Former Manchester United and England footballing brothers Gary and Phil Neville have always been eager to exploit new adventures in the sport once they retired from playing the game. They recently became co-owners of English Northern Premier League team Salford City alongside former United players Ryan Giggs, Nick Butt and Paul Scholes but their latest appointments at Spanish La Liga team Valencia is another gamble by a pair wishing to broaden their football experience.
Gary Neville currently works with Roy Hodgson as part of the England coaching team and has also appeared as TV pundit on a regular basis but when Phil became assistant manager at Valencia in July 2015, there must have been great temptation to join his brother should the opportunity arise.
With Singapore businessman Peter Lim assuming ownership of Valencia in 2014 and also agreeing to buy a 50% share in Salford City, the link between the two clubs was evident and when Nuno Espírito Santo resigned his post as manager of the Spanish outfit this week following a 0–1 away defeat to Sevilla, Gary was appointed as manager with Phil remaining on the coaching staff. For a former footballer with no previous managerial experience, just what awaits Gary Neville at Valencia?
The Spanish team currently occupies 9th position in La Liga but results this season have disappointed compared to the previous campaign. Valencia finished 4th last season and earned qualification for the Champions League and although they have remained unbeaten in domestic league football on home soil this term, four away matches have already been lost and the team must beat Lyon next week in the Champions League to retain hope of qualifying for the knockout phase.
Gary Neville will also be expected to establish Valencia as one of the leading clubs in Spanish football by challenging the current Barcelona and Madrid supremacy. He must also try to emulate the successes of the early millennium years when the club claimed the La Liga title in 2002 and 2004 and were twice Champions League runners-up.
There are players at his disposal within the first team squad from whom Neville will be seeking a positive response with central defender Aymen Abdennour recently signed from Monaco, and a steady supply of goals can usually be entrusted to ‘Paco’ Alcacer Garcia, Sofiane Feghouli and captain Dani Parejo, but that initial language difficulty will also need to be overcome.
There have been five previous managers in the Valencia hot seat since Unai Emery left the club in June 2012, and Gary Neville will hope that he can survive more than the customary 12 months in the job. Yet he will also aim to prove that he can be a success in the role unlike previous Manchester United manager David Moyes who was recently dismissed from a similar job at fellow La Liga team Real Sociedad exactly 12 months after his appointment.
A home match against Barcelona at the weekend will be no easy introduction.