The Valencia of Lim – is it going in the right direction?

For those of you who have followed us on Twitter you might have witnessed that we at the Chescandinavia board pretty much represent the whole specter of viewpoints when it comes to Valencia, it’s players, Nuno and not least Jorge Mendes. This triggered the idea to ask some questions to our board members to see if we couldn’t together well describe the current situation at the club.

Rufete Salvo– Firstly,what to do you think about the the change in management over summer, with many key people such as Salvo, Rufete and Ayala leaving?

Daniel

I think it was inevitable. Any new owner with the least of interest in what has been acquired would re-build management sooner or later. That means Salvo would have to go, or change seats. And I don’t reckon Salvo for an guy happy to sit on the bench, at the back of the room.

Salvo had a good and tight team, which makes decisions like this really hard to make, or stupid – there is a thin line right there.

Michael

Still mourning honestly. Valencia lost a lot of capacity and culture bearers but I will elaborate this below.

Hans

Firstly, I would like to say that given another financial reality, a continuation of the Amadeo Salvo-led project had been a journey I had really looked forward to. He had all the right intentions, together with Rufete and his team. Given the current financial reality, the club had no choice but to get in a new owner, and I am still convinced that all in all, Peter Lim was the best option. When Salvo supported and endorsed this offer it was because he believed in it, even knowing the conditions that came with it.

It is important here to get the story straight, that Salvo was the one who brought in the (in)famous agent Jorge Mendes, and that it was through this contact that the name of Peter Lim arose as potential buyer. Salvo was prepared to leave, so for me, there is no drama in that in itself. The drama was in the timing and Rufete and his team joining him in leaving. It is no secret that Rufete and the coaching staff did not have the best of relationships from the get-go after his awkward words («Pizzi is my manager») at Nuno’s presentation. Added to that, the value of Jorge Mendes’ words in Peter Lim’s ear made it impossible for the previous structure to go on.

If I were to choose my favoredt path for Valencia, this would surely not be it, but blaming everything on an external consultant (Mendes) is also too easy. A Valencia on the same path as let’s say Lyon, with it’s local focus and pride, a basis in their own academy and «people from the house» in most positions, would have been great. That is however not possible for the time being and if we were to have an external consultant, Mendes is often considered the best option. That does not mean however he should have the kind of influence he seems to have now.

I believe Valencia has replaced parts of Rufete’s responsibilities well with Alesanco, just as they have covered parts of Salvo’s role with Lay Hoon. However, none of them can ever be what their predecessors were.

Pål

I had a slim hope that the Lim/Mendes/Nuno triumvirate could work alongside Rufete and his buddies. It was clear from the beginning that it would be difficult, since the two philosophies are so different on key points. Apart from missing Rufo’s relentless work at Paterna, it has two important consequenses for Valencia, in my opinion.

The first is that with Ayala’s exit, Los Che have lost their alternative market in South America. Together with Rufete, Ayala was brilliant at persuading players to choose Valencia’s project instead of clubs who could pay more. The other main effect is the link that has been lost between the fans and the Lim administration after Salvo’s departure. I think Salvo’s days were numbered anyway, since he was sort of a loose cannon. But I have no doubt that Lim underestimated how important he was to Valencia’s image both towards the fans and the press.

Eirik

I think it’s natural the new leader bring in his own people. Salvo’s quest was to find a owner. He did that, and resigned. If it was forced is only speculation. In Rufete’s case it indicates that it was a forced termination as Nuno/Mendes worked behind Rufete’s back (Imbula/Rodrigo Caio deals). Ayala was Rufete’s and Salvo’s man, and it’s natural for him to leave when the two others did.

Mendes had great influence in what players Valencia signed this summer, but I think we will see a change of that in the coming summers. Many fans tend to believe that Mendes control everything in the club at the moment, but the signing of Mathew Ryan and Zakaria Bakkali is not Mendes related. I believe in Lay Hoon’s words when she said that the club is looking for the ‘best young players available in the marked’. Many of those players are Mendes clients, so Mendes players will join in the future as well, but I don’t think we will only sign players related to Mendes.

I´ve would like us to appoint a director of sports as I prefer the idea to have someone who works with with the sporting plan of the club constantly. I also think Nuno will be a a better coach than he will be a manager.

academia_gloval_respect1What do you think about our new transfer policy of mainly younger & unknown foreigners? Are you worried for our academy in the longer run?

