New Valencia boss aware of task ahead
Incoming Valencia coach Ernesto Valverde has said he understands the size of the task he faces in motivating and organising an underperforming squad, with his first objective to get his new players pulling together and playing with confidence.
Valverde was presented to the local media at Mestalla on Monday night, and immediately faced questions about dressing-room discipline and his own long-term commitment to the job.
The former Athletic Bilbao, Espanyol, Villarreal and Olimpiakos coach accepted that it would be a "challenge" to lift the team, currently 12th in the Primera Division after two consecutive heavy defeats, out of its "crisis".
"It is the first time I have taken a team mid-season, I will be frank, I do not consider it easy," Valverde said. "When you take a team in these circumstances it is because there is a crisis. The team is not top of the table and playing marvellously. So there is a rush to get some results. In that sense I accept the challenge. We will go for it."
One of Valverde's most pressing tasks will be sorting out a dressing-room of underperforming players who, in the words of club captain Roberto Soldado, were most responsible for former coach Mauricio Pellegrino's exit after just four months in charge on Saturday.
One rumoured troublemaker, Fernando Gago, reportedly asked to leave when he heard his fellow Argentine had been sacked, while others including Sofiane Feghouli, Adil Rami, Ever Banega and Dani Parejo have had off-field disciplinary issues recently, leading some to suggest that a 'firm hand' was needed to keep the Los Che squad in line.
"I have no doubt that I will find a group of young players who want to win games and be a team," Valverde said. "There are objectives to fulfil and I understand that the players are professionals who owe something to this club and its fans. I will try and help them to work in the best way possible. About a 'firm hand' I do not have much to say."
Valverde is to assess his side from the stand during Wednesday's night's Champions League group game at Lille, with caretaker Salvador Gonzalez - known as 'Voro' - coaching a side which will be missing the suspended Soldado and injured Joao Pereira. Los Che have already qualified for the last 16, and will top the group if they better Bayern Munich's result at home to BATE Borisov.
Further reports in Spain have suggested that Valverde had agreed to a six-month deal as he was lined up to return to Athletic to replace the struggling Marcelo Bielsa next season. Valverde denied this and said he hoped to do enough between now and June so that both sides would be happy for him to continue at Valencia into the future.
"I signed for six months because that is what they offered me," he said. "I have no problem, I am confident in my work and that over this time the team will show enough good things that I will continue more time here. The objective is to qualify for the Champions League. Maybe that is speaking long term at the moment. What I am most concerned about now is that the team plays with confidence."