Andre Gomes to Barca; Why he needed to go & why Valencia fans are still angry

At 23:32 Thursday 21st of July, lightning struck from Barcelona to Valencia. Out of nowhere, the Catalans officially confirmed the signing of Andre Gomes from Valencia. It marked a surprising and unexpected end to a story that started already last season. According to COPE, one of Spain’s big radio stations, Real Madrid were certain only an hour before that they would indeed be the ones to sign the Portueguese Euro champion. Rumors of a deal had started the night before, and it had even leaked that there were negotiations around players. Aledgedly the player discussion came because Valencia sought to reduce the fee to Benfica (who would be owed 25% of any amount above 15 million euro). Having checked with Gomes’ transfer papers from Benfica however, it clearly states that they would still be due 25% of the value they represent. Then, suddenly it was a money only move to Barcelona.

It is easy to imagine Jorge Mendes sitting somewhere (alledgedly on Formentera) with 3 or 4 mobile phones around 22:00 yesterday. In addition to the two Spanish giants, PSG, Manchester United, Chelsea and Juventus were all said to have had an interest. The latter two were even credited with 60 million euro bids that were turned down (by the player). Well, it’s how Mendes works, when one of “his” club owners are in need of his services. Because Valencia had few options but to sell.

Haunted by last years underachievement

Peter Lim’s Valencia project got off to a perfect start the first season under Nuno, saving the 4th place in the last instant and setting a points record for Valencia. Investments had been made in Benfica’s best and brightest as well as Alvaro Negredo. Rodrigo and Enzo Pérez were the established players wanted by several European top clubs, Andre Gomes and Cancelo, the talents. After the season everything turned for the worse. Nuno pushed out Salvo and Rufete, Otamendi left to be replaced by yet another underperforming established player in Abdennour and Jorge Mendes’ monopoly in transfer dealings left an unbalanced team unable to perform.

Valencia finished 12th, finished bottom in an as easy as you can ask for Champions League group and bombed out of the Spanish Cup. No Europe, less TV money, more difficult to get sponsors. The direct consequence is a projected reduction in the Financial Fair Play (FFP) limit from above 130 million to somewhere in the mid 80s. About 45 million euros is the reduction in what LFP allows Valencia to spend (all numbers are estimates).

FFP is calculated in the following way: Income – Costs = 0.

Income is the sum of: prize money (e.g. CL money) + sponsors & merchandise + TV rights + season tickets + player sales (average of last three seasons).

Costs are: Running costs (light, rent for the megastore etc) + financial costs + salary “other employees” + salary players + amortization (transfer sum divided by contract years) + Bonuses

Valencia were after last season left with a huge squad of 35 players, many of which they would be trying to find an exit for, both motivated by salary and amortization as well as performance. To reach the 45 million reduction, the club has had to target the main contributors to the FFP costs, like Negredo whose total would be around 15 million alone. By loaning him out, half could be removed from the equation, while the other half, the amortization, is still counted. Before Andre Gomes was sold, the FFP cost was still around 105 million and noen of the remaining players would greatly contribute to reduce it, save a sale of either Enzo Pérez or Abdennour. At the same time Valencia are lacking at least 4 signings still to be done, which will of course in turn increase the cost. There would simply not be any manner to reinvest in the squad without a big sale or a very lucky break with several transfer listed players.

Even though Valencia have one of the most healthy financial situations in La Liga FFP aside, they are once again prisoner to financials.

Then why are Valencia fans still angry?

With the reasons above, the fact that 55 million is a lot for a 22-year old bought for 15 million and a bad season and Euro behind him and the club’s need to restructure, one should think that fans would understand, right? Well in many ways it is a good transfer for Valencia. The Portuguese is also not a leader, something Valencia needs, but that he doesn’t need to be at Barcelona. His performances have been erratic and he has struggled with injuries. But he was also the player that was hailed as “the badge of the project”, the diamond in Peter Lim’s crown.

When Peter Lim came in, Amadeo Salvo promised: “Now we don’t have to sell our players, now anyone who wants a player from Valencia will have to pay the clause, and the player needs to do it”. That was Salvo’s philosophy, something he lived up to with Roberto Soldado, as well as with Nicolás Otamendi until he was overruled by Lim. Because it is not Peter Lim’s model. Peter Lim is a part of Jorge Mendes’ network of owners, agents, clubs and players. This network feeds on movement. There has to be movement. The promise from Salvo still stuck with the Valencia fans. They expect a tough club that doesn’t have to sell. They expect to keep their best players. And if Valencia still had to sell, they would expect it to be to a club outside Spain.

Andre Gomes has been subject to bids, already from shortly after he joined. Valencia have turned them all down, to agree a new contract last year, raising his buy-out clause to a reported 115 million euro. The sound from the club has always been; “clause, or he stays”. This sound has changed lately as the club has prepared a sale. The local papers started to report that Valencia held out for somewhere between 65 and 80 million euros. Reports affirm offers from PSG, Juventus, Chelsea, Manchester United and Real Madrid. The expectation from fans was then of course that they’d make the best of the situation and create a bid war. They look to the Anthony Martial transfer and see a player who proved much less than Gomes go for 80 million to one of the interested parties. Expectations rise.

Then the sum is not what is expected.What it looks like to the fans is a complete failure to live up to principles. A gift to a competitor. And it seems like very weak negotiation from Valencia’s side. If the communication had been different, maybe selling a player for 55 million (only second to Mendieta in Valencia’s history), that most complained about having been signed for 15 million, would have looked better?

The next steps

Valencia now get the room to maneuver in the transfer market even if the FFP contribution is lower than it could have been with less variables (another weak part of the negotiation, but Barcelona of course have the same problem with FFP). What will define the mood amongst the fans is how the  money is spent on the squad, and how Gomes in particular is replaced. The trust in Peter Lim and Meriton is wearing very thin, and the only chance to correct that is through taking the right steps – and explaining them. Most Valencia fans will be expecting an explanation both for the Gomes transfer, and for the plans going forward.

At the time of writing, we are still waiting for Valencia’s official confirmation in this very strange transfer.

 

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