Season review 2014/2015 – Part 1- The season, Peter Lim and Nuno

As the season draw to a close in Almería on Saturday, Valencia had secured the long desired 4th place that gives qualification to CL playoffs. The importance of achieving that goal should not be underestimated. It has truly been an eventful season and it has been a successful one measured in points. Only when the team won the league under Rafa Benitez have they accumulated 77 points before. We asked our great board members to give their view on the season. Michael (@VCF_Nordic) from Denmark, Daniel Cervera (@Cerverone) from Sweden, Eirik (@EirikSPedersen) and Hans (@mulu83) from Norway and of course Pål (@paalpot75) who lives practically on top of the club just next to Paterna.

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“How would you sum up Valencia’s season?”

Pål:

My expectations were limited at the start of the season, and I thought a UCL spot would be too hard despite a lot of investments. With plenty new players, a new style and a new (and fairly green) coach along with all the fundamental changes in the administration, I assumed it all had to gel a lot longer before real results would materialize. And play was indeed erratic, especially away from Mestalla. At home, however, it was a blessing.

All things considered, it’s been a good season. But its real success depends of course on establishing the club in Champions League in the following seasons, so the general feeling is; -Good job, but keep it up, and keep growing!

Eirik: 

Better than expected when looking on points gained, as expected when looking at league position. The aim was Champions League and we made top 4.

Michael: 

Impressive. Scoring 3 goals in the first 5 home-games and 7 of the 10 first marked a record high goal score at that time. Only one bad month, November, with season’s biggest disappointment in Levante. Our point total would be adequate in an average LaLiga season, but it all really comes down to CL qualification in the end. A must.

Daniel:

It’s been great! Achieving a UCL spot has been fulfilled, many young players have matured in the team. And the old distinguished Valencia trademark of an attacking team with a solid defense has been reborn. Finding something really bad is hard, perhaps the early exit from the Copa del Rey?

Hans:

My expectations before the season was really stabilizing the project and get order in the club after all the turmoil. I saw 4th as a possibility and as a maximum. In the end we gave Atletico a fight for the 3rd, something I would not have expected after doing a near total clear out of the squad (only 8 of 36 having games last year remained.) The best thing for me is that it was not all the transfers that succeeded yet. Probably sounds kind of strange, but with this season behind us, that is really a sign that we have not nearly reached our potential. Key now to keep the good work going and sign shrewdly.

peter-lim-andresbgm-laotraliga_560x280“How have Peter Lim’s recent ownership takeover changed the club?”

Hans

Most can not begin to even understand how much the club has changed the last two years. I would however say it started with the entry of Amadeo Salvo as president and not necessarily Lim’s takeover. Before Salvo’s entry the club was in a dire place with an approach to it’s financial problems much like Germany has approached the financial crises; by cutting investments and selling off assets.

Llorente was placed in his presidential position by Bankia (the bank Valencia owe much of it’s debt to) and his main duty was to get the bank their money back. He did it the only way he knew how. Cutting. And when you cut your assets and investments, your value is reduced. And you have to cut more.

Salvo came in with a different background. He built his father’s backyard business to an international company. And he started the same work at Valencia and despite being against a sale if it could have been avoided, he much prepared the ground for Lim’s entry. From being a club with no concept of brand, marketing, business and their sportive equivalents identity, style and transfer smartness, it has become a modern club in a very short time.

Lim has brought in the necessary financial strength, but more importantly he has brought his connections in the business and football world both. Valencia now has some serious strings to play on both inside and outside the club. The alternative? Bankruptcy.

Daniel:

He hasn’t really set his mark yet, but my impression is that he – as a businessman – appears to be one of the most professional majority owners Valencia CF SAD has seen, and perhaps the best foreign owner in La Liga. I’m looking back at clown presidents and owners such as Pitermann, Jesús Gil and Solér, to mention a few! Lim is just a shining star compared to them, acting and appearing just about right in media, and as it appears – in the collaboration with Salvo, Rufete, Nuno. He hasn’t spoken out anything that would upset us fans.

And his daughter, ruling the social media with her true passion for Los Che, have given him a more human face. Rather than getting the expected persona of a cold hearted, short-sighted capitalist investor, Mr. Lim appears to have a genuine interest in the club, in it for the long term. And it’s okay to make a big buck too, so long he keeps the respect of the heritage and the sentiments of the Valencianistas, as he have done so far.

The change I expect to see is a better and professionally administered club, run much more efficient. I also expect a less provocative leadership, more internationalization and marketing going global, as ever before. Indeed a much brighter future than I expected when the sale was announced. But as noted, he has yet to prove himself in the longer run.

Salvo began this journey even before Lim appeared – making the club more international and transparent – so credit shall go to him as well for taking this direction.

