia fans who visit Manchester for the UEFA Champions League group tie will now be charged £77 instead of the original quote of £55. The added £22 will subsidise Manchester United fans due to visit the Mestalla in December – who were also quoted £77 – with any additional revenue being donated to the Manchester United Foundation.
If you’re a Manchester United fan due to visit the Mestalla, this may seem like karma being served. But read between the lines and you’ll soon realise this is yet another example of tit-for-tat behaviour which results in fans picking up the bill – only difference being they’ll be Valencia fans, not Manchester United.
True, Valencia are in the wrong for increasing the price to such an extortionate amount, but the issue surely lies deeper in the commercial opportunism which seems to be swallowing the game as a whole. This isn’t the first case of such nature. It’s quickly becoming football’s quiet scam.
I was part of the travelling United contingent visiting Athletic Bilbao for the 2011/12 UEFA Europa League last-16 tie. Eye-wateringly, Athletic increased ticket prices and charged United fans €90.00 for the second-leg at the Old San Mamés. Whilst United fans never begrudged paying the fee demanded, it was a hard one to swallow due to it being a 350% increase on the €20 fee the visiting Lokomotiv Moscow fans were asked to pay in the previous round.
Then in 2016, the Spanish gave way to the Danish as FC Midtjylland charged Manchester United fans 710 kroner (£71.00) – three times what they asked Southampton fans to pay earlier in the tournament.
“I can understand that it’s expensive for a Manchester United fan to see FC Midtjylland and that they are angry, but that’s how it is,” explained Jacob Jørgensen, the club’s commercial director, at the time.
Then last season, Manchester United faced a UEFA Champions League last-16 tie away to Sevilla. The Andalusians triggered a series of complaints from United supporters after charging £89 for them to watch the first leg in Spain. Branding the prices “unfair” and “excessive”, United – similar to the present day with Valencia – reacted by raising the cost of tickets for Sevilla supporters travelling to watch the return leg at Old Trafford to £89 and said they would use the extra proceeds to help refund their own fans.
Sevilla responded by then subsidising their own support, whilst Valencia may still decide to do the same. Nevertheless, this doesn’t stop the issue from rising to the fore again in the future and Manchester United fans aren’t the only side to have suffered of late.
Atletico Madrid announced ticket prices of £79 for Arsenal fans in last season’s UEFA Europa League semi-final, in comparison to the £36.50 paid by Los Colchoneros for the first leg at the Emirates Stadium. However, Arsenal confirmed they would also make up the difference, ensuring their fans paid the same price as Atletico fans for their visit to north London. Only difference being they would be doing this out of their own pockets, not by transferring the cost to Atletico fans.
Still the scam recently caught up with leading Belgian side Anderlecht. They were ordered by UEFA to partially refund Bayern Munich fans for their 2017/18 Champions League group match. The Belgian club charged visiting supporters €100 per ticket for the game at the Constant Vanden Stock Stadium, which Bayern won 2-1, with the visiting fans throwing fake money on the pitch in protest. UEFA ruled the price was excessive and instructed Anderlecht to reimburse Bayern by €30 per ticket.
In a statement released at the time by their Control, Ethics and Disciplinary Body, UEFA said: “RSC Anderlecht is ordered to contact FC Bayern Munich within 15 days to compensate their supporters with an amount of €30 per ticket to those away fans located in the upper tier section (sections S14, S15, S16 and S17).”
This incident followed Anderlecht fans calling their very own hierarchy a “disgrace” in April 2017. They accused the club of “a lack of consideration” over high ticket prices for the Europa League quarter-final home tie with Manchester United. A banner stating “€40 for a standing place? Shame on ‘our’ directors” was attached to railings at the main entrance to the Belgian club’s Constant Vanden Stock stadium prior to the match.
All of the mentioned examples happened in UEFA licensed tournaments. The association’s recent ordering of Anderlecht to refund Bayern supporters shows the occasional right-minded individual remains part of the organisation after all. Nevertheless, the issue requires further attention, otherwise supporters will keep on picking up the bill in the future.
Football Supporters Europe are asking UEFA to amend and clarify Article 19 – Paragraph 3 of its Safety and Security Regulations at the earliest possible opportunity to prevent clubs from using loopholes in the regulation, for example by charging regular season ticket holders or members much less than away fans. The most effective way to make the regulation as fan-friendly as possible would be to change the regulation to: “The price of tickets for supporters of the visiting team must be no higher than the cheapest tickets available for home fans in the respective categories.”
