Neville's job in peril as he aims for first league win

Valencia head coach Gary Neville will be looking for his first league win against Real Betis, two months after taking charge.
Valencia head coach Gary Neville will be looking for his first league win against Real Betis, two months after taking charge.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

MADRID • Gary Neville could take charge of Valencia for the final time should he fail to deliver a league win at the ninth attempt when his side travel to fellow strugglers Real Betis tomorrow.

His terrible run of five points from eight La Liga games since taking charge in December was compounded as Valencia suffered their heaviest defeat in 23 years with a 7-0 thrashing at the hands of Barcelona in the Copa del Rey semi-finals on Wednesday.

Madrid sports daily AS reported on Thursday that Valencia had sounded out former coach Rafael Benitez as Neville's replacement.

Benitez won two La Liga titles in three years at the club between 2001 and 2004, and is available following his sacking by Real Madrid.

The Spaniard was cheered when he returned to the Mestalla with Real earlier this season. And the Spanish newspaper has reported that Valencia sporting director Jesus Garcia Pitarch, who declined to offer Neville his full backing on Wednesday, has spoken with Benitez's agent.

Another manager who has been linked with the Valencia post is Manuel Pellegrini, and the Manchester City manager's agent has done little to quell speculation that the Chilean could take over in the summer.

City announced on Monday they will be replacing Pellegrini with Pep Guardiola at the end of the season, freeing up Pellegrini to find a new job.

The 62-year-old's agent, Jesus Martinez, revealed that the Chilean would prefer to remain in the Premier League but refused to rule out a return to Spain.

"(Pellegrini) can listen to offers but it doesn't have to be Manchester United or Chelsea," he told Chilean radio. "He will hear and analyse the proposals and then decide. There's no offer on the table.

"He spent five or six years 40km (from Valencia) when he was at Villarreal. He lived in the city, has experienced the atmosphere and loves it. Pellegrini is open to all sorts of challenges."

Pellegrini has extensive experience in Spain.

He was at Villarreal from 2004 to 2009, taking the club to the Champions League semi-finals in 2006.

While he spent just one season at Real Madrid, he finished second in the 2009-10 La Liga season despite his side racking up 96 points - then a record haul for the club.

His work at Malaga - which indluded a fourth-place finish in his first full season and a quarter-final appearance at the 2012-13 Champions League - ultimately earned him a move to City.

Valencia's Singaporean owner Peter Lim has Champions League aspirations for the club. They were five points off the Champions League places when Neville replaced Nuno Espirito Santo on Dec 2.

But now, they are 19 points adrift of fourth-placed Villarreal and closer to the relegation zone (five points). Betis are also mired in crisis, three points adrift of Valencia and are without a win in nine games.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

BETIS v VALENCIA

StarHub Ch202, tomorrow 10.55pm

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 06, 2016, with the headline 'Neville's job in peril as he aims for first league win'. Print Edition | Subscribe