Michael:

The ideal team is not changed that much, as only 2 of his players (Mustafi & Gomes) have been a regular, but it’s clear to everyone that the excitement is back in Mestalla – even when Lim is not around. Peter Lim has acted strategically well on the market with a coach on some young players who already knew each other from the Portuguese league. The real effects can’t be observed yet though, and I expect to see more from €30M men Enzo Pérez and Álvaro Negredo. Of the field, marketing has really improved. It’s much easier to be an international fan these days.

Eirik:

The most important aspect by the takeover are the possibilities. Salvo could keep on going with his strategy to bring the club forward. Players now believe it is possible to achieve great things in the club. They seems motivated and focused. The club changed from a shop window to a competitive side that can beat anyone. Lim also have the Mendes link that have been positive this year. I will not speculate how healthy the Mendes link will be in the future, but this season it has been key to our success. Bringing Nuno and Ian Cathro (never forget about him) was important as the two have a clear vision about how football shall be played.

Pål:

Lim’s money was (and still is) essential to cement Salvo’s already brilliant project. Not just for bringing in players, and keeping the good ones. But also for stopping the eternal and painful debate about the club’s debt, and his excellent understanding of world wide marketing and long term planning. For me, my final judgement on Lim will not be measured in titles, but on whether Nou Mestalla will be completed. Which I believe he’ll do, as it’s vital both to his investment and to the club’s economical stability.

Nuno Espirito Santo“The decision to recruit Nuno as the new coach, despite Pizzi doing quite well the second half of last season was much challenged before the season. How do you see Nuno’s work and was it the right decision?”

Pål:

To me it seemed a huge mistake to sack Pizzi and gamble everything on an inexperienced coach from a lowly Portuguese side. But so far it has paid off. There are certainly points to criticize Nuno for, especially in buildup tactics and substitutions. But he has shown himself as a coach the players trust, and has dealt excellently with the press and local fans.

It’s impossible to say it was a wrong decision now, I think. But again, time will show. And next season will be his real litmus test as Valencia has more than the league to focus on, and he’ll have to rotate a lot more, meaning very good players might play a lot less than they think they should.

Eirik:

Pizzi is not a bad coach, but I think it was important for Lim to bring Nuno in, so Lim feel that he made an impact right from the start. Nuno was the first visible change Lim/Mendes/Salvo made. It was important to Lim to show the fans and the players the changes in the club. It was also important for the Lim – Mendes connection since Nuno is a Mendes client. I believe the appointment of Nuno is more about politics than results.

Nuno has proven himself, but his success was not obvious when he first joined, having just coached Rio Ave in Portugal before. Nuno became a personal favorite quite fast by gaining results with the same style as Valencia played in the glory days. The Mestalla audience seems to like it as well.

Michael:

This decision has been key. Nuno is a true professional who doesn’t look at our players’ price-tag or mutual history in Portugal – evidenced with our part-Brazilians Filipe and Rodrigo. The stats speak for themselves, but I hope that we will get to play more attacking in next season, when the team has been integrated and established in CL.

Daniel:

I proclaim Nuno a bargain. Valencia didn’t need a Messiah player signed to salvage the team, but rather a reborn spirit – to believe in making great deeds and one’s contribution to the whole. Nuno Espiritu Santo has certainly delivered this spirit. While Pizzi earns all the respect both as a player and coach, there is a big difference in what values they brought to the team.

Hans:

It is difficult not to support that decision as it has panned out. I have to say I did not see the potential in Pizzi to lead such a project and had and have the opinion that if Nuno did not join, we still should have changed manager. Nuno has given the team a playing identity, but without limiting the play. Nuno’s Valencia maintain a basis for how they play but the tactics and system is very adaptable to situation and opponent.

It is truly fascinating to see how Valencia in such a short time has changed so much (including 28 of 36 owned players last year being sent out on loans or transfers) and still improved this significantly. For the very first time since Benitez we prove a threat to the other top teams every single time we meet them.

Defensive strength has been the key to success together with an at times incredible efficiency in front of goal. The flip side of that is that the team often creates too little and there are some alternatives lacking in the attacking play. But hey, even Nuno can’t fix everything in his first year. It is like he has done the Ranieri – Cuper years in one and now approach the Benitez years. Rafa did benefit from his predecessors’ strong defensive set up while adding more of an attacking strength.

I’d still say his most important achievement has actually been building a true team, something the club has missed since 2004. For the first time since then there’s 21 players with one goal and they all win and loose together, whether they are playing or not. Look at the Paco – Negredo relationship. You’ve got something special when two struggling and competing strikers are each others biggest support.

Nuno is a guy who seems very sure about what he is doing, and his belief is rock steady. Most importantly, that is what he transmits to his players and his surroundings. After meeting him briefly, I have to say Ia m fascinated and eager to see just how far he can take us.

 

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