Valencia are a mess, but the Mestalla could offer salvation
The genesis of the horrible situation which currently engulfs Valencia centres almost wholly around its epic, traditional, much-loved, volcanic but significantly out-dated Mestalla stadium.
It was in 2006 that Valencia's reprehensible club president, Juan Soler, announced that the club was going to sell the stadium land and move to a new, commercially-powerful arena across the city.
The planning for that announcement date back to Soler's takeover of the club in 2004, one of the darkest days in the entire history of this hugely successful, historic, 100-year-old football institution.
That Soler has subsequently been sentenced to jail for the attempted kidnapping of his successor as Valencia president, that this bumbling fool recruited a police informer as part of his kidnap team, that the club remains deeply mired in debt, that Mestalla is still their "cracks-papered-over" home and the fact that the "Nou Mestalla" is still a huge, empty, 10-year-old concrete shell which is at least a couple of years away from being functional (always assuming Mestalla can be sold) tells you what kind of "genius" we're dealing with here.
From the birth of his idea, throughout the disastrous gestation, until today, it's a 15-year nightmare if your sympathies are with Valencia -- or a black comedy of epic proportions of you are rivals Villarreal or city-derby opponents Levante.
Mestalla is the club's problem, but it can also be its saviour -- a refuge for home wins. Not the seething, angry congregation which savaged Valencia's current owner Peter Lim during the 2-1 win over Alaves last time out.
So it's worth pointing out that at this crucial stage of the season (no, that's not an overstatement) Valencia will return from the international fortnight to an unwanted and extended absence from their much-loved but deeply conflictive home.
Each of Los Che's next three matches are on the road: Away to Atletico where they've won just twice in 13 years, at Osasuna -- the team which hasn't lost at their El Sadar stadium for 29 matches and well over 500 days, each of which is sandwiched around a must-win visit to Lille in the Champions League.
By the time they face, Sevilla, implacable rivals for a top four finish, it'll be the end of October.
And if Valencia muck up this brutal end to the month it will add an enormous setback to what has already been a turbulent and destabilising season.
It's like this: Five years ago, Lim's club published a financial plan. It dictated that to achieve Lim's version of financial health Valencia had to qualify for the Champions League every season for the next 10 years without fail.
That season, 2015-16, they failed: Twenty-three points off finishing fourth, no European football of any kind.
In 2016-17, they finished 12th again, 27 points off the last Champions League place, nowhere near a Europa League finish and trailing behind Alaves, Eibar plus Malaga. Pitiful.
Those two seasons, in Champions League revenue alone, probably cost Valencia a minimum €60 million -- a brutal blow to a club which remains heavily in debt and into which Lim has ploughed tens of millions of his own money.
Not only did he drive Los Che into the European elite competition qualification in each of the last two seasons, he kept them earning money right up to the Europa League semifinal stage earlier this year -- a money-spinning 14 European matches in total.
That should have net Valencia around €40m when the 2018-19 figures are announced by UEFA.
"Not bad," you say. "Why on earth was Marcelino, plus his director of football, Pablo Longoria, booted out of the club a couple of weeks ago?" you might add.
Talk about killing the goose which laid the golden egg!
Well, as tough a pill as this is to swallow, that 2015 published financial plan made it crystal clear that, in order to reach the type of financial stability which president Lim craved, Valencia not only had to qualify for UEFA competition each year until 2025-26 but they would also have to sell, at the end of each season, one or two of the best players who'd actually taken them to La Liga's top four.
When he was sacked, Marcelino claimed Lim's problem with him was for not dumping his pursuit of the Copa Del Rey at a stage when, according to the coach, Lim wanted the manager and the team to be wholly, absolutely and unreservedly (have I made the point?) concentrated, mentally and physically, on finishing in the top four. The Cup "didn't matter."
This point has been misinterpreted into Lim not wanting to win the Copa Del Rey and not valuing it. That's tosh. What Lim wanted, you can bet, is for Marcelino not to mire himself in tough battles against Sporting, Getafe and Betis in order to reach the final. During those matches Valencia, were mid table and anything up to 10 points off a champions League place -- they dropped 10 points to draws during that January and February period. Was Lim's argument totally unreasonable?
