Football: Valencia president Anil Murthy responds to fans' criticism, says club bracing for 'difficult season'

Valencia players gather on the pitch at the Alfredo di Stefano stadium in Valdebebas, Madrid, on June 18, 2020.
Valencia players gather on the pitch at the Alfredo di Stefano stadium in Valdebebas, Madrid, on June 18, 2020.PHOTO: AFP

SINGAPORE - The coronavirus pandemic will cost Spanish La Liga club Valencia millions and lead to a "complicated" season, but despite local fans baying for blood, their president Anil Murthy insists his management team are up for the challenge.

The 47-year-old Singaporean told The Straits Times: "We are bracing ourselves for a difficult season and Valencia will not be the only club affected."

The wheels for sweeping change are already in motion on and off the pitch.

In July, Javi Gracia took over the reins from former manager Albert Celades, who was sacked in June with Valencia eighth in La Liga with six games to go. Los Che eventually finished ninth under interim manager Salvador Gonzalez.

Failure to qualify for European football is a financial setback, as clubs can pocket 15.25 million euros (S$24.7 million) and 3 million euros respectively in group-stage base fees in the Champions League and Europa League, with add-ons for wins, draw and progress to the latter stages. Valencia competed in the Champions League in the last two seasons and reached the 2019 Europa League semi-finals.

In a bid to reduce their wage bill, they have also sold winger Ferran Torres to Manchester City, and midfielders Francis Coquelin and Dani Parejo departed yesterday for a reported combined 11 million euros to Villarreal.

Valencia also endured an "unacceptable" injury situation last season, with many key players sidelined - star forward Goncalo Guedes was out for months with a misdiagnosed foot ailment - and only two made it through the term unscathed. As a result, about 15 of their backroom staff were told to leave and a new medical team has been recruited.

Murthy said: "We hired new people and are building a new team. This is very normal in football.

"We are preparing ourselves for the future with a strong and professional medical team so that we can fix the injury situation and have our players fighting fit on the pitch throughout the season.

"We are going to have a complicated season because of Covid-19, so we must be responsible and control costs tightly. What use is a bankrupt club?

"If things go very wrong in the financial aspect due to Covid-19, all clubs will be in trouble. We have to lead through responsible management during the Covid-19 crisis."

 
 

However, not all Valencia fans are convinced.

The Salvem Nostre Valencia CF (Save Our Valencia CF) group called for a demonstration outside their home ground at the Mestalla on Wednesday (Aug 12), with more than 500 people expected to attend the protest.

In mass emails to Singapore media, Valencia fans have also accused Singaporean billionaire owner Peter Lim and Murthy of "negligently managing the club", "deteriorating the value of the team" and "mistreating old legends and club workers".

They are also unhappy with the removal of former manager Marcelino, who led the club to the King's Cup, fourth place in La Liga and Champions League qualification last year, as well as the replacement of team delegate Paco Camarasa, a former captain who has been at the club for four decades, with former goalkeeper David Rangel.

However, it is understood that Marcelino had demanded a lot of influence in the club's signing policy, put public pressure on the management, and did not see eye to eye with their ideals of utilising academy players.

While violent fan threats have been reported to the police, Murthy reiterated what he had said in earlier interviews: "As the club's management, it is our responsibility to empathise with the fans.

"As we have done many times, we always seek to have direct communication with fans. But every club will have their problems and group of dissenting fans.

"Before Peter Lim took over, the club were unstable. We are in this for the long haul to grow Valencia into a stable and successful club. We accept we can make mistakes, but we will always work towards guiding the club towards being back among the best again."

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