Sometimes football supporters do not know what they have got until it has gone. This is especially case with Valencia, whose fans are a particularly grumpy lot.
Young buck Unai Emery did a pretty upstanding job during a four-season spell that came to a halt a year ago. Sure, the current Sevilla boss may have driven his footballers to distraction with endless instructions and insane arm-flapping from the touchlines, but Emery delivered where it mattered.
In the manager’s final three years in Mestalla, the coach plonked Valencia into third place, every single time. With the dominance of Barcelona and Real Madrid in La Liga, all too overpowering, it was the best that could have been expected from the club. Throw in factors such as David Villa, David Silva and Juan Mata being sold to balance books, books that are in a quite awful state, and Emery should have been given a job for life.
Valencia have a stadium under construction that the club cannot afford to finish. There’s the current Mestalla home that cannot attract any buyers that would fund the new home. And then there’s a debt totaling over €300 million. That figure was racked up both by paying for the New Mestalla and because of awful financial management and disastrous signings from the club’s previous owners that put Valencia’s very existence into doubt.
Emery’s diligence, patience and endless pools of enthusiasm delivered Champions League football to Valencia for three years, which gave the club enough cash reserves to survive and make a shareholder buyout feasible. But a notoriously fickle crowd, perhaps bored of the limbo status of the club, saw Emery moving on after the ending of his contract in June 2012.
In Emery’s place came Mauricio Pellegrino, an appointment that still threatens the wafer-thin stability of the club, despite his subsequent firing in December. Although the Argentinean was a former player at the club, the manager’s coaching experience was limited to assistant coach spells at Liverpool and Inter Milan. That novice nature showed as Valencia plummeted down the table. Not only was Champions League football looking in jeopardy for the next season, but European action of any kind.
Ernesto Valverde, a tough-talking, no-nonsense, classic figure of La Liga has put Valencia back into Champions League contention in a direct battle for fourth place with Real Sociedad. The club would quite like Valverde to stay on past his current deal, which ends at the of the season.
However, an uncertain immediate future for Valencia means that they may miss out. In a Goal.com report from May 2, Valverde said:
"As soon as I know who the president will be, I will talk to him on the same day."
The big issue in Mestalla is that there does not appear to be anyone actively in charge of Valencia. There is a club president, who took over recently when Manuel Llorente resigned having had enough of the pressure. Then there’s the Valencia Foundation, who represent the owners of the club, a group containing banks, the local government and private shareholders.
The situation at Valencia is fluid to say the least, and an awful lot depends on if the club can pip Real Sociedad to fourth with three matches to go. Champions League funding—providing the qualification phase is passed—might encourage Valverde to sign on for another season.
Star players such as striker, Roberto Soldado, may not be sold, and the Foundation and Valencia board might be able to unite behind a common goal.
If Valencia fail, then the summer for a club starved of Champions League funding could be a tough one: another new manager and more in-fighting as rival factions blame each other for the mess the club finds itself in, rather than searching for a solution.
With the season now entering a final sprint, Valencia is not just fighting for fourth spot, the club is fighting for its future.