This is Spain


Ay Valencia Where Did The Money Go?

They sold Mendieta
They sold El Piojo Lopez
They sold David Villa
They sold David Silva
They sold Marchena
They sold Ayala
They sold Gerard
They sold Milla
They sold Joaquin
They want to sell Mata

They sold the kitchen sink

However they cannot sell the stadium and there is the problem.

Valencia in the 2000s was built by small men with big dreams in the anything goes years of the property boom. The third best supported club in Spain with the third biggest number of socios have the largest debt in European football, Manchester United notwithstanding. How a club like Valencia can be drawing under a debt estimated to be 758 million Euros is beyond rationality.

How did they get here and where did the money go?

Well crooked chairman is a good start. Ranging from the corrupt Paco Roig all the way through to the totally incompetent idiot son of the Bautista Soler family, who the patriarch of the family wanted nowhere near the family business lest he bankrupt it but don’t worry the dad and other sons managed to do that anyway, and with chief executives like Manuel Llorente who became the current chairman despite Rafa Benitez’s description of him as a Scorpion you don’t have to look far.

Players’ wages.

Valencia pay very, very high wages while not having great income from either television rights or merchandising although they do have better income than most other clubs in Spain. During the glory years of Ranieri, Cuper and mostly Benitez, Valencia were always living beyond their means but they did it while hoping to profit further down the line from selling off their city centre stadium to developers.

Oh yes the stadia! (Because there is more than one)

The property crash in Spain put paid to that idea leaving a half constructed stadium standing idle on the north west edge of the city. (There is a great article by Sid Lowe in the Guardian about the half constructed stadium.) Mestalla continues to host Valencia games when this year’s Europa League Final was due to be hosted in Valencia’s new stadium which remains just a pipedream for the near future.

The last ten years.

Valencia have had a series of managers over the last ten years some of them brilliant, some of them terrible and others pretty mediocre. The ridiculous lack of support from the aforementioned current chairman alienated their best manager of the decade Rafa Benitez who led them to the title twice, the only team to interrupt the hegemony of the bipartite Barcelona and Real Madrid in the decade. And the fans forced most of the others out because they don’t appreciate the nature of football in Spain ie there are only two teams because they have all of the money.

They appointed Koeman who alienated virtually everyone including suspending three of the most experienced players on full pay (Believed to be because of pressure from above wanting to force them out due to high wages but failing because they are useless of course so they kept paying them and finished off paying compensation too) He managed to win the Copa and was the first manager I have ever seen totally ignored by the team after winning a trophy. He was a dead man walking already after claiming Joaquin was worth zero Euros. They only paid 20 odd million for him!

They appointed Ranieri twice and the second time sacked him the day after he completed on buying a whole building in Calle Colón in the centre of Valencia, the compensation probably paid his mortgage off.

They had Hector Cuper who got them to the European Cup final twice with the most boring form of football ever seen! The fans hated him but loved Mendieta and Piojo Lopez who were brilliant at the counter attacking type football he preached.

Then they appointed Unai Emery. A good appointment and a good manager. The fans hate him. Valencia fans are probably the least appreciative in the whole of Spain (And that is controversial) Even if they are winning three nil at home if he takes off Ever Banega with ten minutes left he gets whistled and white handkerchiefed to death.

So where now for Valencia?

Every year they will need to sell off players to manage the debt until by some miracle they manage to sell off the stadium (More likely to be through a corrupt agreement made behind closed doors as there is no way the figures will ever add up for any developer in the next ten years) So this year it is Joaquin and probably Mata but who will it be next year?

Luckily for Valencia they have one of the most productive youth programs in Spain with extremely talented young players appearing every year and going on to star in the first team. I don’t suppose they ever thought that they would just be used to keep the club afloat but that is their destiny now. Transfer to either of the big two in Spain or out of the country to Italy or England where they will earn even more and their transfer fee may just keep Valencia chugging along paying the interest to the banks for another year.

So a rosy future? No, not really but expect their paymasters at the newly-fused Bankia bank to keep paying the bills for some time yet because the social repercussions were they to pull the plug would be too much for the equally inept bankers to stomach.

Graham Hunt is an estate agent living in Valencia. He has been in Spain for most of his adult life and blogs at a number of places, or His team in Spain is actually Sporting although there was a time during Benitez reign when he loved watching Valencia, the Crushing Machine.

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