Valencia CF qualified for the Group stage of the UEFA Champions League for the first time since 2012-13 after overcoming a spirited challenge from AS Monaco.
Los Che managed to sneak in through to the group stages of this year’s UEFA Champions League. Despite going down 2-1 in Monaco, they won the tie 4-3 on aggregate. A majestic chip from Spanish striker Alvaro Negredo in the 4th minute eventually sealed the tie for Valencia, despite subsequent strikes from Andrea Raggi and substitute Elderson. A nervy finished ensued as Monaco pounded Valencia goalkeeper Matthew Ryana s goal in the dying seconds. However, Los Che eventually hung on to secure their place in Europea s premier football competition after a 2 year absence.
Valencia are a club with genuine European pedigree. They reached the final of the Champions League in 1999-00 and 2000-01 before eventually losing out to Real Madrid and Bayern Munich respectively. Under the stewardship of Rafa Benitez, Valencia won 2 Spanish La Liga crowns in 2001-02 and 2003-04. In an era dominated by Real Madrid and FC Barcelona, winning two league titles was quite a phenomenal achievement for the Els Taronges (The Oranges).
Benitez further guided the Los Che to a memorable victory in the 2004 UEFA Cup final over French Club Marseille. Since then, Valencia have consistently managed to qualify for the latter stages of the Champions League, producing some sterling displays on the way.
Stars such as David Villa, David Silva, Ruben Baraja, David Albelda, Roberto Ayala, Pablo Aimar, Juan Mata, Jordi Alba and Gaizka Mendieta have graced the field of Estadio Mestalla over the years and have been pivotal in ensuring Valenciaa s success over the years at the European stage.
The global financial crisis that struck Europe in 2007 had a crippling effect on Spanish football. Valenciaa s half constructed new stadium, the Nou Mestalla, is perhaps the perfect embodiment of how the financial crisis affected the club. Erstwhile President Juan Soler had sanctioned the construction of the Nou Mestalla stadium in 2006. Subsequently, in 2009, Valencia were forced to temporarily suspend the construction of the stadium on accounting of mounting debts. It still remains in a half built state. With a 150m already spent on the new stadium, Valenciaa s overall debt peaked to a whopping a 500m in 2010.
In order to cut their debt, Valencia were forced to sell off their best players to clubs all over Europe. David Villa and Jordi Alba went to Barcelona, Raul Albiol went to Real Madrid, David Silva and Nicolas Otamendi went to Manchester City and Juan Mata went to Chelsea. The sale of Villa, Silva, Mata and Otamendi alone raised close to a 150m, significantly helping the club to overcome the crisis.
However, the sale of such stalwarts to their cross continental rivals severely dented the cluba s domestic and European ambitions. On the eve of the financial crisis that was soon to engulf Spain, Valencia appointed Ronald Koeman as the manager of the club. During Koemana s disastrous spell with the club, Valencia constantly hovered above the relegation zone and eventually finished 10th in the League, a massive 35 points off 1st place. Koeman fell out with squad veterans such as David Albelda, Ruben Baraja, Joaquin and Ivan Helguera, eventually banishing them from the first team. He was sacked in the middle of the season with Valencia in 16th position at the time.
The club was stabilized under the able stewardship of Unai Emery from 2008-12 who lead them to 3 successive 3rd place finishes. After Emery was unceremoniously sacked in 2012, Valencia underwent a period of crisis both on and off the pitch. As the debt started reaching unsustainable levels, Valenciaa s top hierarchy started losing patience with their new managerial appointees. Mauricio Pellegrino, Ernesto Valverde and Miroslav Dukic all lasted for barely a few months as Valencia failed to qualify for successive Champions League campaigns from 2013-2015.
Valenciaa s precarious situation was best summed up by Sport360a s correspondent Andy West when he wrote, a Two pillars of the cluba s financial strategy a repaying bank interest with Champions League TV revenue and managing debt levels by selling stars a had become impossible with a team no longer good enough to reach Europea s elite club competitiona .
Lately, things have started looking up for the Los Che. Their resurgence began in May, 2014 when Singapore businessman Peter Lim bought 70.4% of the cluba s shares and assumed ownership of the club. Upon his arrival at the Mestalla, Lim signed an agreement with the city of Valencia and Bankia bank, wherein he agreed to pay the debts of the club in a structured manner over a pre-decided time period. Lim immediately appointed former Porto goalkeeper Nuno Esp rito Santo as the new head coach of Valencia and procured the services of midfielder Andre Gomes and striker Rodrigo from Portuguese club SL Benfica. These signings highlight Peter Lim’s purported association with Portuguese super-agent Jorge Mendes.
Players coming into the club through its effective transfer policy and strong youth academy have stabilized Valenciaa s once quivering ship. Valenciaa s current mix of youth and experience has propelled the club to its first top 4 finish since 2012-13. Valenciaa s current crop of players such as club captain Daniel Parejo, Sofiane Feghouli, Paco Alcacer, Jose Gaya, Pablo Piatti and Antonio Barragan have been instrumental in the cluba s recent resurgence.
With Barcelona and Real Madrid continuing their dominance at the top, Atletico Madrid significantly strengthening their squad and Seviila rebuilding under Unai Emery, it will be a huge challenge for Nuno to replicate the success of last season.
However, the arrival of Peter Lim to the club has unleashed a wave of positivity across Estadio Mestalla. Construction of the Nou Mestalla has resumed and the 61,000 capacity stadium is expected to be completed by 2019, the cluba s centenary year. The arrivals of fresh faces to the club, including Alvaro Negredo, Andre Gomez, Santi Mina and Rodrigo, have enthused the cluba s fan base. Lastly, the club will be able to pay off a huge proportion of their debt from the money coming in from the Champions Leaguea s vast TV money pool.
The future finally seems secure for the Los Che.