Formed in 1919, it was 4 years later that Valencia Club de Fútbol moved to the Mestalla, the stadium where they would remain until the present day with its capacity for 55,000 spectators in breathtakingly steep sided stands.
The Mestalla has seen many glory nights at club and international level with Valencia becoming one of Spain’s most successful club sides domestically and internationally.
The stadium has also hosted the Spanish national team (la selección) on many an occasion and la Roja have enjoyed much success there over the years, most notably in 1992 when the Spanish Olympic football side played every match at la Mestalla on their route to glory and Gold in the final winning 3-2 against Poland at the Camp Nou in Barcelona, their only match in the host city.
It wasn’t all success for Valencia in its early years, the regional championship was won in 1923 which allowed them to enter the Copa del Rey for the 1st time. However, As with many others, the Civil War halted their progress and it wasn’t until 1941 that Valencia C.F. Would lift their 1st trophy, the Cup.
The league title was won the following season, but at that time the Copa was considered the Championship of Spain, so there was much to celebrate for Los Che (a club nickname).
In total Valencia have won 6 domestic league titles and 7 Cups, many of which have come in recent years and placing them above Athletic Bilbao and Atlético Madrid in most people’s minds, even though the former two have amassed more silverware historically.
If the 40’s were a period when Valencia emerged into the public consciousness in Spain, the 1950’s and 60’s saw the club fall into decline and success was hard to come by.
In the 1970’s the club would re-emerge as a power and spearheaded by Argentine star Mario Kempes, who was top scorer twice in the league, the club would find success domestically and internationally, winning the Cup in 1978 and the Cup Winners Cup against Arsenal the following season.
The 1980’s brought about another period of ill fortune for Valencia and riddled with debt and poor morale amongst the playing staff, the club was relegated after 55 years in the top flight. In the latter part of the 1980’s and 90’s the club was back in the top flight, but it wasn’t until the turn of the millennium that the club’s golden era began.
From 1999 to 2004, under the leadership of Rafa Benitez, Valencia won 2 League titles, 1 Copa del Rey, 1 UEFA Cup and 1 UEFA Super Cup. Add to this 2 UEFA Champions League Final appearances, both ending in defeat to Real Madrid (3-0) and Bayern Munich (on penalties) and Los Che could finally proudly hold their heads high amongst Spain’s elite.
A number of top names had come to the club during this period, but as in the past, brighter lights and bigger cheque books would tempt the stars away eventually and Valencia would struggle to maintain their level.
The club would again enter a period of financial instability and it wasn’t until Unai Emery was appointed coach that some form of stability was brought back to the playing side of things, allowing Valencia to finish 4th in consecutive seasons and qualify for the lucrative Champions League.
The debt issues still trouble the club to this day and others have been fighting for that 4th place finish, most recently Málaga and Real Sociedad have managed to loosen Los Che’s grip of 4th spot.
The club had announced a new stadium project and work had begun on a new site on the edge of the city called Nou Mestalla “new Mestalla”. However, due to financial constraints, work ended on the stadium and it now sits half completed as a building site.
Even though the club always seems on the brink of crisis, a visit to the stadium and the city comes highly recommended and a great atmosphere and a good night out afterwards are guaranteed in this vibrant coastal city.
More details on the LaLigaBlog website.