After just returning from a year abroad studying in Valencia, it seems fitting that my first article would be on “Los Che”. So here goes…
The Príncipe Felipe Science Museum, part of the fantastic City of Arts and Sciences, is currently staging an exhibition on Valencia CF, displaying various memorabilia from past years. All around are prints of newspaper articles revelling in the famous League and UEFA Cup double achieved in the 2003/04 season. Though semi finalists in last years UEFA Europa League, success in La Liga seems far away.
Living no more than a stones throw away from the famous Estadio Mestalla meant that attending games was inevitable. What was incredible was the availability of tickets and the cost. To attend games against good opposition such as Malaga, Athletico Bilbao and Sevilla, prices ranged from €10 to €85 Euros. After purchasing a €15 ticket for Valencia Vs Bilbao, I was seated in the front few rows of the upper tiers behind the goals. Incredible value, especially in comparison with ticket prices for the English game. I subsequently purchased the same ticket for the rest of the games I attended for the rest of the season, and wasn’t disappointed!
Unfortunately, a huge problem for Valencia CF is the debt they face. In the summer of 2010, David Silva and David Villa were sold to Manchester City and Barcelona respectively. In the summer of 2011, Juan Mata was then sold to Chelsea, all as a way of balancing the books. Selling these stars wasn’t necessarily detrimental to the team as they still have secured 3rd place in the past 3 seasons. However, it does take them further away from sealing the league for the first time since 2003/04.
So how will Valencia fare in the upcoming 2012/13 season? They have just tied their key player, Roberto Soldado, to a new contract, keeping him at Valencia until 2017. This was essential as Soldado almost won games on his own during the 2011/12 campaign. However, Barcelona have recently announced the signing of Valencia left back Jordi Alba for €15 million. Taking into account his importance for Valencia and his role for Spain in Euro 2012, this fee seems relatively modest!
They have however captured right back João Pereira from Sporting Lisbon, a regular for Portugal at the Euros, for around €5 million. Jonathan Viera and Andres Guardado have been signed from UD Las Palmas and Deportivo La Coruna, respectively. Whether these signings have been made to attempt to challenge Barca and Madrid or seal 3rd place again is debateable. What is clear is that when a big club sees potential in one of Valencia’s stars, the chances are they will be available for the right price.
However, the team still certainly doesn’t lack ambition. In August 2007, work began on a new 75, 000 seat stadium, the “Nou Mestalla”. Unfortunately with the banking crisis in Spain, work was halted until the financial imbalances were resolved. With a new bank loan secured, construction on the stadium has resumed, with an estimated completion date of 2 years, in time for the 2014/15 season.
After the brilliance of Spain at the Euros, a team based largely on Barcelona’s stars, and with Madrid reclaiming the league title for the first time since 2007/08, 3rd place seems a realistic target for Valencia. Finishing 30 points behind 2nd place Barcelona in the previous season shows the dominance of the top two in Spain. Perhaps the biggest challenge for the new season will be fighting off the young stars of Bilbao, the UEFA cup winners Athletico Madrid, and Malaga (who spent just over £50 million on players in the summer of 2011) to secure their 4th consecutive 3rd place, and another season of Champions League football.
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