Daniel

It is quite relieving to not have the classic hubris owner signing galactic contracts with star players. On the contrary, I think this is a nice transfer tactic (rather than policy) that fits a reasonably modest budget as well as the goals of the team.

Michael

First, I recognize Jorge Mendes as a useful “kick-starter”, as he was key in securing players (and the hype) like Enzo Pérez & Rodrigo who, logically, would not be attracted away from secure UCL football at Benfica only because of Lim capital at Valencia. But since both Mendes players had a limited role last season as compared to many Valencia oldtimers, I refuse to credit him for UCL qualification. Peter Lim created a hype around entire club.

Valencia have basically become a show-window for Mendes. It sounds harsh, but Mendes would do anything in promoting his clients. I mean, Valencia had practically signed the semi-invalid Rodrigo Caio out of the blue, but he needed 3 separate medical-tests & then 1 in Atlético Madrid before he had to give up on the European dream with Mendes. Besides Valencia & Atlético, Deportivo were also what I call “institutionalized”, meaning that many of their players might as well have played for Portuguese clubs: Iván Cavaleiro went directly from an unsuccessful loan at Depor, via Benfica, to the starting line-up for Monaco against Valencia in UCL. A worrying extreme is indeed the once so proud Benfica that have turned into a pure talent-developer for clubs such as Monaco & Valencia one level higher up in the Mendes ladder.

In sum, what I am opposing against in the Mendes way:

– Overpriced youngsters without merit.
– Lack of players with experience & hence competition within a Champions League team.
– Narrowing our transfer options to Mendes clients or Portuguese based players.
– Performing or aging players will be sold, rather than become club legends, for a Mendes profit.
– Becoming a farmer club for clubs up higher in Mendes hierarchy, e.g. City.
– “Institutionalizing” clubs to become similar with less “DNA” from home-grown players & coaches

Some concerns are more hypothetical or conspiratory than others, I admit.

Eirik

I am not to worried about the academy as I am sure the will come players through there in the future. But you cannot just move people up from there without reason. They have to be good enough to deserve to play for the first team. We have a couple of exciting prospects there in Wilfried Zahibo, Fran Villalba and Ibrahim Diallo who all joins the first team for training sessions. If they deliver I guess we will see them in the squad or on the field in the next couple of seasons.

Hans

The policy of recruiting young players should come as no surprise, as it was in Peter Lim’s offer and repeatedly included in Lay Hoon’s speeches. The club has acquired some very interesting talent that would have been unavailable to the «old» Valencia. Although some seem too fresh at the moment, Andre, Cancelo,Danilo, Mina and Bakkali also seem to have bright futures ahead of them. When it comes to the matter of «unknown» it depends on the eye that sees. None of the 5 would be «unknowns» in the scouting world. The two first were already considered amongst the most highly rated talents in Portugal, Danilo was a Brazil U20 captain, Mina played at Celta and despite his issues, Bakkali has been a frequent name in Europe for years. That does not mean there is not risks involved, and these increase with young players, as the unknown factors are many.

It is the club’s task to strengthen the areas where they feel the first team is lacking and there is no-one in own academy that is ready to step up and join the first team. For me, the first choice should always be the guy from the academy. Mostly so far, there has been no real contender for the positions in question, except for the case of Robert Ibañez, although I’d say both Mina and Bakkali offers distinctly different qualities and are best in other positions.

Lay Hoon continues to stress the importance of the academy on every occasion, and I think we should give her and the project the benefit of the doubt until otherwise proven. The investments in the academy has never been higher, but it is only a couple of years since Rufete and Salvo increased the focus, so it will still be time before we see the fruits. To be honest, I was more concerned about the academy under Llorente than now.

Pål

I’m a bit ambivalent to overemphasize that policy. Of course it’s great that we acquire tomorrow’s stars. But it’s a risky one. First, you never really know if they’ll make the cut. Secondly, the majority of the players today don’t stay more than two, three seasons at one club before moving on. It might make sense economically, but most likely it’s some Premier League club who will benefit from most of our talents when they hit their prime.

Thirdly, giving talents a chance is great. To a certain point. A team also needs experience. And more than two three players. I suspect having too many ‘kids’ also upsets the group dynamic a bit. Younger players often makes the wrong choice during a frantic match, where the veterans often does it right on instinct. Worried about our academy I’m not. It’s in better shape than ever. For me, it’s not important that the B team win all their matches, but that its players get used to the pace and roughness of the professional game.

