Anil Murthy: A Diplomatic Revolution
It was a turbulent time for Murthy, a lifelong West Ham fan, to take over the club with the fourth biggest budget in LaLiga. Though the team had recovered from relegation fears to finish 12th for the second successive season, it was not enough for a club whose best years are still fresh in most fans’ memories. In the early 2000s, Valencia won two league titles and twice finished Champions League runners-up. In 2004, they won their first UEFA Cup.
“One of my first acts was to put in place a structure for the club to function better,” Murthy said.
“It was a process of revolution and clean-up. We knew where we wanted to go and where we wanted to be. It was quite clear to us – the coach, owner, CEO and me – that we needed to do something big.”
Working under a “more English” model, Valencia parted company with their sporting director and didn’t appoint a replacement. Former Real Mallorca president Mateu Alemany arrived as CEO and in May ex-Villarreal boss Marcelino joined as coach. He was the eighth head coach change for Los Che in three years.
The players were not immune from the revolution. Last summer, the club sold 14 players and signed nine. They included the permanent signing of on-loan Italian forward Simone Zaza, revitalised since moving to Spain, for €16 million. Another Juventus player, goalkeeper Neto, arrived for €7 million along with Arsenal centre-back Gabriel Paulista for €11 million. The permanent arrivals were complemented with loans that have looked increasingly shrewd as the season has progressed. Talented winger Gonçalo Guedes couldn’t get a game at Paris Saint-Germain but has provided seven assists so far this season, while powerhouse Geoffrey Kondogbia, borrowed from Inter Milan, has added much-needed midfield steel.
Against expectations, the refurbished team made an immediate impact. Valencia enjoyed a record-breaking start to the season, going unbeaten for 13 matches, including nine wins. At the time of writing the club is fourth and set to qualify for the Champions League.
“Pre-season was an important signal,” Murthy said. “When we started, you went to the training ground and saw everyone was one group. Everyone was smiling, fitter, working together, like a family. The Spanish call it sincronía – there is synchrony and there is unity.”
With a virtually new team, new manager and new chairman, reclaiming a seat at European club football’s top table would be an impressive turnaround, but one that is essential.
“We didn’t expect such results this early, but if you’re in the business of football you want to be in the Champions League and you want to stay in the Champions League,” Murthy continued.
“Other than TV rights, from a marketing perspective you’re a more important target. More people are watching you. You must stay in Champions League every year, if possible. But it’s not easy.”