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The fall of Valencia
- Updated: 5 April, 2014
The struggles of Valencia CF this season has reaffirmed belief that the 2000 Champions League finalists and 2002 and 2004 La Liga winners, have been consigned to just another top half La Liga team with very little chance of ever challenging the big two for any domestic success.
The club carries huge debts into the hundreds of millions of euros and are forced into selling on their big stars. Yet Valencia still boast one of the best supports in Spain. 45,000+ ‘socios’ (official club members) and an average gate of just over 46,000 who still hope for a return to the big time.
Just a decade ago Valencia were high flyers in both La Liga and The Champions League. At the turn of the millennium they contested two successive Champions league finals. First in 2000 a 0-3 loss to Real Madrid in Paris, and then the following year a loss on penalties after a 1-1 draw with Bayern Munich in Milan.
Los Che didn’t have to wait much longer for domestic success though; Rafa Benitez’s impact as manager was almost instant after his appointment in 2001 as he led Valencia to 2 La Liga titles in 2002 and 2004, before a 2-0 Uefa Cup victory against Marsielle in 2004 saw them lift their first European trophy in 24 years.
Since then the club has steadily been achieving European qualification through league positions and were established as a top 4 club. However, the resurgence of the excellent Atletico Madrid under Diego Simeone, and the rise of the Basques from both Real Sociedad and Athletic Bilbao have forced Valencia out of Champions League reckoning.
The main factor behind this has been down to the clubs precarious financial situation. Despite their financial difficulties in recent times Valencia have continued to spend money and acquire some very decent footballers. The problems come when trying to keep those players at the club when the bigger clubs in Spain and England come knocking with huge transfer fees and wage packets.
The sales of Juan Mata to Chelsea, Roberto Soldado to Spurs, David Silva to Man City and David Villa to Barcelona show the quality of players that Valencia once had at their disposal, but have been unable to keep. On the day Soldado left Valencia for London, after sharing his love for the club he then aimed a final swing at club president Amaedo Salva by insisting the Spanish international striker was lied to about the direction the club was heading in. It would appear broken promises were made about potential signings and transfer funds which would be made available to the club manager. A claim which was emphasised in the deal to replace Soldado at the club where only 10% of the £26m received from Spurs was used to fund the signing of Helder Postiga from Zaragoza. Fans and pundits suggested that this move lacked ambition and any real statement of intent from the club.
Perhaps the biggest and most fascinating drama around this financial crisis has been the building of the Nou Mestalla, a 75,000 seater stadium in the Benicalap region of Valencia. The stadium has executive boxes and an increased capacity which offers the club the potential to improve match day income.
Building work originally began in summer 2007, with the expected completion date to be in time for the 2009-10 season. After the concrete framework of the stadium was built work soon came to a hault as the club effectively ran out of money although work is set to begin aagin after recent developments with a Spanish bank appear to have secured the future of the Nou Mestalla.
In exchange, Valencia will give the prime city centre land on which the current Mestalla sits on to the bank. I for one cannot wait for it to be complete. Valencia is a city that is passionate about its football. A great crowd with die hard supporters who have stuck by the team through this tough time.
I’ll be sad to see the end of the current Mestalla though. When I attended a game their last year I instantly fell in love with it. The stands are steep and tower over the pitch giving spectators an incredible view as well as creating a stunning atmosphere. It is outdated and in some parts poor condition, but the character and beauty of the stadium far outweighs any negatives.
Valencia currently sit 8th in La Liga, and with only seven games remaining face a desperate fight to gain qualification through the League for Europa League football next season. I can’t help but think that despite these recent signs of encouragement around the stadium work, failure to qualify for European competition would be a disaster, and with no top quality sellable assets in their team, Valencia look set to be financial unstable for some time to come.Follow @icentrocampista