Gary Neville’s appointment at Valencia offers a great opportunity for the England assistant coach, who has joined a massive club that is competing in the Champions League and boasts a talented squad plus a massive and passionate fanbase.
Moreover, he will arrive with a lot of prior understanding about his new club thanks to his brother Phil, who was appointed assistant coach earlier this year.
But the former Manchester United defender also faces a number of key challenges that will have to be addressed instantly – starting with his relationship with the club’s owner.
Negotiating a political minefield
To say that Gary Neville has arrived in a delicate political environment is placing it mildly (spend consideration, simply because this element is complex).
Firstly, he will have to prove he is not a mere puppet for the club’s owner, Singaporean businessman Peter Lim, who also has a considerable investment in Salford City, the non-league club owned by the ‘Class of 92’ group of ex-Manchester United players, such as the Neville brothers.
For British football followers accustomed to Neville’s wholehearted performances on the pitch and his equally forthright views as a media analyst, the notion of him being anyone’s ‘puppet’ appears somewhat ridiculous.
But Valencia fans aren’t fairly so familiar with Neville’s bold personality, and many are alarmed by the idea their new manager was only appointed due to the fact he takes place to be a friend of the owner due to their company connection at an obscure football club in one more country.
And that is not all.
The job at Valencia became available when predecessor Nuno Espirito Santo was efficiently hounded out by the club’s fans, who had been disgruntled firstly at his team’s unconvincing outcomes but also since of his close relationship with super-agent Jorge Mendes.
The Portuguese was instrumental in the deal that brought Lim to the club final season, and has considering that maintained a essential part in the club’s affairs by effectively acting as their chief scout and director of football all rolled into a single.
Practically all the players signed by Valencia since Lim’s takeover are Mendes customers, as is Nicolas Otamendi, who was sold to Manchester City this summer time to the fans’ horror.
Fans are desperate to see the agent’s part at their club lowered, and the appointment of a non-Mendes man such as Neville is a very good starting point but with so many players beneath his influence, Mendes remains an critical figure and Neville cannot afford to alienate him completely.
Winning more than the fans
Valencia fans are renowned as the most volatile and fickle in Spain, and their immediate reaction to the news Neville will be their manager was good, but not without dissent.
At the time of this article’s publication, a majority of fans – 71% – had voted in favour of his appointment in a internet site poll held by local newspaper Superdeporte. But that nonetheless leaves lots of supporters who are opposed to his arrival.
Soon after the departure of Nuno, Valencia fans were expecting a higher-profile and skilled manager with a confirmed track record: former Barcelona boss Frank Rijkaard and ex-Swansea manager Michael Laudrup, who has been managing given that 2002, have been the leading candidates.
The fans’ issues about Neville are straightforward and apparent: he has never managed prior to, never ever played or worked in Spain and doesn’t speak Spanish.
Five much more huge names thrown in at the deep end
Ruud Gullit: Won the 1997 FA Cup as Chelsea player-manager. Sacked in 1998, he coached Newcastle, Feyenoord, LA Galaxy and Terek Grozny
David Platt: Controversially appointed boss of Sampdoria – a former club – in December 1998, Platt lasted only six weeks
Frank Rijkaard: Led Holland to the Euro 2000 semi-finals on property turf. From 2003-08, won 5 trophies at Barcelona
Gianfranco Zola: Very first job was a 19-month spell at West Ham ahead of spells at Watford, Cagliari and Qatari club Al-Arabi
Alan Shearer: Failed to maintain Newcastle up in eight games in 2009 and has not managed since
And, at a club that has got by way of seven managers in the past 3 and a half years, there is also concern that his contract only runs until the end of the season. Neville will want to speedily convince his team’s supporters that he does not see the club as merely a six-month learning encounter.
As Nuno will attest, Valencia fans can be horrible to play in front of when they are angry. The Portuguese coach was a man, right after all, who led the group back into the Champions League at the end of his only season in charge. But they nevertheless loathed him enough to force him out.
The converse is also accurate, even so, and if he can succeed in obtaining the fans on his side, Neville could speedily become a folk hero to his new team’s supporters.
Champions League qualification
Though he does not officially commence duties until Sunday, and will for that reason not be in charge this weekend, Saturday’s property game against in-type Barcelona will be a significantly less than gentle introduction to life at Mestalla.
And when Neville’s operate formally gets beneath way, it will be straight down to serious organization due to the fact his first game in charge is nothing at all significantly less than a vital Champions League house match against Lyon next Wednesday.
After picking up just six points from their opening five group games, Los Che know it is a must-win affair if they are to have any possibility of prolonging their involvement in the competition.
The great news is Lyon have nothing at all to play for, condemned to Group H’s bottom place with no possibility of climbing any higher.
The undesirable news is that even victory may possibly not be sufficient, because a win for second-placed Gent over Zenit St Petersburg – who know they will win the group no matter what – would render Valencia’s result meaningless.
Clearly, the team’s European predicament is not Neville’s fault and failure to qualify would not be held against him, but progression to the knockout stage would result in a large early increase in his recognition.
Reintegrating (or selling) Alvaro Negredo
One particular of the most significant controversies in the course of the latter days of Nuno’s time in charge was his treatment of former Manchester City striker Alvaro Negredo.
When he arrived at the club, Negredo was hailed by Nuno as ‘La Bomba’ (‘the bomb’), the superstar who would propel the team to a new level. And he lived up to that billing with a superb purpose to aid safe Champions League qualification in the preliminary round against Monaco.
For the previous handful of months, nevertheless, Negredo has been sidelined by Nuno, with the striker not featuring at all because the commence of October despite getting totally fit – prompting fury from the fans, who routinely chanted Negredo’s name for the duration of games as he watched on from the grandstand.
It was partly a tactical matter, simply because Nuno favoured a four-2-3-1 formation with just 1 striker and opted for Spain international Paco Alcacer, who is much more mobile and can link more efficiently with the midfield than Negredo.
But there was also a suspicion, denied by Nuno, that Negredo was becoming ‘punished’ for not getting element of the Mendes steady at the club and that he would be sold in January.
Young midfielder Rodrigo de Paul was in a comparable position, also left out of the group for the previous two months, and Neville will have to rapidly decide whether (and how) he wants to bring the ostracised pair back into the group or leave them on the sidelines.
Understanding the language
One of the 1st and most significant issues raised by Valencia fans is Neville’s lack of Spanish, with the query posed over how he can communicate with his players if he doesn’t even speak the language.
This was a process former Everton and United manager David Moyes never ever overcame at Genuine Sociedad. And the reality Wales and Genuine Madrid striker Gareth Bale has learned small far more than rudimentary Spanish has also been used against him in the course of periods of criticism.
Neville, even so, can stick to the instance of his brother, who has clearly embraced the challenge of studying Spanish, routinely tweeting in the native tongue.
Though his usage is not constantly best (throughout the summer time he prompted hilarity by sending an unintentionally raunchy tweet about his morning activities on the beach) the reality he is at least attempting to communicate in Spanish is drastically appreciated by Valencia fans.
And those supporters will expect clear communication from their new manager, particularly considering the political uncertainty within the club and owner Lim’s famous unwillingness to conduct media interviews or seem in public.
In the all-consuming globe of football management, time, of course, is valuable and Neville will only have so several hours in the day to fulfil all his duties.
But nevertheless he does it, understanding basic Spanish and utilizing it in public must be an absolute priority – ideally starting in Thursday’s formal unveiling.