Negredo CLWhat do you think about the season start, and what are your expectations in all 3 tournaments?

Eirik

The season start has not been the best, and I wished we could do better. I think the games against Monaco complicated the start of the season more than we expected.  I will be interesting to see how how the team play in the following games. I think Nuno and the team will turn this around.

In the league I believe we can achieve a top four spot. When looking at our champions league group I expect us to qualify for the first knockout phase, and will be very disappointed If we don’t achieve that. In the Copa del Rey I hope we can win the tournament, as we are good enough, but I expect that the team reach the quarter finals. I hope we priorities Champions League and the Primera Division ahead of the Copa del Rey.

Michael

9 points & 3 goals scored (being the lowest number since 1959) in 6 “easier” games is obviously underwhelming let alone on the result board, but the bigger concern is the process that sees no immediate clarity nor improvement on the starting line-up – which was unsuccessfully changed from the 4-3-3 to a 4-4-2 for the last game against Granada.

As I wrote in the season-preview for Curva Espana, I will be slightly surprised if Valencia end up at both Liga top4 & CL knock-out games this season. I am obviously hoping but I think it will be an “almost but yet…” season. Our squad clearly has talent, but injuries and inexperience are real concerns during the heavy UCL fixture. As for Copa del Rey, it will depend on the special drawing system but Valencia should always go for the semis – and I think we will reach them this time.

Hans

This Valencia is still struggling to find it’s identity. It was a miracle how Nuno last year managed to integrate so many new players so fast. It seems somehow most opponents have figured Nuno’s plans and that these have been too one dimensional. Recruitment seems to have failed to give Nuno what he needs to play differently on occasions. However, the most concerning bit is that central and experienced players like Rodrigo,Parejo and Fuego have been largely disappointing or at least not anywhere near their last season performance. The big positive surprises are Jaume and Enzo, together with Bakkali. The win against Granada showed a change in attitude from some players, for example Parejo put in a hard working performance.

I expect a difficult season for Valencia. In the league, the goal has to be 3rd ord 4th place. In Champions League, getting through the group and in the Copa, at least a semifinal. The main thing is that we develop an identity and an ability to vary play and achieve some attacking fluidity. It is a team in the making still, so we might have to suffer this season. Success does not come over night in football, and it is going to require patience, a scarce resource in the city of Valencia.

Daniel

No key losses, at this moment, but should The Champions League be gone already at group stage, and more frustrating equalizer and losses pile up, well that’s Nuno’s head on a plate. At this point our heads should be kept cool, though.

Pål

To be honest, I expected things to be a bit rougher this season. Even if last season was a success, there were signs that everything wasn’t so rosy. The lack of striker goals is to me a symptom of an attacking style that has fundamental faults. Most goals now come from set pieces or winning the ball high upfield, catching the opponent off guard.

The latter type requires an extremely high intensity in pressing and running, something which is a huge challenge to maintain during a full match, let alone a long season in three competitions. As many other teams also seems significantly strengthened this season, I think copying last seasons Champions League spot will be harder than many anticipates. Irregular form at the start of the season happens to the best as it takes time for player relations to click. But I fear time will show that the problem is deeper.

pitanunoWill Valencia fans show the famous “white hankies” to Nuno this season, and will he stay?

Michael

If things continue like this, Valencia fans certainly will. But sacking him is another question. One must understand that much of this Lim project is built upon Nuno, who has been allowed to choose more players than any other coach in VCF history & was great last season. I think whether we reach top4 or not will be the decisive thing.

Hans

Well, they already did, unfortunately. I say unfortunately because it is fueled by the rage of the mob acting on writings in the press that are at best only partially true. Some interests have played their cards very cleverly around Amadeo Salvo and Rufete’s disbandment.

That said, Nuno no doubt has a lot of work in front of him to turn the mood, and the question is whether distrusting fans will ever forgive him his tight connections to Mendes. The rationale with which a matter is judged when it involves Mendes, often seem to be another than anything else, beit the manager or players brought. Nuno’s opportunity is on the pitch, together with his team. The need to start playing as a team again, they need a common cause to fight for. With Salvo gone, only Nuno remains to give them that cause.

For one, I do not think sacking the manager is the solution to the early season issues. We have had central players out and the player of the year has left us. Give it time and some patience. And, for the Mendes haters; who do you think will pick the next manager, eh?

