Former Manchester United defender Gary Neville has been appointed as the head coach of Valencia until the end of the season.
The surprising news was confirmed by the club’s official Twitter feed on Wednesday:
After Nuno Santo left the Estadio Mestalla last weekend, Neville’s brother Phil was appointed as assistant to interim head coach Voro, per the Press Association (h/t the Guardian).
However, Los Che have moved quickly to appoint the former England international full-back, who has been working as a pundit on Sky Sports after his retirement from the game.
In a statement on the club’s official website, Neville revealed he was delighted to be given the chance to work with such a prestigious club:
I am absolutely thrilled to be given this opportunity with Valencia.
Valencia are a huge football club of immense standing and I know from my time as a player the passion and dedication of the Valencia fans.
I am really looking forward to working with the club’s talented group of players and am excited about the challenge ahead.
According to Dan Roan of BBC Sport, sibling Phil will remain on the coaching team.
Valencia currently sit ninth in La Liga after a disappointing start to the campaign. According to Dermot Corrigan of ESPN FC, Neville’s first game in charge will be against Lyon in the Champions League on Dec. 9, not against Barcelona in this weekend’s La Liga encounter.
During his playing days, Neville was a tremendous defender. While understated in his playing style, his leadership skills, organisation, defensive acumen and unwavering focus made him one of the key components of a United team which dominated the Premier League under the tutelage of Sir Alex Ferguson.
Neville won 20 trophies with his boyhood club, including eight league championships and two Champions League titles. He also represented England 85 times.
Equally as impressive has been his work with Sky Sports, where Neville has excelled as a pundit, offering a refreshing and raw insight into the modern game on the broadcaster's staple football show, Monday Night Football.
His co-analyst on the programme has been former Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher, who expressed his disappointment at seeing Neville set off in search of pastures new:
Neville has kept his mind sharp outside of the studio by working as a coach in the England national setup alongside manager Roy Hodgson. The Three Lions, on the back of a disappointing World Cup in 2014, qualified for the European Championships next summer with a perfect record of 10 wins from their 10 group games.
According to Sky Sports, Neville will continue as part of Hodgson’s setup despite taking on this position at the Mestalla.
Spanish football expert Sergi Dominguez thinks a chance like this for the 40-year-old has been a long time coming:
Although it may seem a peculiar appointment at first glance, there are ties between Neville and Valencia.
As aforementioned, his brother is already on the coaching staff, but the Los Che owner, Peter Lim, also has a stake in Salford City, which he purchased from the Neville brothers as well as other former United stars Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes and Nicky Butt, per Sky Sports.
Sports reporter Paul Higham summed up the link between Lim and Neville with a humorous take:
While Valencia fans may not have been exposed to too much of Neville’s work for Sky in recent years, this is an exciting appointment for them.
The former United defender has proved consistently not only does he have an insatiable appetite for the game, but he’s an inventive thinker and adaptable in his approach to football.
Expect Los Che to play an intense, direct and committed brand of football under Neville. The language barrier may pose some problems, but having a familiar face already in situ in his brother—not to mention a stellar reputation from his playing days—should serve the new boss well as he embarks on his maiden managerial challenge.