As they celebrate their 90th anniversary, Valencia CF have enjoyed better times.
Villa is staying, but Valencia's fans are just happy the club still exists
As they celebrate their 90th anniversary, Valencia CF have enjoyed better times. Despite average crowds of 40,000, the fourth best club in Spain's all-time league table have recently lurched from one crisis to another. Valencia's warring directors aired their problems publicly and one long-serving player, Spanish international David Albelda, took the club to court. Valencia used four coaches in 2007-08 - only to finish a disappointing 10th - a long way from the success of Hector Cuper's team which reached consecutive Champions League finals in 2000 and 2001, the year in which Rafa Benitez took charge.
Benitez built on Cuper's side and became the club's most successful manager, winning the league in 2002 and 2004 when they also bagged the Uefa cup. Ruben Baraja, Carlos Marchena, Vicente, Angulo and goalkeeper Santiago Canizares became as lauded as club legends Mario Kempes and Mundo. When Benitez left for Liverpool those coaches who followed brought in new players too quickly. In 2007-08, promising names like Nikola Zigic, Hedwiges Maduro and Ever Banega were purchased for almost ?45 million (Dh234m) - and barely featured.
Unai Emery, 38, took control at the start of last season after excelling at Almeria, whom he led to an eighth place top flight finish. A surprise choice, he soon vindicated his appointment as Valencia topped the table in October and were second until January, before being left behind by Barcelona, Real Madrid and Seville. Valencia still came within weeks of reaching the Champions League. At the heart of their problem is a crisis in the Spanish construction industry. Valencia are building a new 75,000 capacity stadium which they had hoped to fund from the sale of their towering 55,000 capacity Mestalla home, which occupies a prime city centre position. Now, with construction projects mothballed all over Iberia, there are no buyers. In early 2009, when Valencia tried to get another ?100m from the bank, they were refused prompting Marca to report the club was "on the brink of bankruptcy."
So credit to Emery for building a side which finished in sixth place to qualify for the Europa League. The attacking skills of David Villa, David Silva and Juan Mata took most of the headlines, but they had a solid defence. "Valencia are an awkward team who have conceded few goals away from home," stated Barca midfielder Xavi. "They feel comfortable as an away team and are comfortable counter-attacking."
The brilliant Villa, with 28 league goals, was the undoubted star. After much speculation about his departure, Villa looks like he is staying. Emery's squad is still full of class and the club is in the process of another take-over. A top-four Primera Liga finish is possible, but Valencia's many fans will just be happy to see their team still in existence.