Valencia CF stuck in a power struggle

The president of Valencia CF, Anil Murthy (left), in September, in London. HANNAH MCKAY / REUTERS

"Save our club! " Responding in their own way to Valencia CF's call to present a "United front" On the occasion of Lille's UEFA Champions League reception on Tuesday 5 November, supporters of the influential club Curva Nord decided to welcome their team with flags and trumpets. Before deciding to take out the streamers and turn the celebration into protest. Because for several months, the situation has become explosive, and the club strangely finishes the year of its centenary, which however saw him raise the Copa del Rey in the spring.

This title was paradoxically the one that led to its downfall. "I am absolutely sure that this whole story is part of our victory against Barcelona. The detonator of my dismissal was this final won ", at the beginning of September, coach Marcelino, freshly ejected from the club. Fired for winning a trophy? Officially, the club makes him pay a bad start to the season. Unofficially, the technician jumps for questioning the team's direction, and mortgages a very lucrative qualification in the Champions League (eventually achieved) by aiming for a national trophy. With him, the architects of the sporting success of the last two years have taken the door – or are about to do so.

The sporting director of the club of the Valencian metropolis is now in the hands of Anil Murthy, former Singaporean diplomat, placed there by Peter Lim, his fellow country owner of the club. This neophyte of the balloon crystallizes the tensions, but applies to the letter the principles of the president of Valencia CF: "A football club is not so different from a normal business. Both require strong management. "

"These were just illusions"

In a city whose emblem is the bat, it is not the shadow of the flying little mammal that is dreaded. In Valencia CF Peter Lim, that of Jorge Mendes is everywhere. Since the Portuguese "super-agent" convinced his Singaporean friend to take control of the club in 2014, few players or coaches have joined the team without being part of the Mendes team. "Peter Lim presented a project involving systematically playing the Champions League, with the ultimate goal of winning it", recalls Hector Gomez, journalist covering the club. A "Champion's project" which, because of the valuation strategy of Jorge Mendes, would be based on the development of young players.

"It's still the same system when foreign investors land in football, Luis Carlos Sanchez, professor of economics at the University of Oviedo. They arrive, inject money, recruit sizes, promise more … But, at one point, they are not Santa Claus! And new owner or not, a team must generate revenue. " The public, he struggles to follow. "We were sold a savior, says Martinez Gimenez, who runs a large online fan community. But they were only illusions; he mostly sold players. "

Read also Nou Mestalla stadium in Valencia, an unfinished grandeur folly

"It's hard to find your way when your club's decisions are made on the other side of the world," says Javier Martinez Gimenez, a supporter.

"Valencia is an intermediate citysays researcher Beatriz Santamarina Campos, a sociologist at the University of Valencia. It is not a capital; however, the dynamic has been to develop major infrastructures, such as the City of Arts and Sciences, to make a showcase. And it generated tensions in the population, which is not recognizable in this new landscape. " This observation is applicable to the flagship football club of the city. "It's hard to find where your club's decisions are made on the other side of the world, Blast Javier Martinez Gimenez. And then we Valencians, we can quickly ignite. "

" It's finish "

Not understanding the decisions to get rid of a successful sporting leadership – the players, the captain, Dani Parejo, in the lead, defended the former coach -, a major part of the Valencian public is upwind against his club's leadership and relentless restructuring – six in five years. "Peter go you there" ("Peter, go away") is a regular chorus in the Mestalla stadium. A gesture by Anil Murthy, meaning to keep the fans silent, consumed the break in late October. "It's over, it does not represent the Valencians anymore", slice Carlos Bosch, an editorialist of the local newspaper Superdeporte.

If he has apologized, the Valencia CF boss has also tightened the bridle. Since the 1st In November, media access to Paterna, the club's headquarters, was restricted. It floats like an air of a beleaguered citadel – as evidenced by the cancellation of a charity operation in partnership with local fame, Santiago Canizares, after the former goalkeeper criticized Marcelino's departure.

The spell often holds surprises, and the draw of the Champions League this year placed Valencia in a group including Chelsea and Lille, two clubs also passed under foreign flag, and whose developments take the same routes as Valencia. "I see in Lille things that could be adapted to our project", added Anil Murthy after the first leg. Both clubs embody a global and contemporary football, which can sometimes leave its supporters on the side of the road.


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