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Valencia flying high - the story behind incredible revival at Mestalla

Wednesday 25th October 2017
After years of obscurity, financial misdeeds, fans unrest and flattery to deceive, the good times are now returning to Valencia. We delve deeper into the secrets behind Los Che's swift revolution.
For the first time since 2003, Valencia is unbeaten after nine La Liga games. They have been remarkable thus far, racking up six victories with 25 goals to show. Interestingly, Los Che have already played six of the top eight teams, which includes taking a point from both Madrid clubs. Valencia currently sit second in the table, four points off Barcelona.

In stark contrast, Los Che were only two points above drop zone this time last year. They had already lost five games, and their manager too. So what has changed since?

We take a look at three key areas that have helped improve Valencia's dwindling fortunes.

Boardroom shake-up

Valencia supporters weren't only irked by their team's pathetic slump, but also the attitude of the club's owner, Peter Lim. The Singaporean businessman had portrayed himself as the de facto leader who craved the spotlight more than his players. However, Lim's decision earlier this year to overhaul Valencia's board appears to have worked wonders.

First, the former Spanish international, Jose Ramon Alezanko, was appointed Director of Football in January. Three months later, Mateu Alemany joined as the General Director. While the unpopular president, Chan Lay Hoon, made way for Anil Murthy.

Managerial upgrade

Taking all into account, hiring Marcelino looks the biggest masterstroke. He became Valencia's 13th manager in past five years, which meant supporters never batted an eyelid when he arrived in July. The 52-year-old has since won them over, however, with significantly improved performances on the pitch. He has also brought genuine enthusiasm back to the Mestalla.
The upturn in fortunes doesn't come as a surprise due to Marcelino's vast experience and knowledge of the Spanish game. His entire playing career was spent in his homeland, and he's remained there since venturing into management in 1997.

The Spaniard's resolve has paid off, as he's enjoyed tremendous success in every managerial role. He took Recreativo de Huelva from the second division to an astonishing eighth place in La Liga. Marcelino then won promotion with Real Zaragoza, led Racing Santander to its best ever league finish, and also revolutionised Villarreal, taking the club from the Spanish second tier all the way to Champions League qualification.

As distinct as previous accomplishments proved, one thing stood out: his beautiful counter-attacking style of play. That hasn't changed at Valencia. Since Marcelino took charge, Los Che have shown an unusual appetite to attack, with greater emphasis on short passing.

Dressing room reform

Unlike his predecessors, Marcelino was given the power to reshape his new squad. And he did so elegantly. The former Villarreal boss began by flushing out the old guard. Enzo Perez, Nani, and Alvaro Negredo were the biggest casualties. Younger players arrived as replacements  - Gabriel Paulista signed from Arsenal; Inter Milan's Geoffrey Kondogbia and Paris Saint-Germain's Goncalo Guedes both joined on loan, while Simeone Zaza agreed to a permanent deal to bring him from Juventus.

Things have improved massively since. Kondogbia has been sensational in central midfield, and Guedes is always in thick of the action. Then there is Zaza. The Italian striker has hit seven La Liga goals already this campaign, in only eight appearances.
It remains unclear whether Valencia can retain its current momentum. One thing is certain, however. The sleeping giant of Spanish football is gradually working their way back to the top.
Toby Prince

If the sport has 11-men on each side, a ball and lasts for 90 minutes then I'll write about it. Simply put, I'm an unrepentant soccer freak that other freaks will, however, call a geek. I do find time for music when not watching the beautiful game, though and have been known to produce the odd track. 

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