“Game after game after game, I realize now what’s most important in my life: Football. Show me something more thrilling than a perfect volley; tell me you’ve never dreamed of the immaculate strike and that passionate moment when an entire nation holds it breath. Tell me that football is not our one common language when the world stops for ninety minutes to be witness to that one special moment.
You could tell me I’m wrong; some may say it’s just a game, but this is about heroes and tribes, loyalties and devotion; it’s our battle and our belief, our commitment and our passion; this is our faith. Now, feel the fever of the crowd, hear the roar of the faithful”
These lines are the transcript from the intro video to FIFA 2006 (probably the best part of the game). Despite it’s source it gives a good picture of what football is about. Or rather, what it was about. Valencia has gone from being a laggard in the football business to become a beacon of modern ultra-capitalistic, emotionless business of football.
We have often discussed how Amadeo Salvo came in to the club, transforming it from that laggard, the village club which had lost it’s way and connection to it’s fans under Llorente. What came out on the other side of the transformation was a club deeply tied to it’s fans, based on the understanding that it was in it’s social importance that the club would find renewed success.
In a little over a year, Salvo created a miracle, taking on the world in the process. He created the “we” between fans and the club through his fight against Bankia, giving pride through the refurbishment of Mestalla, strengthening the market and involving fans and media in the club. The “we” created a wave of optimism and positivism, propelling the team to Champions League qualification through sheer will, forcing luck our way. It was about heroes, loyalty and devotion.
After that point, Peter Lim’s Meriton has failed in almost all areas. Firstly, they failed to replace Amadeo Salvo with a local voice to maintain the connection with fans. This has proven a huge mistake. There is now no-one at the club the fans identify with. No-one to speak to them clearly. This decision is also linked to many of the other mistakes.
Secondly, As Rufete left, he was never replaced in the role he had. Valencia are still without a sports director, leaving any decision up to Nuno and Peter Lim. And of course Jorge Mendes, who has seen his influence increase beyond the reasonable at Valencia. With his friend as the owner and another friend as the manager, Valencia’s market is probably the best single market there is, but also a very limited one.
Thirdly, with Salvo and Rufete leaving, almost all ties to the local media were cut off. Where Plaza Deportiva, Superdeporte and Radio Esport had been fed daily nuggets of inside information, there was now nothing and the media were left with rumors and reports from foreign media. Meriton has failed to see the social importance of papers and radio stations.
Fourth, the players brought have been as designed by Lim; young and very talented. Maybe it was because of the success last year. Maybe blind belief in Mendes. The fact is that many of the players last year played far above their normal level, driven by the wave created by Salvo. It was a tight knit group with a strong common goal. This year, the players brought have added depth, not quality. And the idea, the vision, the common goal is vague and distant.
All together this has created a large distance between the business and the club’s fans. And it is growing larger by the day. When the comparison is Salvo’s idealistic rule, this version of the club stands bleak, cold and dark. Heroes pass to be annoyances. Devotion into opposition. Loyalty to the colors, the badge, the club, but not so much to the manager and players.
There are probably good intentions on Meriton’s part, and they are doing a lot of good and right in areas such as Marketing, professionalization, the finances and hopefully the stadium. Layhoon seems like a competent president. But that is all on the business side of things. It is the cold side of things. It is distant and unrecognizable. It seems the players are clueless as to what we play for. They seem clueless as to who they play for. Lately, the pressure at Mestalla has gotten to them.
The relationship between Mestalla and Nuno was broken. Probably beyond restoration. Nuno though, is just a manager, and most of those do not pass through Mestalla without the fans being happy to see the back of them. Who will be next? How long does he dare let the Gestifute stamp be used as frequently as the club’s own? Will Peter Lim realize it is a football club first and a business second? Or will he continue to steer towards an inevitable rupture with the club’s own fans?
Mr. Lim, you have taken my club away, and I would like you to start giving it back. I am not saying go away, I am saying it is not too late to change the direction this is heading. In fact, now is the time and the opportunity. Start by finding a manager, and a sporting director, who can balance the Mendes influence.
I cannot say whether things will get better if we change; what I can say is they must change if they are to get better. -Georg C. Lichtenberg