They are also calling on UEFA to continue to enforce its regulation by obliging clubs to compensate the affected fans in cases of a breach of the ticketing regulation. However, early arbitration rather than retrospective disciplinary proceedings would minimise these cases.
They further call on all clubs playing in European competition to adopt self-regulation mechanisms, taking the purchasing power of the respective country of the visiting team into account, therefore encouraging more supporters to travel from countries with significantly lower wages and salaries.
They’ve had La Liga triumphs, Champions League finals and utter disasters. But now it seems as though Valencia are on the way back. With Marcelino doing things in his effective own way, Los Che are on the march.
28 October 2017, Alaves 1-2 Valencia. This may not be the most eye-catching result, but it followed a 4-0 trouncing of Sevilla at the Mestalla, where Valencia rubber-stamped their growing authority on this season’s La Liga. Yet their narrow win at the Mendizorrotza Stadium is the type of performance success-aspiring sides churn out regularly throughout the season. The type of performance where you fail to hit top-form, but still manage to come away with three points.
Ahead of Saturday’s lunchtime kick-off against fellow high-flyers Leganes, Valencia find themselves unbeaten and second in La Liga with seven wins and three draws. This equals their best start to a La Liga season, and follows a few abysmal seasons that included 4-0 home defeats, several managers that were not really managers, low attendances and fans visibly disagreeing with club owners. For a club of their size, it was not right seeing them in such a state, but all of that is seemingly on the change.
Normally, when you first think of Valencia CF, you’d associate them among not only Spain, but one of Europe’s biggest clubs. They have a glorious history, with glorious players and managers, but where did this club start?
Football arrived in the city in 1909, where you would find British sailors kicking a ball in Valencian ports, but the club was founded ten years later in the so called Bar Torino. They moved to their legendary Mestalla stadium in 1923, and were first promoted to the newly created Primera Division in 1932. Following the Spanish Civil War, the club entered their first golden era. In that period, they won La Liga in 1942, 1944 and 1947 and the Copa Del Rey in 1941 and 1949.
As they emerged to be one of the biggest clubs in Spain, the founding of Uefa in 1954 meant they could be a threat in Europe. They won the Inter Fairs Cup against Barcelona in 1961 and beat Dynamo Zagreb in 1962. A year later, they reached the final again, however there was no hat-trick was they were denied in the final against fellow Spanish side Real Zaragoza. Their next piece of silverware was in 1966-67 as they beat Athletic Club Bilbao in the final to win the Copa Del Rey.
In 1970, arguably Real Madrid’s greatest ever player, Alfredo Di Stefano, took the job to manage Valencia, which lasted four years. During that period, the club managed to win their first La Liga title since 1947, and they reached the Copa Del Rey final three times in a row between 1970 and 1972 but, they lost all three. Following Di Stefano’s departure in 1974, they won the Copa Del Rey in 1979, and shone in Europe again as they won the 1980 Uefa Cup-winners Cup, defeating Arsenal on penalties in Brussels.
In the 1985-86 season, Valencia were relegated to Spain’s second tier, the Segunda Division. The club website re-called it as the toughest moment in the club’s history. Di Stefano returned to the dugout at the end of this season to try and save Los Che with four games to go. They had a slight chance of surviving, but, however, following wins against Sevilla and Hercules, they were relegated at the Camp Nou as they lost 3-0, as other results also didn’t go their way, with Cadiz and Betis drawing.
The club returned to the top flight at the first time of asking as champions. After their season away from the Primera, they finished 14th in the league with Alfredo Di Stefano in the dugout for the third and last time. Fifteen years later under Héctor Cúper, the club entered their modern day era dorada.
To start it all off, they beat Atletico Madrid 3-0 in the Copa Del Rey final to win Spanish Football’s cup showpiece for the first time in twenty years. A year later, the club reached their first ever Uefa Champions League final, their opponents, Real Madrid. This was Los Blancos’ eleventh European Final, and it was their eighth win in the Europe’s greatest club competition. Yet it was a 3-0 win for Real. The following year, however, they reached the final again, this time against German giants Bayern München in Milan. Valencia heartbreakingly lost on penalties, and the club found it hard to re-build.
Then came the Rafa Benitez era, as they won La Liga for the fifth time in 2001-02, before winning it for the sixth time in 2004. This illustrious side had a spine of veteran Los Che goalkeeper, Santiago Cañizares, Argentina captain, Roberto Ayala, Spanish midfield duo, David Albelda and Rubén Baraja, and Norwegian giant, John Carew, as the target-man.
