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Graham Hunter: Expect Gary Neville to deliver the bounce factor at Valencia & Paul Scholes to get a call

Our La Liga expert, friend to the stars, and all-round good guy, on what why he expects the England coach to work his magic in Spain.

by Graham Hunter | December 3, 2015

What I believe is this: If Gary Neville already spoke fluent Spanish then I’d back Valencia to finish no worse than third this season .

No worse than second next – probably with a Copa Del Rey final under their belt too.

That’s what kind of visionary, exciting, inspirational football man this club with a young, talented, raw but technically-gifted squad has signed.

When I last interviewed him, and asked his view on both Spanish and European football, he previewed precisely what Valencia has in store.

He adored the best of Borussia Dortmund under Jurgen Klopp, the Bayern treble-winning side of Jupp Heynckes and the Barça side of…. 2008/09.

But not that of Wembley in 2011. Too possession-oriented for him. Not enough ‘oomph’

Energy, intelligence, pace, technique, adventure, attack, pressing, enjoyment – victory.

These are the DNA of Gary Neville’s football credo.

Rolls Royce football

Where he’s fortunate is that the city of Valencia, and the Mestalla Stadium in particular, are places where that sort of stuff will do just nicely.

Don’t get me wrong – the Mestalla ‘ooohd’ and ‘aaaahd’ to Pablo Aimar, Romario, Pedja Mijatovic, Juan Mata, Gaizka Mendieta and David Silva.

This crowd adores being chauffeur-driven by Rolls Royce players as much as the next man.

But there would be no repeat of Sir Bobby Robson’s experience when he led Barcelona to an 8-0 victory at the Camp Nou over Logroñés in 1996 only [he claimed] to see one Catalan football paper splash on: ‘Muchos Goles Pero Poco Fútbol!’ the next day. [Lots Of Goals But Not Much Football!].

If the Neville reign at Valencia includes an 8-0 win he’ll be carried shoulder-high from the stadium and never allowed to leave the city.

Long live the king

What’s in store for the man who helped his club reign over English football for so long is the Spanish city which would be king.

Valencia’s hard-core fans [by which I mean almost all of them] can’t understand why they aren’t Spanish champions. Every season.

Give them one good performance and they want 38 of them. Bring them a trophy and they want two.
Thump Madrid and they want to spank Barcelona and Atlético. On the same day.

Hungry, hungry, hungry.

Right down Gary Neville’s street, no?

In fact the stuff of which the Class of ’92 were made.

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Change in attitiude

This current Valencia group really lacks a small clutch of things – some of which Neville can provide.

It lacks confidence, nous, goals and the ability to keep its best XI fitter and on the pitch more regularly.

What the new English coach will find is that the departing Portuguese coach, who let’s not forget provided a record-breaking season in 2014/15, has left some benefits behind.

Many of his players were so keen to see Nuno Espirito Santo out of the club that there will be a ‘bounce’ when Neville takes charge from Sunday morning.

In fact, Barcelona most certainly now have a stiffer test on Saturday than they would otherwise have done even though Neville Snr. will be in the stands with Neville Jnr. in the dugout.

Attitudes will change, as will enjoyment of daily work, conviction and enthusiasm. These are not negligible elements.

Another benefit is that there’s a good smattering of English speakers throughout the dressing room – right down the spine of the team in fact.

From Matty Ryan in goal, through Shkodran Mustafi in central defence, Dani Parejo at the heart of the midfield to Alvaro Negredo leading the line.

The Negredo crux

An Aussie, a German and two Spaniards – if Neville took over some Premier League sides he’d be dealing with just as few English footballers down the centre of his side.

Negredo has had off-field difficulties to cope with and then his appendix removed. But he’s just begun to work with the ball in his training ground rehab.

Neville’s key work needs to start with the ex-Manchester City striker.

The breakdown in that player’s relationship with the departing coach was total.

Get him onside, get him leading via example, get him scoring and an enormous part of Los Hermanos Neville’s initial challenge will have been dealt with.

Ready to rock

The second of the really big immediate challenges is staying in the Champions League.

Valencia must beat Lyon [which they did away from home] and Gent must lose or draw at home to Zenit if Los Che are to progress.

The hard facts for the new coach is that it’s financially imperative, if he wishes to make any significant squad improvements during the next market, to reach the Champions League knockout rounds.

If, somehow, they pull that off you can bet that the Mestalla stadium will be rocking once more for the next two home matches – Barakaldo in the Cup and Getafe in the league.

As for the next two, a derby match against Villarreal and then hosting Madrid in the first home match of 2016 – all bets would be off. Mayhem.

Gary Neville kisses Paul Scholes

Scholesy,  it’s Gary, Gary Neville …

Might he fail in this big test? Yes, obviously.

Inheriting a floundering squad mid-season in your first big job and not speaking the native language ain’t ideal.

But he has the capabilities. For sure.

So Gary, welcome to Spain. Hire a brilliant Spanish-English translator, study the language as hard as Phil has done and unleash the Neville magic at the Mestalla.

Then mebbe give Scholesy a wee phone.

Amunt Valencia … as they say around the Mestalla.

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