Has it really come to this? In a word, yes. Very nearly, at least. It may not have been asked to twist balloons into animal shapes to delight squealing kids, but Valencia really has announced that its players are available for hire. Just like its pitch is. Fancy a kick-about at the Mestalla? Now, for a few thousand euros, you can.
The reason is simple: Valencia is a club in crisis, saddled with an estimated $725 million debt. Its very survival is under threat and it has now gone into a process that is essentially bankruptcy without the liquidators. What can be sold, rented or exploited for cash, must be. So bad have Valencia's financial troubles become that it cannot allow any revenue stream -- however minor, however absurd -- to slip through its fingers.
It is time for the asset-stripping to begin. What that means above all, of course, is that its best players will depart. Valencia will have to squeeze
Valencia will have to sell its players because it could not sell its stadium. The world economic crisis has hit Spain harder than most, and the Spanish construction industry and housing market -- two markets upon which Valencia was depending -- harder yet. Throw in incompetent management from majority shareholder
Players went two months without being paid until a short-term loan was agreed upon with local businesses. The president no longer controls the club and the owner does not want to own it. Nor is there a savior on the horizon. "We have," admitted coach
When Soler made himself president in October 2004, Valencia had enjoyed four glorious years, reaching two Champions League finals and winning two league titles and the UEFA Cup. Four years later, it had gone through five sporting directors, three director generals, three medical chiefs, three ostracized footballers and the club captain taking the president to court.
Money was wasted at an alarming rate, with the club's debt rising from $182 million to more than $580 million. It is now believed to be in excess of $725 million. Something in the region of $25 million each was spent on
The solution was to sell the land upon which Mestalla stands and build a new stadium. And so Valencia began work on a wonderful new arena while preparing to sell its old one. It planned to repeat the trick with its Paterna training ground. But the property bubble burst and the club could not find a buyer for either the Mestalla or Paterna. Nor could it find the money to pay for the building work on the new stadium.
Soler sold his shares to
With Valencia owing $20 million to the companies building the new stadium, and another $22 million to its players, it ground to a halt. The players went unpaid and promptly stopped winning, and work stopped on the new stadium, which sits unfinished as a monument to mismanagement and megalomania.
That was when Bancaja -- Valencia's main creditor, which is owed some $350 million -- took over, imposing an austerity package on the club. (The club also secured a $65 million loan earlier this month.) "We must," said
And so it's auction time this summer, with everyone from Manchester United to Liverpool, Real Madrid to Barcelona and Juventus to Milan invited. Anyone need a couple of midfielders, a reserve goalkeeper and a left back?