Eirik

They have already showed them to Nuno, but as I said earlier I think he will turn it around. I believe Nuno is our coach when the season ends.

Pål

Well, it has already started as Mestalla whistles in unison when the play sucks. Part of the reason is because of the manner Salvo and Rufete left, of course, and can’t be blamed entirely on Nuno. But knowing Mestalla, the ‘pitos’ will only intensify unless results are good. Still, I think Nuno sits very tight, and despite some rumours, he seems to have the support of the dressing room.

With Peter Lim, it’s different from the past where the president had to receive the wrath from the press every day, and from the fans at every home match. No matter how loud you scream, it will be hard to make it unbearable in Singapore. The nucleus of Nuno, Lim and Mendes is a very stable isotope, and I think only a real threat of relegation can oust him this season. It is actually more likely that Nuno will leave if he succeeds, since both himself and buddy Mendes would love a move to ‘greener’ leagues.

Daniel

That all depends upon the performance on the pitch, but there are already fans shouting Nuno vete ya!

NunoMendesLimPros/cons on Nuno, Mendes & Lim at VCF after 1 year. Any changes in your initial impressions on them?

Michael

Nuno has proven very talented when he led a Valencia team of historical change and rejuvenation to the top4. What I am mostly impressed about is his ability and determination as an organizer – whether it is about handling players, media, or criticism, he always manage to protect the team as a unit. Negatively, Nuno seems tactically inflexible on this very same organization, which makes it difficult to rotate players as we have seen this season. I guess this will improve when the CL fixture takes its toll.

However, the key here is continuity as Nuno has every condition to retain and attract players, as compared to most Liga coaches. As much as Valencia should end up in top4 given the spending spree, I do feel that most criticism on him has been far-fetched and based on connections around him.

Mendes. Where to start. Some of the concerns were also prejudices against his control over other clubs but I am truly impressed how much he, indirectly as directly, has managed to rupture VCF management: Salvo (president), Rufete (sports-director), Ayala (head-scout), Salvans (director), Salvans (last local board-member) and ultimately the voluntarily working club legend Kempes (ambassador). Mendes is only partially to blame but it is clear that his present in the Imbula vs. Caio case this summer both exhibited his power and escalated management turbulence.

While I do acknowledge that Lim is the ultimate to blame for the excessive Mendes control, I just think he does not know better on football and especially the regionalist value-laden Spanish football. Lim is a business man, who might as well have taken over Atlético or Liverpool if we are to trust rumors, while his acting club president and the entire board is foreign. I think that is a mistake at a massive club like Valencia, and if this does not chance during Lim reign, VCF have undersold themselves to Peter Lim.

As much as I am thankful for the Lim-Salvo partnership to fend off creditors Bankia, capital is a standard resource that could easily be replaced by other rich owners, while more idiosyncratic resources like club culture and legends are difficult to develop and replicate by other owners/clubs over time. An example of what I am concerned about after the management mass-exodus is Rufete, who had accumulated much knowhow after job rotation within VCF from an active player to academy-head and the sports-director. Successful academy players in Valencia is a product of long, hard work that cannot just be purchased. Lim is yet to prove himself here, behind the scenes of big transfers and results on the field, for the sustainable long-term project – but, for the same reasons, he should be given time to turn this around before we can judge him.

Pål

Well, as mentioned in the previous answers it’s not all as rosy as we hoped for. But I’m convinced there was no better alternative at the time than Peter Lim. For Nuno, I still feel it’s way too early to judge on the whole. There are many positives too, like the social and economic stability. And apart from going too deep on Nuno’s coaching skills, there are few clubs today that can afford a long term project like Valencia has now. Hopefully time makes Nuno and his disciples develop into trophy challengers in the future.

As of impression before and now, I can’t say they’ve changed much. I’m still a careful optimist. Lim seems better than many other billionaire club owners. Then again, I’m not naïve enough to ignore that his Valencia project is as much about making money as it is for winning thropies. Mendes is a double edged sword. What he gets you isn’t cheap, but then again, you get something most other clubs can’t obtain. The shame is that his clients often goes ahead of other alternatives.

This can become a big problem in the future if the club stop scouting and frequenting other markets. And there is of course this nagging feeling that Lim and Mendes are creating a farmer club; one that will always be on the edge of something greater, but eventually torn apart by player sales to rich EPL clubs. Then again, such a scenario is probably inevitable anyway.

