Irate Prandelli urges players to show pride

Valencia coach Cesare Prandelli showing his hands-on style at the Mestalla Stadium in October after becoming the club's ninth coach since 2012. He has told his players there is no room for excuses.
Valencia coach Cesare Prandelli showing his hands-on style at the Mestalla Stadium in October after becoming the club's ninth coach since 2012. He has told his players there is no room for excuses.PHOTO: REUTERS

Valencia coach delivers ultimatum as trend of defeats means the club's culture must change

VALENCIA • Last Friday at Paterna, Valencia's training ground, the usual pre-match press conference was replaced by a prepared speech.

Cesare Prandelli, the Spanish football club's coach, only said thanks, got up and walked out.

His assistant coach Marco Fumagalli then sat in his seat and said: "The mister said he was angry, that he wanted to see a team with character, willing to fight for the shirt. Whoever isn't prepared to do that, out..."

He added that Prandelli had said what needed saying to the players and it might even work for the team.

As he left Paterna, the Super Deporte paper claimed that Prandelli wound down his window and said he was sure Valencia would win on Saturday.

They did not.

  • PERCENTAGE OF LA LIGA POINTS WON BY VALENCIA COACHES PAST AND PRESENT

    Valencia coach Cesare Prandelli showing his hands-on style at the Mestalla Stadium in October after becoming the club's ninth coach since 2012. He has told his players there is no room for excuses.

    29% 

    GARY NEVILLE (12 GAMES) 

    Valencia coach Cesare Prandelli showing his hands-on style at the Mestalla Stadium in October after becoming the club's ninth coach since 2012. He has told his players there is no room for excuses.

    27% 

    PAKO AYESTARAN (16 GAMES) 

    25%

    CESARE PRANDELLI (EIGHT GAMES) 

Dreadful defending allowed Real Sociedad to win the La Liga match 3-2 and the game was lost, like so many others.

You have to go back eight matches for Valencia's last league win, 20 for their last clean sheet.

A month ago, the midfielder Enzo Perez said that Valencia had "hit rock bottom", but they found a way to keep on losing.

The club with the fourth-biggest budget in the Spanish Primera Liga are fourth from the bottom and falling.

They have never been worse off 15 weeks into the season, not even when they were last relegated 30 years ago, having collected just 12 points from a possible 45.

With this week's game against Real Madrid postponed because of the Club World Cup, there is a chance they will finish 2016 in the bottom three.

If Granada and Osasuna - with two wins between them all season - were not so bad, they would already be there; if Sporting Gijon had picked up a point last weekend, they would be too.

"We have to bring out our pride," Valencia forward Santi Mina said afterwards.

As for their manager, he was on his way to Singapore. Seven hours after the loss on Saturday, Prandelli took a flight from Manises airport, along with Valencia's sporting director Suso Garcia Pitarch and president Chan Lay Hoon to see the club's owner, billionaire Peter Lim.

At the end of Saturday's match, Prandelli insisted it was time to "reflect deeply" on the situation and time to meet Lim.

On Monday, he did.

For Prandelli, who coached Italy to the Euro 2012 final, there is much to talk about and much to reflect upon, well beyond the players - although that is his most pressing concern, with a striker and a midfielder desperately needed.

There is something deeper, too. Players are underperforming, attitudes are questionable and the culture is disheartening - the owner is based overseas and power resides somewhere else.

"This is not a problem of the last two months; this is a problem of the last two years," Prandelli said. In other words, it is not a problem since he arrived, but since Lim did.

In that context, the trip to Singapore feels almost like an ultimatum, but another change of coach would not go down well.

Among Lim's first decisions - before he was officially the new owner - was to replace Juan Antonio Pizzi as coach and put Nuno Espirito Santo in charge.

Nuno took them to the Champions League, but he was sacked early in the second season.

Gary Neville, a friend and business partner of Lim's, took over.

Neville was eventually sacked too, and replaced by his assistant coach Pako Ayestaran, who was then sacked early this season.

Pitarch, the third sporting director of the Lim era, publicly said that Ayestaran would have been sacked sooner too, but the league's financial controls meant that there was no money to get anyone else.

Things did not improve for the club. Instead, they went backwards again.

The situation became steadily worse with every coach.

Nuno picked up 49 per cent of the points, Neville 29 per cent, Ayestaran 27 per cent and so far Prandelli has claimed only 25 per cent of the points available.

Only Salvador Gonzalez "Voro" has been a success, and he was the caretaker - the best coach in their history and the man who said he hoped never to have to coach Valencia ever again, for one reason above all: Because he loves the shirt.

THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 14, 2016, with the headline 'Irate Prandelli urges players to show pride'. Print Edition | Subscribe