Football: Peter Lim credits positive people for Valencia's Champions League push

Singapore billionaire Peter Lim paid tribute to his Valencia team after the Spanish side eased to a 3-0 win over city rivals Levante on Monday night.

The win brought the club to 65 points and firmly in the hunt for third spot, one behind Atletico Madrid, which gives it an automatic slot in next season's Champions League. They remain 10 points behind leaders Barcelona.

And with seven games to the end of the season, the likelihood of Valencia making its first return to Europe's elite football tournament since the 2012/2013 season is something the former remisier is relishing.

In his first comments since forking out €420 million (S$605 million) last October to take over the club, Lim, 62, expressed his delight with his acquisition.

"The experience has been very good so far. We took over a club with very positive people willing to work hard together to move the club to the top," Lim, estimated to be worth US$2.05 billion (S$2.79 billion) by Forbes Singapore, told The Straits Times.

"As far as football is concerned, I'm enjoying the games very much. Spanish football is in a league of its own and highly competitive."

With a capacity crowd of 53,000 at the Mestalla cheering the home side on, headers from striker Paco Alcacer and winger Sofiane Feghouli and a spectacular long-range piledriver from forward Alvaro Negredo delighted the fans and Lim.

"As you saw for yourself from this game alone, the Valencian fans are very different," added Lim. "They are really very passionate.

"All our goals tonight were the result of excellent teamwork. The entire team played very well, putting the episode in Bilbao (conceding a late goal to draw) behind them."

Among those at the match was former Singapore foreign affairs minister George Yeo, a personal friend of Lim's.

He said: "As a fellow Singaporean, I feel proud of him. In the last two days, I got to know the small Singapore team which has become part of Valencia Football Club and indeed part of Valencia. Valencia Football Club is an important part of the life of the people of Valencia."

Valencia, which last won the La Liga in 2004 and reached the Champions League final in 2000 and 2001, are dreaming of a return to glory days under current coach Nuno Espirito Santo. With Lim's investment, the club managed to clear a €200 million debt, invested £170 million (S$342 million) to complete construction of a new stadium and also splashed €45 million to recruit two Benfica players - striker Rodrigo Moreno, 22, and midfielder Andre Gomes, 20.

meng@sph.com.sg