Valencia players refused to fulfill post-match media duties after their heavy defeat to Barcelona at the weekend so to avoid questions about the turmoil engulfing the club.
It was another indication that Chelsea will face a side in crisis on Tuesday when Valencia visit Stamford Bridge just a week after owner Peter Lim sacked their most successful manager in 15 years.
Not since Rafa Benitez was winning things at Mestalla have Valencia been such a force. Under the intense but popular Marcelino the club won the Spanish Cup last season beating Barcelona in the final. They also qualified for the Champions League.
Valencia are a club in crisis ahead of their tricky trip to face Chelsea in the Champions League
In an extraordinary post-sacking press conference Marcelino claimed it was winning the cup that effectively made Lim’s mind up to sack him.
‘I am absolutely sure without a single doubt that it was the cup that was the detonator of this situation. During the season we received direct and indirect messages that we had to reject it,’ he said.
The suggestion that ignoring Lim’s orders to sacrifice the cup so as to make sure of finishing in the Champions League places will drive the wedge between the Singapore-based billionaire and the club’s supporters deeper than ever.
The game is about glory for them. They are proud to have been the club to have most rattled Real Madrid and Barcelona since the turn of the century.
Marcelino was sacked as manager last week just months guiding Valencia to the Spanish Cup
Marcelino incredibly claimed that winning the Spanish Cup was what lost him his job
The thought of passing up on a piece of silverware so as to make more sure of the financial benefits of European football leaves them cold. As Sevilla’s Sporting Director Monchi once said: ‘No fan ever took a “Great financial results” banner to the stadium.’
If supporters didn’t like the sacking of Marcelino, then it also seemed to go down very badly with the players. Captain Dani Parejo posted a tweet aimed at Marcelino that read: ‘I wish you all the best boss. I am sure you will do well where you go and they let you work.’
Defender Ezequiel Garay went further tweeting: ‘You go with your head held high. The one who took this decision not only took you away but dragged a whole team and set of supporters too. I say loud and clear: It’s not fair.’
Into this swirl of discontent from players and supporters steps Albert Celades who admitted in his presentation: ‘It’s clear that this is not a normal situation’.
Celades has no experiences of managing in La Liga and some have already likened him to Gary Neville who was also parachuted in by Lim.
Valencia president Anil Murthy (right) named Albert Celades (left) as Marcelino’s successor
Celades has no managerial experience in La Liga and has been likened to ex-boss Gary Neville
That comparison was strengthened by the 5-2 defeat to Barcelona on Saturday because Valencia had not conceded five or more since Neville led his team to a 7-0 defeat at the Camp Nou in the cup in 2016.
Celades does not have the same level of inexperience as Neville, however. He played in La Liga for both Barcelona and for Real Madrid and he is dedicated to making a career for himself as a coach and has already impressed assisting Vicente del Bosque and Julen Lopetegui and coaching Spain’s Under 21s.
He wisely left things pretty much as he had found them for Saturday’s visit to Barcelona, sticking with Marcelino’s rigid, extremely hard working 4-4-2.
And although it’s true that Valencia were soundly beaten, with boy wonder 16-year-old Ansu Fati and fit-again Luis Suarez in the kind of form they displayed at the Nou Camp, most teams would have gone the same way.
There were positives for Celades in as much as the players did not fold after going behind 2-0 after just six minutes.
Celades’ comparison was strengthened by the 5-2 defeat to Barcelona on Saturday
There were positives for Celades in as much as the players did not fold after going behind 2-0
There was also a confidence-boosting goal for big summer signing Maxi Gomez, who rejected West Ham in the summer to join Valencia, but has so far failed to break-up last season’s first choice front two Rodrigo and Kevin Gameiro.
Despite their immediate shock and disapproval, the Valencia players will no doubt get behind Celades but the firing of someone who had done such a good job is bound to have a long-term effect.
If the club does hit a difficult patch it will not be long before players are blaming the managerial change for the plight of the team. Marcelino and his staff were very good at giving the players solutions.
Soon enough they will turn to the bench for something similar and if they don’t find it there the gaze will then turn to the directors box.
They are unlikely to find Lim there as he rarely goes to games. Coaches tend to be summoned to his Singapore headquarters rather than him coming to the Paterna training ground.
Valencia’s Singaporean owner Peter Lim has made seven managerial changes in six years
Marcelino went there in the middle of last season sensing he might get the push. He came back relieved to be carrying on but last week him became Lim’s seventh managerial change in six years.
The degree to which all this helps Chelsea might depend on how Valencia start on Tuesday. The Marcelino game-plan has been programmed into the Valencia players and that might just carry them through the coming weeks.
But if there are changes from Celades that don’t pay off then the cracks will start to appear.
Captain Parejo has already said this can’t be used as an excuse. As excuses go, going a chaotic summer of uncertainty and having a change of manager after three games is a pretty good one.