History of Valencia C.F.
The club was established on 5 March 1919 and officially approved on 18 March 1919, with Octavio Augusto Milego Díaz as its first president; incidentally, the presidency was decided by a coin toss. The club played its first competitive match away from home on 21 May 1919 against Valencia Gimnástico, losing 1–0.
Valencia moved into the Mestalla Stadium in 1923, having played its home matches at the Algirós ground since 7 December 1919. The first match at Mestalla pitted the home side against Castellón Castalia and ended a 0–0 draw. In another match the day after, Valencia won against the same opposition, 1–0. Valencia won the Regional Championship in 1923, and was eligible to play in the domestic Copa del Rey cup competition for the first time in its history.
Emergence as a giant in Spanish football
Faas Wilkes, the first foreigner ever to play for Valencia.
The Spanish Civil War halted Valencia’s progress until 1941, when they won the Copa del Rey, defeating Espanyol in the final. In the 1941–42 season, the club won its first La Liga championship title, although winning the Copa del Rey was more reputable than the championship at the time. The club maintained its consistency to capture the league title again in the 1943–44 season, as well as the 1946–47 league edition.
In the 1950s, the club failed to simulate the success of the 1940s, even though it grew as a club. A restructuring of Mestalla resulted in an increase in spectator capacity to 45,000, while the club had a number of Spanish and foreign stars. Players such as Spanish international Antonio Puchades and Dutch forward Faas Wilkes graced the pitch at Mestalla. In the 1952–53 season, the club finished as runners-up in La Liga, behind Barcelona. In the following season, the club won its third Copa del Rey, then known as the Copa del Generalísimo. Valencia beat holders Barça 3–0 in the final in front of over 110,000 spectators at the Estadio Chamartín, then the home ground of Real Madrid. The 1950s also saw the retirement of club greats like Salvador Monzó, Vicente Asensi, Amadeo Ibáñez, Antonio Puchades and Pasieguito.
While managing indifferent league form in the early 1960s, the club had its first European success in the form of the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup (the forerunner to the UEFA Cup). In the 1961–62 season, Valencia defeated Barcelona in the final. The 1962–63 edition of the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup final pitted Valencia against Yugoslavian club Dinamo Zagreb, which the Valencians also won. Valencia were again present in the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup final in the 1963–64 season, but were defeated 2–1 by Real Zaragoza.
Former two-time European Footballer of the Year award winner Alfredo Di Stéfano was hired as head coach in 1970, and immediately inspired his new club to their fourth La Liga championship and first since 1947. This secured Valencia its first qualification for the prestigious European Cup, contested by the various European domestic champions. Valencia reached the third round of the 1971–72 competition before losing both legs to Hungarian champions Újpesti Dózsa. In 1972, the club also finished runners-up both in La Liga and the domestic cup, losing to Real Madrid and Atlético Madrid respectively. The most notable players of the 1970s era include Austrian midfielder Kurt Jara, forward Johnny Rep of the Netherlands, West German midfielder Rainer Bonhof and Argentinian forward Mario Kempes, who became the La Liga topscorer for two consecutive seasons in 1976–77 and 1977–78. Valencia would go on to win the Copa del Rey again in the 1978–79 season, and also capture the European Cup Winners’ Cup the next season, after beating English club Arsenal in the final, with Kempes spearheading Valencia’s success in Europe.
In 1982, the club appointed Miljan Miljanić as head coach. After a disappointing season, Valencia was in 17th place and faced relegation with seven games left to play. Koldo Aguirre replaced Miljanić as coach, with Valencia just barely avoiding relegation, relying on favourable results from other teams to ensure their own survival. In the 1983–84 and 1984–85 seasons, the club was heavily in debt under the presidency of Vicente Tormo. The club finally hit rock bottom when it was relegated at the end of the 1985–86 season and riven with internal problems, such as unpaid player and staff wages and poor morale. The club’s relegation was their first after 55 years in Spanish top-flight football.
Arturo Tuzón was named the new club president, and he helped steer Valencia back to La Liga. Di Stéfano returned as head coach in 1986 and Valencia won promotion again following the 1986–87 season. Di Stéfano stayed on as coach until the 1987–88 season, when the team finished 14th. Bulgarian forward Luboslav Penev joined the club in 1989, as Valencia aimed to consolidate their place in La Liga. Guus Hiddink was appointed as head coach in the 1991–92 season, and the club finished fourth in the league, also reaching the quarter-finals of the Copa del Rey. In 1992, Valencia CF officially became a sporting limited company, and retained Hiddink as their head coach until 1993.
