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Confusion over Valencia future

Valencia's future has been thrown into further confusion after a Spanish court ruled on Tuesday that the club was now owned by its bank, not the Valencian regional government as had been previously thought.

The judge found that Bankia, a bankrupt Spanish bank which has itself needed a government bail-out, now controlled a majority of shares due to a guarantee given for a loan which is overdue. The Valencian regional government [Generalitat] made a €4.8 million interest payment on that loan in January, thinking it would thereby gain control of the club, but that move has now been ruled unfair to other creditors.

Meanwhile, Valencia club president Manuel Llorente is currently negotiating the refinancing of the €200 million owed to Bankia, which is due on March 26. El Pais reported on Wednesday that this in effect means the bank owes itself the money.

Valencia's financial situation has made for grim reading for years, especially since its 2007 decision to build a new stadium, just before a property crash made it impossible to raise sufficient funds by selling their current Mestalla ground. The club's total debts are currently around €350 million and it now has two homes - one it cannot sell and one it cannot afford to complete.

Confusion therefore surrounds the future of the club, which exited this season's Champions League to Paris Saint Germain last week, and is currently seventh in the Primera Division table. Qualification for next season's Champions League looks vital now, but even with that Roberto Soldado and other key players could follow previous Los Che stars David Villa, David Silva, Juan Mata and Jordi Alba out of the club.

Valencia [CF] have yet to comment on the most recent court ruling, although club "sources" told El Pais they did not think their situation had much changed.

Generalitat vice-president Jose Ciscar told Spanish agency EFE that the local government now felt itself free of financial commitments to the club.

"The only thing we can advance is that the judgement could change the outlook for the club significantly," said Ciscar. "We know the club is very important to Valencian society, [but] the Generalitat is free of any financial commitment."

Maximo Buch, another local government member, said he trusted Bankia would take an interest in football as well as finances.

"I believe Bankia will have the same interest as we have," Buch said. "That Valencia is given economic viability, that it has a good sporting project and that the club moves forward. As the major creditor they have an interest in that."

Last week the European Commission announced it was looking into the state funding of La Liga clubs by the Spanish authorities. Clubs which receive direct funding, are not forced to pay their taxes, or who play for free in municipal stadiums could all be in receipt of illegal state subsidies. Besides its dealings with Valencia, the Valencian regional government has also bailed out Segunda Division sides Hercules [with €18 million] and Elche [€14 million].

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