When Gary Neville was first appointed the manager of Valencia, our initial reaction contained praise for Valencia as they had appointed a magnificent football enthusiast, with tremendous tactical knowledge. Neville’s appointment was somewhat a little surprise to many of us because we all knew that due to his cunning Monday Night Football analysis on Sky Sports, he had the potential to become a great manager, despite never having any sort of experience in the role before, excluding his coaching role with the English national team.
Nevertheless, over the past couple of weeks, Neville has come under massive amounts of pressure.
After Valencia were thrashed 7-0 in the Copa del Rey, Valencia and Spanish icon – Santiago Cañizares – urged the former Man United defender to resign; moreover, the former goalkeeper has never been familiar with Valencia’s decision to appoint Neville – back in December, he claimed ‘Valencia is no place for apprentices.’
Furthermore, after Barcelona’s brilliant win against Valencia, many Valencia fans were left shell-shocked, including fan favourite Cañizares:
“I expected the coach’s resignation, as well as some apologies. I may be ignorant, but I’m surprised he hasn’t. I thought he was honest.” – Cañizares
Additionally, the most shocking fact is that Valencia are still looking for their first La Liga win under Neville – on Sunday, they lost 1-0 to fellow mid-table rivals Real Betis; and you might ask why I’m calling Valencia a ‘mid-table’ side? Well, even though the players have the attributes to reach and bring European football to Mestalla Stadium, they just don’t look like doing so.
As the majority of you will concur with me, Neville’s time at Valencia is up and here are the three candidates that could replace the former Man United legend at Valencia.
1 – Rafael Benítez
Rafa could return to Valencia again.
As you may already know, Rafael Benítez was unfairly sacked by Real Madrid at the beginning of the season. However, should Neville be sacked any time soon, Benítez will surely be on their shortlist to replace the under-pressure Englishman. Obviously, the Spaniard is no stranger to Valencia. In 2001, Benítez was appointed coach of Valencia, replacing Héctor Cúper. The fans of Valencia quite enjoyed watching football under Benítez, because there was much more creative, fast-flowing and attacking football on show to watch. Due to these tactics, Valencia went onto win their first La Liga title in thirty one years – a couple of seasons later, the Spaniard went onto become one of the most wanted managers in world football; eventually, it was Liverpool who won the race for him.
In my opinion, Benítez would be the ideal man to replace Valencia, particularly when you look at the situation the Spanish side are in. His wealthy experience would come in handy for Valencia and also, if he is appointed as manager of Valencia for second time round, he definitely will bring back the old attacking style Valencia fans are used to seeing. In arguably some good news for Valencia fans, according to Guillem Balague, Valencia have approached Rafael Benítez about replacing Gary Neville at the Mestalla.
2 – Manuel Pellegrini
Pellegrini is leaving Manchester City. Could he be Neville’s replacement at Valencia?
Chilean born Manuel Pellegrini is no stranger to Spanish football. Spain is where he developed his name and portfolio; hence the reason why he is the current manager of Manchester City. Pellegrini first started managing in Spain when he was appointed manager of Villarreal – Valencia’s La Liga rivals. In his first season in charge of the club, Villarreal qualified for the mighty Champions League after finishing third in the league and reached the quarter-finals of the UEFA Cup.
The following season, Villarreal reached the semi-finals of the 2005–06 Champions League, losing to now fellow Premier League manager, Arsène Wenger’s Arsenal. Howbeit, due to his success at Villarreal, he was appointed Real Madrid’s manager in 2009, but he was seen as a little success by their fans despite the club signing multiple world class players under his guidance. Additionally, he joined Malaga in 2013 and led them to the Champions League, finishing fourth in his first season in charge, making it to the quarter-finals.
Moreover, last week, the world came into a bit of a shock when the Chilean announced that he was leaving Man City and his replacement would be former Barcelona manager Pep Guardiola. Since then, alongside Benítez, Pellegrini has been made a strong favourite to replace Neville at Valencia. Couple of days ago, Pellegrini’s agent – Jesus Martinez – told Chilean radio that Valencia could be a possibility:
“Manuel can listen to offers but it doesn’t have to be Manchester United or Chelsea. He will hear and analyse the proposals and then decide. There’s no offer on the table.”
Another one to look out for, this.
3 – Quique Sánchez Flores
Unlikely but reports say Valencia would consider Flores at the end of the season.
Yes, okay, Quique Sánchez Flores might be a bit of a wild one to pick but why wouldn’t you consider? So far at Watford, he’s done excellent, although this is his first season in charge of the newly-promoted Premier League side. Again, just like the aforementioned candidates, Sánchez Flores is no stranger to the La Liga and also, Valencia.
In 2005, he left Getafe to manage struggling Valencia; straightaway, the footballing world saw his managerial qualities. In his first season he guided the club to the third place, with the subsequent qualification to the UEFA Champions League where the team went on to reach the quarter-finals, being knocked out by Chelsea. In May 2007, Valencia achieved a top-four league finish and consequently a place in the next Champions League. Nevertheless, due to poor form the following season, he was relieved of his duties.
Out of these three candidates, Rafa for me is the correct manager to bring back what the fans want to see: a winning mentality. For me, the former Liverpool and Chelsea boss is the best manager available and again, he’s done it before – Benítez has helped Valencia and in my opinion, he can do so again.