There is, in my opinion, a discrepancy between what Valencia fans expect versus what is reasonable to demand. Impossible is nothing, as Yoda would say, but I’m convinced it’s infinitely harder to win the league now than it was back in the early noughties. With that in mind it becomes clear that even a slight improvement is very hard. The goal has to be to maintain the position while finances improves, and wait for that day when we can offer salaries that can attract the best, and make them stay. And in that regard, Peter Lim might be our man. Not the least because the alternatives right now are much, much worse, and anyway hypothetical. Therefore I’ll rather support them. Not blindly, of course.

But Junts Tornem – together we’ll return! Criticism is ok, but pointless division and strife certainly won’t help in the quest to win something.

Eirik

Peter Lim was selected as buyer and he saved the club from possible bankruptcy, and should be considered as a hero. The fact is that he haven’t removed Valencia’s debt yet, and I also thinks he interfere to much with the sporting side of things as he seems to discuss for example transfers with Nuno. I would prefer Lim to just be the owner who keep himself in the background, and not interfere with the sporting mattes in the club.

Nuno turned out to be an excellent coach laster year. I would prefer that Nuno sticks to the coaching role rather than the manager role, who he kinda had this summer. I have no major concerns about Nuno as coach. He have the right ideas and I think he can turn this bad start around. If there was something to pinpoint it have to be the low goal average the strikers get. Nuno have to find out how to include them more and how to get them score more frequently. Our strikers have to take their share of the blame as well. Nuno needs to sort our how Valencia should attack teams who drops deep.

For me Mendes is just an other football agent who have a portfolio full of excellent talent. Lim, Nuno and Lay Hoon have been working with him to build a new team core. I think the core players are in place now, and they will try to add players around them. As I look upon Mendes as a football agent, I don’t have to many concerns about him.

Hans

Nuno is still the same talented manager he was last season. The big difference is that his «cushion» Amadeo Salvo is gone. With the Asians relatively distanced, Nuno is left as the very visible point of interaction between fans and club. There isn’t much difference between how our team plays this season from the last, but the will to get that one all important goal is not there like it was the last. I have to say I question some of the «power struggle» stories in the press (there are several versions in the same papers – for example that Nuno had nothing to do with transfers, but that they are handled directly by Mendes/Lim), so I will let my impression of Nuno be influenced only on what I see on the pitch. True to that, I am disappointed by the lack of improvement from last year.

My impression of Mendes is the same as it was last year; he is a great asset and a great liability as a close advisor/friend to Peter Lim. On one hand it gives access to a vast market, make possible transfers that would be otherwise impossible and facilitate negotiations. On the other it limits the club too much to «his» market, it raises questions of where we are in his «food chain» and in the long run it is unhealthy to be «locked in» with one agency. In sum it should be a possibility for the club to use his contacts, not an obligation. In the end, it is all up to Peter Lim to decide. Jorge Mendes can of course under no circumstance sign anything for Valencia. I see some call him the «de facto» sports director, but that would be underestimating that role greatly. For me he is more the head of a recruitment agency we have hired to do our recruitment because the CEO knows him, something which still is questionable.

When it comes to Peter Lim, and as stated above, I still see him as the best choice between the 6 other offers and bankruptcy. He is staying true to the contract agreed in the sale from what it seems. It will be interesting to see if and when he invests in a share issue, because that will be the first time he directly invests in the club through Meriton. No doubt he has through acquiring the shares and restructuring the debt Valencia have with Bankia moved the club on from it’s main financial woes. He seems to have a strong interest in the project, and he seems to have serious and well founded ideas for the club (no Vincent Tan color changing type of proposals etc). The main negative aspect is his distance to the fans and the lack of a figure like Salvo to intermediate. It is becoming a business, for good and bad.

Daniel

A small crack for the weaker than expected opening of the season, but it is still very early to say for sure. Come December we will know if Lim is a savvy businessmen or just ignorant. By savvy, Lim would be wise enough to see if Mendes is really the right partner for a long term investment, and understand that the game of football is more than a business.

I think an owner should be very active and passionate about his/her business, and for that I respect Peter Lim who apparently cares for the club. But if he doesn’t know football – in particular the psychology and management – he must put trust persons who do (such as Salvo, Rufete et al) and let them call the shots.

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