Gary Neville shows his softer side… We knew it…
While the headlines across Spain in recent months have revolved around the mega clubs, Valencia’s remarkable consistency may be the story of the year in La Liga. Sure Barcelona, with the phenomenal brilliance of Lionel Messi and co., look set win the title. And the return of Los Galacticos, led by Cristiano Ronaldo, has kept the race interesting. But under the radar of many, Valencia continues to impress each week, although they have been more pedestrian in the past two months.
What makes their story all the more amazing is the fact that they are playing scintillating football in the midst of rumours that their two superstars will be sold to relieve the club’s crushing debt. With the number reportedly hovering around the 500 million euro mark, is it any wonder that the board is considering all of its options? And yet, the team keeps on winning. Meanwhile, the media continues to speculate on where David Villa and David Silva will be playing next year. Real Madrid, Liverpool and Manchester United have all shown a keen interest in one or both of these players but, for now, none of that seems to matter.
Valencia’s success this season can be attributed to many factors, but its road form is the most eye-catching. They began the season a remarkable 7-2-2 away from the Mestalla and, despite a five-match road winless streak, have maintained a solid foothold on third place and an automatic Champions League spot for next season. David Navarro has been the anchor in a solid defence and the emergence of holding midfielder Ever Banega has been a revelation. This has allowed attacking players such as Silva, Juan Mata and Pablo Hernandez more freedom to terrorize opposition defences.
And let’s not forget number 7. While the off-field soap opera continues, Villa has proven time and again why he may be the most coveted striker in Europe. Only Messi’s brilliance has kept him out of the running for the pichichi, given to the highest goal scorer in Spain. Is there anyone more automatic from 12 yards in?
While the La Liga crown remains out of reach for Los Che, they can still exert an influence on the title race, with a visit to Madrid’s Bernabeu on tap this Sunday. While they’ll be valuable summer targets, not many in the capital will be happy to see Villa and Silva in town this weekend.