VALENCIA • Gary Neville will take time to assess his long-term options after being sacked on Wednesday - 120 days into his tenure at Valencia.
Neville has previously been lauded as a future candidate to manage England - where he has served the Football Association as an important member of Roy Hodgson's coaching staff since 2012 - or Manchester United. But he stated that his long-term ambitions went beyond front-line management and coaching even before what proved to be a bruising experience at Valencia.
The former United and England defender expected his position to be reviewed at the end of the season. The Valencia hierarchy, however, fearing the threat of relegation after only three wins in 16 La Liga matches - a run that has left the club in 14th place and only six points clear of the drop zone - have terminated his contract with immediate effect.
Phil Neville, Gary's younger brother, has been persuaded to stay on until the end of the season under Pako Ayestaran, the new first-team coach, who arrived as part of Neville's coaching staff last month.
Neville's position with the England team will remain unchanged as the Three Lions continue their preparations for Euro 2016.
A painful reign
Lowest win rates posted by Valencia managers in La Liga:
Gary Neville - 18.8 per cent
Francisco Real - 20 per cent
Hector Nunez - 20 per cent
Ronald Koeman, Oscar Ruben Valdez - 21.7 per cent
Other Neville lowlights:
• Knocked out of the Champions League in his first game in charge following a 2-0 home defeat by Lyon.
• Lost 0-7 to Barcelona in the first leg of the Spanish Cup semi-finals. It was the club's worst Cup defeat since 1928.
• Went 885 minutes in charge without seeing his side lead a La Liga match at any point.
• Did not see his side keep a single clean sheet in La Liga as they conceded 25 goals in 16 games.
• Failed to find the best system for his side, using five different formations in his first eight league games and 16 different starting line-ups in as many games.
He will be welcomed back to the television studio by Sky Sports should he wish to return to punditry. The 41-year-old also has a variety of business interests, including his part-ownership of Salford City.
He remains a business partner of Peter Lim, Valencia's Singapore owner, who dispensed with his services on Wednesday, having surprisingly placed his faith in Neville on Dec 2.
Bookmakers immediately installed Neville among the favourites to fill the vacancy at Aston Villa, after the departure of Remi Garde on Tuesday. But the West Midlands club will seek experience and have identified David Moyes and Nigel Pearson respectively as their preferred candidates.
Neville, for his part, will take time to consider his next step amid disappointment at the way that the Valencia experience transpired.
In a brief statement on Wednesday, Neville, who was expecting to be kept on until the end of the season, was candid about the decision taken by the Spanish club.
"I would have liked to have continued the work I started, but I understand that we are in a results business and in the 28 games they have not been to my standards or to those which are required by the club," he said.
A club statement read: "Valencia Football Club has today terminated its contractual relationship with Gary Neville as first-team coach.
"After carefully analysing the sporting decision, the club has decided to make this change in the best interest (of the club)."
Neville went out of three Cup competitions during his brief spell at the Mestalla.
After exits from the Champions League and Spanish Cup, Valencia were knocked out of the Europa League last 16 by La Liga rivals Athletic Bilbao on away goals (2-2).
That left Valencia with just a relegation battle, and a 2-0 home defeat by Celta Vigo sealed Neville's fate.
Protesting Valencia fans who had long subjected Neville to angry chants at the Mestalla, went one step further last week by burning an effigy of him during the city's annual Las Fallas festival, Spanish newspaper AS reported.
Effigies of Lim - criticised for his hands-off approach and close links to agent Jorge Mendes since taking control of the club in May 2014 - and Valencia chairman Chan Lay Hoon were not spared either.
The symbolism behind the ritual is the hope that something better rises from the ashes.
Outgoing Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini, who is being replaced by Pep Guardiola at the end of the season, is among the leading contenders to become Neville's long-term replacement.
According to the Daily Mail, Pellegrini's representatives have already met Valencia sporting director Jesus Garcia Pitarch.
While changes are afoot, Chan reiterated Lim's commitment to the club amid accusations that Valencia is being run from afar.
"This is our most important investment," his long-time aide told the media in Valencia yesterday.
"The fact that Peter Lim is not here all the time does not mean he is not committed.
"We are committed to being successful if it takes a year, or three years or five years."
THE TIMES, LONDON