Brazilian coach Carlos Alberto Parreira, fresh from winning the 1994 FIFA World Cup with the Brazil national team, became manager at the Mestalla in 1994. Parreira immediately signed Spanish goalkeeper Andoni Zubizarreta and Russian forward Oleg Salenko, as well as Predrag Mijatović, but failed to produce the results expected of him. He was replaced by new coach José Manuel Rielo. The club’s earlier successes continued to elude it, although it was not short of top coaching staff like Luis Aragonés and Jorge Valdano, as well as foreign star forwards like Brazilian Romário, Argentineans Claudio López and Ariel Ortega, and Adrian Ilie from Romania.
Return to the top of Spanish and European football
Valencia began the 1999–2000 season by winning another title, the Supercopa de España, defeating Barcelona. Valencia finished third in the league, four points behind champions Deportivo de La Coruña and level on points with second-placed Barça. However, the team’s biggest success was in the UEFA Champions League; for the first time in its history, Valencia reached a European Cup final. However, in the Final in Paris on 24 May 2000, Real Madrid beat Los Che 3–0.
The final acted as Claudio López’s farewell, as he had agreed to sign for Italian side Lazio. Javier Farinós and Gerard also departed for Internazionale and Gerard, respectively. The notable signings of that summer included John Carew, Rubén Baraja, Roberto Ayala, Vicente Rodríguez and Brazilian left-back Fábio Aurélio. Also bought that season was Pablo Aimar in January. Baraja, Aimar, Vicente and Ayala would soon become a staple of Valencia’s dominance of the early 2000s in La Liga.
Valencia began the following Liga season top of the league after ten matches. However, after the Christmas break, Valencia struggled to keep pace due to Champions League requirements. Héctor Cúper’s team managed to eliminate Arsenal in the quarter-finals and Leeds United in the semi-finals, and got ready to face Bayern Munich in the final; Valencia had reached two European Cup finals in a row. This time, the final was played in Milan at the San Siro on 23 May. Gaizka Mendieta gave Valencia the lead by scoring from the penalty spot right at the start of the match. Goalkeeper Santiago Cañizares then stopped a penalty from Mehmet Scholl, but Stefan Effenberg put Bayern level after the break thanks to another penalty. After extra time, it went to penalties, where a Mauricio Pellegrino miss gave Bayern Champions League glory and dealt Valencia a second-straight defeat in the final. Valencia went on to slip to fifth place in La Liga and out of Champions League competition for the 2001–02 season. The final match of the season meant Valencia only needed a draw at the Camp Nou against Barcelona to seal Champions League qualification. However, Los Che lost 3–2 with a last minute goal from Rivaldo, resulting in Barcelona qualifying for the Champions League while Valencia missed out.
Club president Pedro Cortés then resigned due to personal reasons and left the club in July 2001, with the satisfaction of having won one Copa del Rey, one Supercopa de España and having been runners-up in two successive Champions League finals. Jaime Ortí replaced him as president and expressed his intention of maintaining the good form that had made the club so admired on the European circuit. There were also some changes in the team and staff. Rafael Benítez, after helping Tenerife to promotion to La Liga from the Segunda División, replaced Cúper after the latter became the new coach at Internazionale in Italy. Among the playing squad, Gaizka Mendieta, Didier Deschamps, Luis Milla and Zlatko Zahovič all left, while Carlos Marchena, Mista, Curro Torres, Francisco Rufete, Gonzalo de los Santos and Salva Ballesta arrived.
From 1999 up until the end of the 2004 season, Valencia had one of their most successful periods in the club’s history. With a total of two La Liga titles, one UEFA Cup, one Copa del Rey and one UEFA Super Cup in those six years, no less than five first class titles and two Champions League finals had been achieved.
In the 2001–02 season, their first game against title rivals Real Madrid produced a significant and important victory. This was followed by a record of 11 games won consecutively, breaking the existing one set in the 1970–71 season, the season they had last won the La Liga title under Di Stéfano.
After a defeat in A Coruña against Deportivo on 9 December 2001, the team had to win against Espanyol at the Estadi Olímpic Lluís Companys to prevent falling further behind the league leaders. Valencia were 2–0 down at half time, but a comeback in the second-half saw Valencia win 2–3.
In the second part of the season, Benítez’s team suffered a small setback after losing 1–0 at the Santiago Bernabéu to Real Madrid, but they recovered and achieved four victories and two draws in the following six games against Las Palmas, Athletic Bilbao, Alavés, Real Zaragoza and Barça.
In one of those crucial games that they would come up against Espanyol, Valencia were trailing 1–0 half-time and a man down after the dismissal of Amedeo Carboni, but after two goals from Rubén Baraja, Valencia achieved a 2–1 victory. Furthermore, Real Madrid’s defeat in San Sebastián to Real Sociedad left Valencia with a three-point lead at the top of the table.
