As a scenario it all sounds a bit too bizarre, but very Valencia. A billionaire comes along, takes a look at the club and thinks “Mmm, I’d quite like to buy you, pay off some debts, help finish the new stadium and bring in some quality footballers that aren’t Getafe cast-offs. How does that sound?”
So, of course, all connected with Valencia reply with “Mmm, that sounds awfully nice. But first, we’d like to faff around to such an extent that you might walk away and our new stadium crumbles into the dust. How does that hang with you?”
It was back in May that "Singapore businessman" (as Forbes describes him) Peter Lim bought a majority shareholding of Valencia from the club’s foundation, setting the fans' hankies waving in joy rather than disgust at another damp squib on the pitch. The next stage was to agree a deal with the well-named Spanish bank Bankia, which holds €220 million of the club's €360 million total debt. Easier said than done, apparently.
This due-diligence part is taking a while. Bankia clearly want as much as possible paid off the debt, as would you if you were owed a third of a billion Euros. Meanwhile Lim is still digging around to see if there are any nasty surprises waiting in Valencia’s books, as would you if you were buying any football club, but perhaps particularly Valencia. However, the delay has reportedly made some members of the foundation nervously wonder if the whole Lim thing is all it is cracked up to be.
Being in hyperdrive stasis doesn't mean that Valencia have ceased to be Valencia. To that end, another coach was sacked for good measure over the summer. Juan Antonio Pizzi had only taken over on Boxing Day but was discarded to be replaced by Lim’s favourite, Nuno Espírito Santo. The 40-year-old former Porto goalkeeper led Primeira Liga outfit Rio Ave to both Portuguese cup finals last term in his second season of management; perhaps just as importantly, he happens to be the client of ubiquitous super-agent Jorge Mendes, who is taking a role in the club’s wheeling and dealing.
Awkward: Nuno (c) meets Valencia prez Amadeo Salvo (l) and general manager Francisco Rufete (r)
Nuno may only have been managing for two years, but that's how long it is since Valencia parted company with Unai Emery, and the new guy is the fifth man in the Mestalla ejector-button seat since then. Hence, perhaps, the one-year deal he has been given; whether it will be extended will depend almost entirely on his team squeezing into La Liga's increasingly tight Champions League places. “We are late in starting that work,” was the ominous warning from Nuno at his presentation.
- Mauricio Pellegrino
01/07/12 - 01/12/12
- Ernesto Valverde
03/12/12 - 01/06/13
- Miroslav Dukic
04/06/13 - 16/12/13
- Juan Antonio Pizzi
26/12/13 - 02/07/14
- Nuno 04/07/14 - ?
Valencia have now begun their pre-season training in Germany and are looking to rid the squad of deadwood. That list of the unclean is headed up by Ever Banega, the €20m signing who has returned from a loan spell back home with Newell's Old Boys; also being politely pointed toward the door are Helder Postiga (back from a loan to Lazio) and Andrés Guardado (borrowed by Bayer Leverkusen in spring, buoyed by a decent summer with Mexico). There has already been one major departure, with left-back Juan Bernat joining Pep Guardiola's Bayern Munich for €10m.
Clearing the decks is all well and good but Valencia can't really plan for who comes in unless the Peter Lim buyout gets some traction and Jorge Mendes can fiddle with his footballing chessboard. The one certainty is that an awful lot of Portuguese players are heading to Mestalla to enjoy the warm welcome of wafted hankies from Valencia fans who still don’t know whether to laugh or cry about the state of the club. As ever, it's probably safest to do both.