It has been hard to find motivation and contents to write about Valencia this season. Somehow you feel you have said it all before; wrong appointments, lack of this and that, unmotivated players and so on and so forth. Now that the doomsday drums have silenced somewhat after securing our spot in La Liga this season, it is however maybe time to take a step back and put some things in perspective.
Recently, the BBC documentary on Sir Alex Ferguson was broadcasted on Norwegian TV, and one bit really stuck with me; He knew that for Manchester United to succeed, it was not only about building the club, but also a culture and the business. Listening to Norwegian football magazine Josimar’s podcast on club structure, with former Monaco director Tor Kristian Karlsen, I also noted how much importance the latter put on Rybolovlev as an owner. As Lim, Rybolovlev knew little of football apart from being a fan, and as Lim he wanted to test his abilities leading a (formerly) big club to new success. Rybolovlev, by Karslen’s accounts, spent a year at Monaco before truly realizing the importance of both a professional structure, the academy and not least surrounding himself with the people with knowledge and abilities to help him reach his and the club’s goals.
We have all judged Peter Lim on the fall from a successful first season, to a second season where the club and the players have been lost. I believe that the first season, we had a structure in place. We had the right people to compensate for others’ lack of knowledge and experience. I believe that having Salvo, Rufete and the many others who stayed on from the previous reign actually masked some of the issues and lessons that were there for Peter Lim to learn. Sustained by the strong vision created by Salvo prior to the sale and the very clear goal of Champions League, the team set a points record and made us all believe we were in a different place then we actually are. Maybe we should take lessons from our old friend Claudio Ranieri who already stated Leicester are a one-hit wonder and shouldn’t get carried away.
This season has certainly been a lesson. Players like Santi Mina, Parejo, Siqueira and Paco Alcácer have all admitted as much. Blame, however is rarely only found in one place. Peter Lim did not realize what he had, and failed to take the steps to replace what we had lost. The relentless belief in signing “only” young players fell on the wrongful assumption that the team was as good as it seemed last season, with most players over performing. Too much power was concentrated in the hands of Nuno and Jorge Mendes who failed to design a strong enough squad. He also made the mistake of believing in one of his friends, whose knowledge he thought would somehow make up for lack of experience.
Layhoon and the club’s representatives locally shut out the press, don’t share information and have not been good enough communicating with the fans, creating an overly negative state of mind and uncertainty about the future. Nuno failed in sustaining the belief in a sportive project that was sustained on belief itself. But those at the club have also done good in many ways, even though some of it has been surpassed in silence.
This brings me to the blame that we, the fans, and the media share. We are guilty of extreme shortsightedness. We are guilty of building a web of assumptions we have little or no facts to back up. So, what do I mean by shortsightedness? By that I mean that we are sometimes to eager to judge what is unfamiliar, what we do not agree with or dislike at the first sign it does not work optimally. We criticize a model we do not fully understand. A vision we are not familiar with. A structure we don’t know how works. Sometimes we let our state of mind influence too much both what we think and how we communicate what we think. Who had truly given any second thought to Jorge Mendes’s role if the season had been successful and we won a trophy?
While it is obvious that many things have gone wrong this season, protesting without alternative solutions, shouting without having words to fill the shouts with, it will do little good. Demanding easy short term fixes is rarely the road to long term success. Critique is good, and it is necessary, but it needs to be understood to become solutions.
Finding solutions for the long term, but without sacrificing the short term. That is the difficult balance that Peter Lim needs to use this season’s learnings to achieve. He needs to build a club that one one side is connected in the football world, professional, financially stable but that also has a vision, a culture and communicate and share this with it’s fans, players and surroundings. This weeks meetings are therefore cause for cautious optimism that next season will be somewhat different in many of these aspects. Lim has seen first hand how it doesn’t work, and he has stayed in Valencia to ensure that things take a turn for the better. Sports director Suso Pitarch has been central in most meetings, which is a potentially very good signal.
There is lots of talk about who will be the next manager, and yes it is truly crucial. However, building that culture and creating the right circumstances for a team to perform is at least as important. It is time to make peace, look forward and communicate that clear vision that we can unite behind. 14/15 was proof of how powerful belief in a vision and focus on a goal can be, and of course, just look at Leicester.
We have an exciting summer ahead.