When you think of Valencia you think of that golden era in the early 2000’s when Los Che were reaching Champions League Finals while picking up trophies on both domestic and European fronts. Sadly although only a decade ago those days seem now so long ago due to the way the club seems to be sliding down the La Liga table.
And what will be of great concern is the fact that this is not a managed decline this is quite the nosedive down the rankings in a very short space of time. As recently as the 2014/15 season Valencia were finishing in the top four of La Liga and last season they once again had another Champions League adventure.
But they have arguably been the only highlights in the last 18 months or so as this Valencia side looks a pale imitation of itself and the question which now has to be asked if whether this slide will continue to even more dangerous territory. That territory may not only be into the bottom three and relegation that comes with it but also financial oblivion.
Since the shock departure of Nuno Espirito Santo in November 2015 it’s fair to say that the club have never recovered. We all know about the much maligned stint that Gary Neville had in charge but since the departure of Espirito Santo thirteen months ago Valencia have had three different men take the reigns at The Mestalla.
After Neville, it was the turn of Pako Ayestaran to come in and steady the ship to make sure that the unthinkable didn’t happen and that they suffered the embarrassment of relegation last season. Ayestaraan was assistant to Rafa Benitez during their title winning era and was a much respected face at the club.
And it was a job well done as the 53 year old steered them away from the relegation zone with an impressive run of late season form which saw Valencia eventually finish 12th in the table. As a reward for keeping Valencia up, Ayesteran was handed the job on a full time basis by club owner Peter Lim.
But an absolutely disaster of a start this season saw Valencia bottom of the table in September with Ayesteran subsequently given his marching orders. That meant once again Valencia were looking for a new man at the helm and this is where the story currently is at with former Italy boss Cesare Prandelli taking charge.
The question that Valencia fans will be asking though is whether Prandelli is doing a good job or not. On the face of it you would have to say perhaps not as the club currently find themselves 17th in the table and only ahead of Sporting Gijon thanks to a better goal difference.
You could well argue that Prandelli has only had a short time to work with these players and in effect it’s not really his squad as he came in after the close of the Summer transfer window but once again Peter Lim is going to have to weigh up whether or not the Italian is the right man for the job.
Prandelli will no doubt want to bring in some new faces when the transfer window reopens next week but the underlying issue could very well be that there are not the required funds needed to buy new players and Prandelli may well have to work with what he has got.
Ultimately this is the crisis that Valencia find themselves in. Quite simply this a club that has to finish in the Champions League as this is how the clubs whole business model is formed. They simply cannot afford to be out of Europe’s top club competition for an extended amount of time.
This is a club that has been attempting to build a stadium for almost a decade and still haven’t been able to finish construction due to a lack of funds. Peter Lim may have come in and eased the financial situation at Valencia but they are no means out of the woods yet.
And the is almost now an irony that Valencia could draw a parallel with the club they beat in the 2001 Champions League Semi Final. That being Leeds United of England, Leeds banked everything on continued Champions League participation but as soon as they didn’t achieve that the bubble burst and ultimately they were dealt with relegation.
Leeds were relegated back in 2004 but 12 years late you can see the exact same happening to Valencia. It’s now becoming a club in managed decline. For every season that Valencia stay outside of the top four places in La Liga they have to sell their star assets.
And this Summer was no different with the likes of Shkodran Mustafi, Andre Gomes and Paco Alcacer all departing The Mestalla in the off season. Those names may have been replaced but there is definitely decline in quality and it’s showing in terms of league results.
It’s almost as if Valencia have not learned their lessons from 2008. That was when their first financial issues were highlighted and the move to the Nou Mestalla was halted. Luckily for them they came across an incredible crop of youth players which subsequently turned their fortunes around.
Unfortunately for them the well has run dry and it seems as if they have no more starts to sell. That coupled with the fact once again they have spent badly in a bid to not only compete for a Champions League spot but also split the Barcelona and Real Madrid duopoly means that the cupboard is once again bare in Eastern Spain.
We often use the cliche that a club ‘is too good or too big’ to be relegated but when you look at this Valencia side there is absolutely no guarantee that they are safe from the drop this time around. If they were to be consigned to the drop then it could be an act which is almost near fatal for the club. Worrying times indeed for everyone connected to Valencia.