Football: Valencia force to reckon with after Singapore billionaire Peter Lim's takeover

Coach Nuno Espirito Santo (centre) and captain Dani Parejo (right) acknowledging the cheers of supporters after Velencia edged out Monaco and qualified for the Champions League's knockout stage on Tuesday. The Spanish club are back among Europe's eli
Coach Nuno Espirito Santo (centre) and captain Dani Parejo (right) acknowledging the cheers of supporters after Velencia edged out Monaco and qualified for the Champions League's knockout stage on Tuesday. The Spanish club are back among Europe's elite for the first time since they reached the last 16 in 2012-13.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
Owner Peter Lim (front row, third from right) celebrating in the dressing room with his team's members on Tuesday.
Owner Peter Lim (front row, third from right) celebrating in the dressing room with his team's members on Tuesday.PHOTO: INSTAGRAM OF VALENCIA

Spanish club back among Europe's elite in a boost to S'porean owner Lim's revival plan

MONACO • The transformation is complete. Just 10 months after Singapore billionaire Peter Lim took over sleeping football giants Valencia, the Spanish club are back in the big time.

All associated with Valencia woke up yesterday knowing that Los Che are once again a Champions League club after Nuno Espirito Santo's men squeezed past Monaco 4-3 on aggregate in the play-off round despite a 1-2 loss on Tuesday.

Alvaro Negredo put Valencia in the driving seat with a deft fourth-minute chip. And the Spanish side hung on after Andrea Raggi and Elderson revived Monaco's hopes in the principality.

Not that Lim had any doubt that the two-time finalists would reach his target of ending their two-year absence from the Champions League.

"I was convinced we would reach the group stages," he told Valencia-based daily Super Deporte.

IN TOP SHAPE

The project is ongoing and has demonstrated its 'Valencianismo' in good times and bad.

PETER LIM Valencia's owner on his mega plan

"The fans have done a great job in cheering on the players. The project is ongoing and has demonstrated its 'Valencianismo' in good times and bad."

Last October, Lim splashed €420 million (S$669 million) to take over the club, who had finished eighth in the 2013-14 La Liga season.

While their latest success is an indicator of how much the club have improved since Lim's takeover, his job is not done yet.

Having spent millions on strengthening the squad, including a club record €30 million on striker Rodrigo Moreno, Lim is expected to keep his cheque book out.

The defeat by Monaco served as a reminder that a top-class centre-back is needed to replace Argentina international Nicolas Otamendi, who joined English side Manchester City last week.

GREAT FEAT

Playing in the Champions League makes me very excited; this is a dream come true.

NUNO ESPIRITO SANTO Valencia coach on the team's achievement

German World Cup winner Shkodran Mustafi is up to the task but doubts remain over whether Portuguese Ruben Vezo, 21, has the pedigree. Valencia have until the transfer window closes at the end of the month to add to their ranks.

If they manage to shore up the defence, Valencia look to have the talent in attack to help them make a decent run in Europe and possibly challenge for La Liga title.

The experienced Spain international Negredo, 30, will compete for a place with youngsters like Paco Alcacer and Rodrigo, while 19-year-old Santi Mina, who joined from Celta Vigo in the close season, is full of promise.

"Now new challenges begin for us," Nuno told the club's official website. "We have a squad with very good options for us... We should thank everyone for all the effort they have made.

"For us it was the most important thing. For us it is also important that Peter Lim is in the dressing room and that he is supporting us.

"Playing in the Champions League makes me very excited; this is a dream come true."

Malmo, Dinamo Zagreb, Maccabi Tel Aviv and Shakhtar Donetsk also booked money-spinning group stage spots on Tuesday.

They can each expect to earn more than £15 million (S$32 million) from their participation in Europe's elite club competition.

They will receive £8.52 million for making it to the group stage, where each win is worth £1.06 million and each draw £355,000.

Spain on Tuesday became the first country to have five teams in the Champions League group stage in one season.

Valencia joined holders Barcelona, Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid and Sevilla, who got an automatic berth as last season's winners of Europe's second-tier Europa League.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 27, 2015, with the headline 'Valencia force to reckon with'. Print Edition | Subscribe