Following that era, a disastrous spell awaited. In 2013-14, they missed out on a European spot, having finished eighth in the table, but that was only the start. Their worst season came in 2015-16. Their controversial owner, Peter Lim, a Singaporean business man, took over the club following the 2013-14 season. When he bought the club, the Valencia fans admired him, but it did not last.
Things came to a surreal halt in 2015-16. They had four different managers. Following a 1-0 defeat against Sevilla, their first manager of the season, Nuno Espírito Santo, resigned. He had been at the club the previous season, and guided them to the Champions League. Their next manager was interim man, Salvador Gonzalez Marco or better known as Volo. He took charge for only one game, which actually ended up in a 1-1 draw against Barcelona. Then a day later, their third manager of the season was confirmed, former Manchester United and England full-back, Gary Neville – yes, Gary Neville.
His brother, Phil, arrived at the club at the start of the season, so his brother decided to join him. He couldn’t save Valencia from departing the Champions League, nor the Europa League, as they lost to Athletic Club Bilbao. In his time at the club, they only managed to win two games, and he was sacked following a defeat against Celta Vigo. His failure at Valencia led to countless debates on Sky Sport’s Monday Night Football and on twitter as Jamie Carragher teased Neville about his time at Valencia. That was their worst part of the season, and it was his first ever experience as a manager. Their fourth and final manager of the season was assistant manager Pako Ayestaran, who steadied the ship until the season’s close.
Off the field issues definitely didn’t help, and going into the 2016-2017 wasn’t looking very glamorous. Although, they did manage to sign Nani, who had just won Euro 2016 with his country, Portugal. They sold key players as well such as Paco Alcacer and Andre Gomes, both to Barcelona, and Alvaro Negredo to Middlesbrough. This was another season where managers came and went, but it was their last, for now…
Another dismal season followed, that included a 4-0 home defeat against Eibar; fans boycotting and protesting; three different managers in charge and no European qualification. It was clear they needed a change, and quickly.
Step forward, Marcelino Garcia Toral.
A former midfielder who used to play for Sporting Gijon, Racing Santander, Levante and Elche, the 52 year old from Asturias is making himself popular amongst the Valencia faithful. He retired from professional football at the age of 28 due to a serious injury so he’s been involved in the managerial industry for a long time. A former manager with the likes of Sevilla and Villarreal, he was out of a job for an entire season, following his sacking at Villarreal a few days before the 2016-17 season. They’ve also had a new president – Anil Murthy, a former Real Mallorca president, and a West Ham supporter.
They also changed their squad. Countless signings were made, including Simone Zaza from Juventus, who had been on loan with Los Che the previous season, along with West Ham. The Italian striker has been absolutely vital this season. He’s scored nine goals in ten games and is second in the La Liga top scorer chart behind Lionel Messi, of course. One of the on-field problems that they’ve had in recent years is a prolific goal-scorer, and that’s a problem that Marcelino has fixed.
Another key player is Goncalo Guedes. He came to the Mestalla with something to prove, as he rarely had game time for PSG. He was sent on loan after being bought for 30 milion Euros, and has already won a player of the month award this season. Many people hadn’t heard from him till he arrived, but he’s definitely making a name for himself. He fits Marcelino’s style, and he’s very quick. Another player that has been key for Valencia this season is Rodrigo. He’s been at Valencia for three years, and has scored three goals every season, but this season, he’s already scored five. The captain is Daniel Parejo, who’s been at the club since 2011, and a former Real Madrid player. He was criticised last season by the club for being unprofessional and that he should say sorry to the supporters. How times have changed for Dani Parejo an co.
Their start to the season has been frantic. The first sign of good football came in the second game of the season, drawing 2-2 against Real Madrid at the Bernabeu. More eye-catching results game included a 5-0 win against Malaga, a 3-2 win against Athletic Bilbao and a 6-3 win away to Real Betis. And in October, following a 4-0 win at home to Sevilla, a team they’ve had many ups and downs against, Valencia, alongside Barcelona, were the only unbeaten teams in La Liga.
From Champions League finals to utter disaster, the club has had a turbulent few years. But now, it seems as though Valencia are on their way back. Marcelino has done things in his own effective way right from the beginning of his reign. By keeping a close eye on player diets and imposing a new dynamic style of play, it all seems to be coming together for this exciting Valencia side.
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