By the time of his sacking Marcelino's record ended up like this: Consecutive top four finishes, Copa semifinal the first year, Copa win the second year and a Europa League semifinal defeat last May.
Stats to embellish any CV you'd be fair in arguing.
One of Valencia's big problems, having decided that Marcelino was for the chop, was not explaining what was going on.
Most of us who follow the club closely knew that Valencia's owners were were still referring to the fundamentals of that published financial plan of 2015.
Figure it out for yourself. If a club is to muscle into that cluster of the (vastly) better resourced Real Madrid, Atletico and Barcelona then they need excellent players.
But those excellent players are hugely expensive to buy and to pay a salary -- thus eating into the financial regeneration programme.
And it's best if such assets can be bought short and sold long. Get them for pennies, punt them for millions.
Examples come from long before Lim, but key to his thinking would be David Villa taken from Real Zaragoza for a song (€12m) and sold for €50m to Barca, Juan Mata obtained on freedom of contract form Real Madrid but sold on to Chelsea for a €30m profit.
They earned the club tens and tens of millions from Champions League participation, and their low cost then roped in around €68m profit compared to what it cost to obtain them.
Good operations. The kind of thing Lim, legitimately enough, aspires to.
But the key figure in all this is David Silva. Although from the Canary Isles he became a product of Valencia's Paterna youth talent factory.
And so he too added millions to the club's income by twice qualifying them for the Champions League, once taking them to the quarter final and also the quarterfinal of the Europa League.
Four straight UEFA qualifications, partly thanks to "low cost" Silva.
His sale to Manchester City in 2010 meant Los Che earned €35m more than it cost them to acquire him as a kid aged 14.
So when Lim's appointed club president Anil Murthy spoke on Monday about Marcelino having "lost the confidence of the owner" because of "a distance between the club's decisions and what Marcelino wanted to be his decisive role in the transfer market" and when Murthy stated: "Marcelino's 'project' was different from the owner's 'project' -- the discrepancy was unacceptable" then it's not hard to understand.
Lim, and his staff, need Valencia to be competitive, need the team to qualify for the Champions League and, regularly, to reach as far into the Champions League knockout stages as possible.
But they don't feel the need to add big name, proven-talented, high salaried, high-transfer fee footballers to achieve that. They want financially lucrative European qualification much more than they crave, say, a Copa del Rey or Supercopa win.
Lim and Murthy argue that the current squad is not only top quality, they argue that Marcelino's hunger to compete to win La Liga's title, to win a European trophy, was becoming a barrier to young, Paterna training-ground bred talent becoming first team regulars.
Listen to Murthy again: "The owner's wish it that we have a youthful squad, with an important basis in our own Academy players plus only a few strategic signings.
"Over the last two years the squad's age has been rising despite Ferran Torres and Kang-In Lee demonstrating that they deserve more faith and that they can help much more by being included rather than cast aside."
There you have it. Torres, Lee and Carlos Soler are all home-bred, low cost investments who look, to Lim, to have Silva-esque potential.
First team regulars, growth, European football and then, once plumped up, sold for a big profit.
Given Valencia's debt situation it's not hard to see Lim's point.
Mind you, given both Marcelino's and the fans' desire to capitalise on their improvement and add more trophies, perhaps even La Liga while Madrid and Barcelona are restructuring, you can see their white-knuckled frustration.
So, back to Mestalla.
Last season Valencia's home defeat to Juve was brutal in terms of costing them qualification to the knockout stages -- and the millions which lie in wait.
On matchday two this season they lost, equally drastically, to Ajax.
Last season the away draw to the group minnows, Young Boys, also put the kibosh on progression to the Fort Knox stage. This season's Young Boys are Lille. Marcelino's replacement, Albert Celades, really has to win that match in France.
As for the two road trips in La Liga, Valencia must keep in touch with the top four -- defeats in either, or both, would mean that the atmosphere in the notoriously unforgiving Mestalla, by the time they return there at the end of this month, would be vitriolic.
As mentioned, it all began with the Mestalla 15 long, brutal, mismanaged years ago. From now until the end of the season it will need to be their fortress, their touchstone.
Not a screaming, seething, angry and costly millstone around their necks.