The final game of the season was at La Rosaleda to face Málaga, on 5 May 2002, a date that has since gone down in Valencia’s history. The team shut itself away in Benalmádena, close to the scene of the game, in order to gain focus. An early goal from Roberto Ayala and another close to half-time from Fábio Aurélio assured them their fifth La Liga title, 31 years after their last title win in 1971.
The 2002–03 season was a disappointing one for Valencia, as they failed in their attempt to retain the Liga title and ended up outside of the Champions League spots in fifth, behind Celta de Vigo. They were also knocked out in the quarter-finals of the Champions League by Internazionale on away goals. The 2003–04 season saw Los Che trailing long-time leaders Real Madrid. In February, after 26 matches played, Real Madrid were eight points clear. However, the latter’s form declined late in the season and they lost their last five games of the campaign, allowing Valencia to overtake them and win the title. The club added the UEFA Cup to this success. Valencia had now been La Liga champions twice in three seasons.
In the summer of 2004, coach Rafael Benítez decided to leave the club, stating he had had problems with the club president; he would soon become manager of Liverpool. He was replaced by former Valencia coach Claudio Ranieri, who had recently been sacked by Chelsea. However, his second reign at the club was a disappointment, as Valencia harboured realistic hopes of retaining their La Liga crown but, by February, found themselves in seventh place. Valencia had also been knocked out of the Champions League group phase, with Ranieri being sacked promptly in February. The 2004–05 season ended with Valencia outside of the UEFA Cup spots.
In the summer of 2005, Getafe manager Quique Sánchez Flores was appointed as the new manager of Valencia and ended the season in third, which earned Valencia a spot in the Champions League after a season away from the competition. The 2006–07 season was a season with many difficulties, a season that began with realistic hopes of challenging for La Liga but was disrupted with a mounting list of injuries to key players and internal quarrelling between Flores and new sporting director Amedeo Carboni. Valencia ended the season in fourth place and were eliminated from the Champions League in the quarter-finals by Chelsea 3–2 on aggregate, after themselves eliminating Italian champions Internazionale in the second round. In the summer of 2007, the internal fight between Flores and Carboni was settled with Carboni being replaced by Ángel Ruiz as the club’s sporting director.
On 29 October 2007, the Valencia board of directors fired Flores after a string of disappointing performances and caretaker manager Óscar Rubén Fernández took over on a temporary basis until a full-time manager was found, rumoured to be either Marcello Lippi or José Mourinho. A day later, Dutch manager Ronald Koeman announced he would be leaving PSV to sign for Valencia. But there was still no improvement; in fact, Valencia even went on to drop to the 15th position in the league, just two points above the relegation zone. Although on 16 April 2008, Valencia lifted the Copa del Rey with a 3–1 victory over Getafe at the Vicente Calderón Stadium. This was the club’s seventh Copa title. Five days later, one day after a devastating 5–1 league defeat in Bilbao, Valencia fired Koeman and replaced him with Voro, who would guide Valencia as caretaker manager for the rest of the season. He went on to win the first game since the sacking of Koeman, beating Osasuna 3–0 in his first match in charge. Voro would eventually drag Valencia from the relegation battle to a safe mid-table finish in tenth, finally ending a disastrous league campaign for Los Che.
Unai Emery Era, debt issues and instability
Highly-rated Unai Emery was announced as the new manager of Valencia on 22 May 2008. The start of the young manager’s career looked to be promising, with the club winning four out of its first five games, a surge that saw the team rise to the top position of the La Liga table. Despite looking impressive in Europe, Los Che then hit a poor run of form in the league that saw them dip as low as seventh in the standings. Amid the slump reports emerged of massive internal debt at the club, exceeding €400 million, with reports claiming the players had not been paid in weeks. The team’s problems were compounded when they were knocked out of the UEFA Cup by Dynamo Kyiv on away goals. After a run where Valencia took only five points from ten games in La Liga, an announcement was made that the club had secured a loan that would cover the players’ expenses until the end of the year. This announcement coincided with an upturn in form, and the club won six of its next eight games to surge back into the critical fourth place Champions’ League spot. However, Los Che were then defeated by fourth place contenders Atlético Madrid and Villarreal in two of the last three matches of the campaign, subsequently finishing sixth in the table and failing to qualify for the following season’s Champions League.
