Their caretaker manager always steps in successfully whenever the club are in need of help
The answer was under their noses all along. Valencia got off to a dreadful start this season and sacked Pako Ayestarán after four games and four losses with a 2-1 loss to Athletic Bilbao the straw that broke the camel’s back. In came Cesare Prandelli, who added a functional aggression, at times, to their play and united them towards a common goal but they were still not winning and not really convincing either.
In between Pako Ayestarán and Cesare Prandelli, they called Salvador ‘Voro’ González out of the crowd to step in for the fourth time as a caretaker boss. After Prandelli, they called the very same man out of the crowd but seem committed this time to keeping him in the dugout until at least the end of the season. At what point, however, do the hierarchy at Valencia realise what they have in Voro and stick with him despite the allure of a bigger name without the understanding of the club, the city, the fans and the players.
Since taking over for the fifth time, Salvador ‘Voro’ González is unbeaten in the league and he has been helped by his new sporting director, and former academy director, Alexanco. Carlos Soler, a player fresh out of the academy, has started all three Valencia games in the league in 2017 under Voro and has been linked, already, with a move to Barcelona with Manchester United lurking too. This prompted Valencia to increase his release clause in the hope of fending off their neighbours up north, or at the very least, getting a solid return on a player who has been with the club since before he was ten.
Cesare Prandelli. Picture by Geert Vanden Wijngaert AP/Press Association Images
Los Che currently have 19 points in the league and 13 of those points have come under Voro’s watch despite the fact that he has only been in charge for a fraction of the time Prandelli has. The former Valencia stalwart has four wins, a draw and one loss during his time in charge. Not for four months have Valencia won two games in a row since they beat Alavés and Leganes back in September. This time they beat Espanyol and Villarreal, who have notions of trips to Europe next season.
Voro also seems to have the backing of his players with Enzo Perez saying recently, “Voro is someone who tells it to you to your face, not like some people who say one thing in the dressing room and another thing to the press.”
Zinedine Zidane has been praised for his ability to unite a historically corrosive dressing room. There is no novelty, no fancy tricks. Just honesty and an ability to add order to a squad that has had none now for some time. Voro does the same.
The Prandelli and Valencia saga is not over yet though. The club, who you might think would want to put the Prandelli disaster to bed, have opened litigation against their former manager. They do not accept his resignation while there were still transfer moves up in the air.
Prandelli has hit back, saying: “At Valencia they think that because they are the fourth-richest club they should end the season in fourth place in the table. They have a purely financial viewpoint, not a technical one.” He might be right. When Prandelli was summoned to meet the owner Peter Lim before Christmas, it was not in an office in the bowels of the stadium, he had to travel to Singapore and as far away from Valencia and the problems at the club as possible.
It harks back to Atletico’s owner, Wang Jianlin, who might have a better feel for the footballing world than his competitor at Valencia. He said recently that Atletico, “do not make us money, they burn through it.”
The owner of Wanda Group said he prefers money over football but as long as he is holding up his end of the agreement, which he has done, then the fans and the manager can rest easy. It might take some time before Lim has Valencia competing like Atletico but he can start by making the right decision with Voro.
The club can count themselves lucky that they have a Voro-like character to guide them through these choppy seas. He was with Valencia as a player from youth football until he was 30 and has had five stints in the dugout.
The first one came in 2008, followed by another one in 2012 but in recent years it is becoming an annual call to arms; Turn to Voro. He has filled in now for three years running in 2015, 2016 and 2017.
He won’t be there to call on forever though. And while this is the first time that he has been given a proper managerial role, you suspect that in the summer a brand new search for a bigger name will begin. That sounds fine in theory, until things go south. At which point, Lim will make a request from Singapore that he has made before - “get Voro on the phone!”