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Valencia’s poisoned chalice: why would anyone take the top job?

Valencia’s poisoned chalice: why would anyone take the top job?

22/09/2016 at 12:39

After Pako Ayestaran was sacked just four games into the new season, Pete Jenson wonders if anyone reputable would fancy the Valencia job.

Poor Pako Ayestaran. You can picture the scene on Tuesday: ‘Pako you’ve got a call long-distance from Singapore. Where do you want to take it?’

The life of a Valencia manager is not an easy one. They sell your best players on the eve of the new season then they sack you after four games.

Next on the agenda is the list of candidates. No Alan Curbishley unfortunately; nor even ‘Michel’, the Spanish Alan Curbishley… linked with so many jobs he’ll end up replacing himself one day.

The names that are on the list are, in the main, fanciful. Andre Villas Boas, Roberto Mancini, Michael Laudrup. Villas Boas doesn’t need his first job in Spain to be a failure so it’s a gamble he is unlikely to take. And Mancini is a no-no on account of ‘managers who speak their mind about the club’s activity in the transfer market need not apply’. Laudrup at least has a tendency to get bored very quickly in jobs and quit after making a reasonable start – that might fit Valencia who have had ten different coaches in the last five years.

Mestalla, general view

Mestalla, general viewPA Photos

Last season Manuel Pellegrini and Rafa Benitez were touted. Neither man was the slightest bit interested. Pellegrini is currently on a golf retreat, also coaching Hebei China Fortune (check how the yen is doing against the dollar), and Rafa Benitez has taken the greater job security on offer at Newcastle.

The man they really want is Marcelino who left Villarreal in the summer after falling out with players and then the president. If they get him then the extremely harsh early firing of Ayestaran could just about be justified. Marcelino is one best ‘middle-order’ coaches around. You wouldn’t have him opening the batting at a big Champions League club but he’s worked wonders at modest outfits before and Valencia – sadly – have been turned into a ‘very modest outfit’ by years of boardroom mismanagement.

Marcelino’s problem is that on July 1 he was registered as a coach at Villarreal and you cannot manage two top-flight teams in Spain in the same season. It's a daft rule, especially when the poor manager didn’t even take charge of the first game of the season but someone in a broom cupboard somewhere at the ministry for silly rules is insisting that there be no exception made.

Marcelino would be perfect because having fallen out with Villarreal who are Valencia’s go-getting, super-achiever neighbours he would be able to take his revenge and benefit Peter Lim’s club – your enemy is our enemy as it were.

Marcelino Villarreal

Marcelino VillarrealAFP

If they can’t make it happen Joaquin Caparros may be approached. He missed out on the Spain job in the summer when former Under-21 national team coach Julen Lopetegui turned down Wolves to take over La Roja.

He has had 18 clubs since 1981 – almost as manager coaches as Valencia in that time. He has never won anything but players who have worked under him – most notably Dani Alves - can’t speak highly enough of him.

He is also knows what managerial pressure is. At Swiss side Neuchatel Xamax FC the owner appeared in the dressing room, flanked by armed bodyguards, to threaten players after a disappointing draw with Lausanne. So having a small angry mob screaming abuse at the training ground after returning in the early hours from a heavy defeat, will feel like an open-top bus ride and civic reception.

He is not the kind of coach Valencia fans dream of though. This is a big club with a Spanish and European pedigree reduced to halfway house for good young players who sign for two years and then move on to bigger things, and for managers who are either on the way down, or just starting out.

Which brings us to Gary Neville.

Ayestaran’s brutal sacking illustrates the point that most grasped before he even took the job at Mestalla last season. Taking the Valencia position as your first in football might be enough to put you off being a head coach for life. Something that sadly it seems to have done.

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