No solution had yet been found to address the massive debt Valencia were faced with, and rumours persisted that top talents such as David Villa, Juan Mata and David Silva could leave the club to help resolve the huge debt. In the 2009–10 season, Valencia returned to the Champions League for the first time since 2007–08, as they finished comfortably in third in the 2009–10 La Liga. However, in the summer of 2010, due to financial reasons, David Villa and David Silva were sold to Barcelona and Manchester City respectively to reduce the club’s massive debt. Despite the loss of two of the club’s most important players, the team was able to finish comfortably in third again in the 2010–11 campaign for the second season running, although they were eliminated from the Champions League by Bundesliga side Schalke 04 in the round of 16. In the summer of 2011, then-captain Juan Mata was sold to Chelsea to further help Valencia’s precarious financial situation. It was announced by club president Manuel Llorente the club’s debt had been decreased and that the work on the new stadium would restart as soon as possible, sometime in 2012.
Peter Lim’s ownership
During the 2012–13 season, Ernesto Valverde was announced as the new manager but after failing to qualify for the Champions League, he stepped down and was replaced by Miroslav Đukić. On 5 July 2013, Amadeo Salvo was named as the new president of the club. Almost a month after Salvo was named president, on 1 August 2013, Valencia sold star striker Roberto Soldado to English club Tottenham Hotspur for a reported fee of €30 million. Miroslav Đukić was sacked six months into the 2013–14 season after just 6 wins in his first 16 matches, Valencia’s worst start in 15 years. He was replaced by Juan Antonio Pizzi on 26 Dec, 2013. Under Pizzi, Valencia reached the semi-finals of the UEFA Europa League, where they lost to eventual winners Sevilla on goal difference and finished 8th in La Liga despite a disastrous start to the season.
In May 2014, Singaporean businessman Peter Lim was designated by the Fundación Valencia CF as the buyer of 70.4% of the shares owned by the club’s foundation. After months of negotiations between Lim and Bankia (the main creditor of the club), an agreement was reached in August 2014. Juan Antonio Pizzi was unexpectedly sacked as head coach and replaced by Nuno Espírito Santo on 2 July 2014. Later, Salvo revealed in an interview that hiring Nuno was one of the conditions Lim had insisted on when buying the club. This raised eyebrows in the media because of Nuno’s close relationship with the football agent Jorge Mendes, whose first-ever client was Nuno. Lim and Mendes are also close friends and business partners. Regardless, Nuno’s first season was a successful one. Notable signings included Álvaro Negredo, André Gomes and Enzo Pérez, who had just won the LPFP Primeira Liga Player of the Year in the Portuguese Primeira Liga. Valencia finished the 2014–15 season in fourth place for Champions League qualification with 77 points, just one point ahead of Sevilla after a dramatic final week, defeating Granada 4–0.
On 2 July 2015, Amadeo Salvo resigned from his post as the executive president of Valencia, citing personal reasons. He was a popular figure amongst the fans. On 10 August 2015, Nicolás Otamendi was sold to Manchester City for £32 million and Aymen Abdennour was signed from Monaco for £22 million as his replacement. Valencia defeated Monaco in the Champions League playoff round with a 4–3 aggregate victory. However, Valencia had a poor start to the 2015–16 season, winning 5 out of 13 matches and failing to progress from the Champions League group stages. The fans were also increasingly concerned about the growing influence of Jorge Mendes in the club’s activities. On 29 November, Nuno resigned as manager and former Manchester United defender Gary Neville was hired as his replacement on 2 December. Valencia went winless for nine matches before earning their first win under Neville in a 2–1 victory at home against Espanyol. On 30 March 2016, Neville was sacked after recording the lowest win percentage in La Liga history for a Valencia manager with minimum of five matches, winning just 3 out of 16 matches. He was replaced by Pako Ayestarán, who was brought in by Neville as the assistant coach just one month prior. Valencia finished the season in 12th position.
In the summer of 2016, André Gomes and Paco Alcácer were both sold to Barcelona and Shkodran Mustafi was sold to Arsenal, while Ezequiel Garay and former Manchester United player Nani were brought in. Pako Ayestarán was sacked on 21 September 2016 after four-straight defeats at the beginning of the 2016–17 season. Former Italy national team head coach Cesare Prandelli was hired as his replacement on 28 September. However, he resigned after just three months on 30 December, claiming the club had made him false transfer promises. Days later, on 7 January 2017, Valencia sporting director Jesús García Pitarch also resigned, saying he felt like he was being used as a shield for criticism by the club and that he could not defend something he no longer believed in. Voro was named caretaker manager for the fifth time until the end of season, with Valencia in 17th position and in danger of relegation. However, results improved under Voro and he steered Valencia clear off relegation, ultimately finishing the season in 13th place. On 27 March, Mateu Alemany was named the new director general of Valencia.
The club also announced club president Lay Hoon Chan had submitted her resignation and that she would be replaced by Anil Murthy. After rumors arose of Lim’s attempts at selling the club, Murthy assured the fans and local media that Valencia was a long term project for both him and Lim, and they would not consider selling the club. For the following season, former Villarreal coach Marcelino was named the new manager on May 12.