By Leo Linden
Historically, Valencia CF is one of the best squads in La Liga, sitting in fourth on the all-time table and fourth in the ranking of most top-flight seasons played. But that’s exactly what that is: history. Now, a club which has been known to push Spain’s top dogs to be better and capture places in European competitions is in complete turmoil through four games in the new campaign, and if they don’t act quickly, Valencia could lose the whole season, and even more.
After its founding in 1919, Valencia began play in local leagues, but the Spanish football federation quickly got it’s act together, and by the 1928-29 season, with an already established football hierarchy, Valencia was sitting in the second tier. Three years and a division title later, the club found itself in the top flight, where it would play out the rest of its history — besides one season — to this point.
After the Spanish Civil War cancelled the league from 1936-1939, Los Che began to surge. In 1941, they captured their first major trophy, a Copa del Rey title (at that time, the cup competition was played within a calendar year), and they backed that up by taking home the league title for the 1941-42 season. That was just the beginning of the success, however, as two more league titles followed in 1944 and 1947.
It was the best period domestically in club history to date, and the good times continued as the side took home two more Copa del Rey titles and finished second in La Liga three times between 1947 and 1954. While a period of decline followed, Valencia only sunk below seventh three times until they captured their next title.
That happened in 1971 (they also won their fourth Copa del Rey four years prior), and they followed that up with a second-place finish the following season, but a sharp drop off was on the horizon as Valencia began to slowly tumble down the table. They seemed to have righted the ship when they won their fifth cup title in 1979, and they backed that up by winning the next year’s UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup, defeating Arsenal in the final on penalties. Then, they snatched up the UEFA Super Cup, beating Nottingham Forest in the only Super Cup decided on away goals.
While their league results did improve slightly after that trio of successes, they quickly fell off again, and in 1983, they avoided relegation only on goal differential. That was just a warning sign of things to come, however, as three seasons later, Valencia took the plunge for the first time in club history, losing out to Cadiz by a single point and suffering relegation. As mentioned before, however, the club won promotion back to La Liga instantly, and that began a rapid ascension.
But the brutal was followed by the fantastic as Valencia became the most recent team not in Spain’s big three to capture the La Liga crown, doing so in 2002 and 2004.
Since those victories, Valencia have hung out near the top of the table, and even in their worst season since — 2007-08, when they finished 10th — they managed to get their hands on the Copa del Rey. There were then three straight third-place finishes between 2010 and 2013, with a pair of trips to the Champions League round of 16, under the management of rising star Unai Emery. Even more impressively, much of that success was done while the club dealt with major financial issues which ultimately led to the sale of the club, to Singaporean businessman Peter Lim in late 2014.
That brings us to the present, where no one can figure out what the heck is going on with Los Che. The club watched a wave of talent exit in the offseason, most notably Shkodran Mustafi, who fled for Arsenal, and the duo of Paco Alcacer and Andre Gomes, who both moved up the Spanish ladder by joining Barcelona. They countered by bringing in Nani, Ezequiel Garay, and Eliaquim Mangala (on loan), but those moves haven’t yet worked out the way the club had hoped.
Valencia have lost their first four games of the current La Liga season and are the only team in the table without a point. The numbers are bad, to say the least, but when looking at the competition they faced, it only gets worse. Their first three games of the season were against Las Palmas, Eibar, and Real Betis, who finished 11th, 14th, and 10th, respectively, last year, and Valencia were outscored 8-4 while losing all three contests.
It looked like they might get back on track when Alvaro Medran pipped a goal in the second minute of last week’s match against Atletico Bilbao, but by halftime, Valencia were again losing, ultimately falling 2-1. With such a terrible start to the season, there had to be a scapegoat, and that ended up being manager Pako Ayestaran, who himself took over after a treacherous stretch under Gary Neville and was let go Tuesday after just five months at the club.
This has all set up a crucial stretch for Los Che, and their new caretaker, Salvador Gonzalez, at this early juncture in the season. Gonzalez has filled in as
It’s definitely early, but so far, it’s not looking good for Valencia, and if the longtime first-tier stronghold doesn’t get its act together, the club could be staring at one of the most disappointing seasons in its illustrious history.