Can Gary Neville Succeed at Valencia?

Can Gary Neville Succeed at Valencia?

Valencia are the fifth most successful Spanish club of all time, leading the line are Real Madrid, followed by Barcelona, followed by Athletico Bilbao, then comes Athletico Madrid and then Valencia in terms of trophies won.

Gary Neville being announced as manager (initially on a 5 month contract) till the end of the season, has not met with universal acclaim. Santiago Canizares the former Spanish national keeper and Valencia stalwart echoed many people’s thoughts when he said “Valencia is no place for apprentices, being a good football analyst is not the same as being a good coach.”

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Fresh in Spaniards minds is the David Moyes debacle at Real Sociedad, Moyes stubbornly refused to learn the language, and was subsequently sacked after a mere 4 months. Historically British Managers, Howard Kendall, John Toshack, Bobby Robson and Terry Venables have on balance done quite well in Spain.

Gary is obviously aided and abetted by the fact his brother Phil has been 1st team coach at Valencia since the summer. Spanish football analyst, Bumper Graham commenting on Talksport said Phil has learnt “passable”Spanish and has been well recieved for his thoroughness and work ethic. The platform Gary comes into is obviously favourable with Phil’s intricate 1st hand knowledge and with having such a close relationship with the Singaporean billionaire owner Peter Lim. Mr Lim co-owns Salford City FC with the class of 92 Man Utd players and has known Gary for numerous years. Mr Lim is involved in their hotel investment in Manchester co-owned by Giggs and Neville, and their Cafe Football chain.

The reticence of the Valencia fans stems from the club being used as Peter Lim’s plaything, doing as he wishes with little or no input from the fan base.

Realistically Valencia’s aims this season are to achieve top4, they currently sit 9th 5 points adrift of 4th place. Much like Jurgen Klopp has inherited at Liverpool, it is a club shorn of confidence, whose squad you would expect to be higher placed in the league. The ex-Man City striker Álvaro Negredo fell out with the previous Portugese coach Nuno Esprito Santo (whose reign lasted 15 months), and Negredo has not played or featured recently, being both injured and due to his issues with Santo.

Valencia fans bemoan the input and influence the agent Jorge Mendes has at the club, he was instrumental in placing the last manager. Mendes’ player clients have been using Valencia as a European stepping stone to greater things. Guillem Balague the Sky La Liga pundit pointed out that the calibre of the players brought in by Mendes has been highly questionable, and he attributes some of Valencia’s current problems to their relationship with Jorge Mendes.

The Valencia crowd are seen as an unforgiving crowd, and both the current Premier League managers Quike Sanchez Flores and Ronald Koeman lasted 2 years and 6 months respectively. Valencia have had 15 managers in 15 years with some notable pedigree such as Gus Hiddink, Luis Aragones and Claudio Ranieri. Their most successful manager was Rafa Benitez (2001-04) winning two La Liga’s and a UEFA Cup in the Pablo Aimar inspired team.

Gary Neville, by shoring up the defence, getting Álvaro Negredo on board and increasing their focus and intensity, something Neville is famed for in his coaching role with England, should achieve the stated aim of top 4 and Champions League qualification. They have an outside chance of qualifying to the next round of the Champions League, but need to beat Lyon and hope Gent don’t win in their game with the group leaders Zenit Petersburg.

The cloud on the horizon is obviously the stated 5 month duration, that’s neither good for the club or the managers credibility in front of the fans and the players. High profile ex-players like Canizares with 400 Valencia appearances and 2 La Liga medals can often set the mood of the fans with his early comments. Valencia is an unforgiving arena, with fan expectations often surpassing any form of reality.

Jason Cundy the ex-Chelsea centre back made two pertinent points in his Talksport discussion on the topic: how would Gary Neville (if he was a foreign coach) be recieved taking over a British top 7 team? and would you be happy if the “novice” Neville took over your team or club? Both questions would be answered negatively my most pragmatic realistic fans.

Fourth behind the likely triumvirate of Barca, Real and Athletico Madrid, is highly achievable by the Neville brothers, and that will be deemed a success by all but the very obdurate of Valencia fans. In terms of club stability and a long term fix, it’s probably a casualty of Peter Lim’s fixation with Man Utd, and as the fans are alluding to the Gary Neville appointment is something of a vanity signing by the owner.