##Valencia’s inability to have secured European football next season continues to create havoc within the walls of the Mestalla. The far-reaching consequences of that failure have finally hit home. As a result, Valencia are now once again “officially recognised” as a selling club. Everyone in the squad is deemed to have a price, with the owners feverishly trying to offload players with hefty contracts and to prune staffing levels too.

The spine of the successful team that won the Copa Del Rey just over a year ago is no longer here. Garay, Coquelin, Parejo, Ferran and Rodrigo have all departed to pastures new.

The ominous signs that all was not well were there before the season had finished when Garay was not offered a new contract by the owners. A fan of Marcelino, the Argentinian defender had been critical of the decision to sack the likeable Asturian on social media. This escalated into an increasingly testy war of words played out in public by both sides as his departure date loomed.

Parejo and Coquelin were also admirers of Marcelino. Their transfer to Comunidad rivals Villarreal was also hard to stomach for many Valencia fans. On his confirmed departure, a tearful Parejo stated he had hoped and had wanted to end his career with Los Che. For many, Coquelin was the supporters’ player of the year last season and one of the first names on any team sheet. The price paid for both also irked the Valencia faithful, as the pair ended up costing the Yellow Submarine just over ten million for both midfielders.

Spanish football writer Sid Lowe had suggested that it was “probably not a good idea to tell everyone you are selling all your players”. It was certainly not the best bargaining chip to do business with. Rodrigo´s transfer to the premier league new boys Leeds United seems to highlight this point perfectly. A few years ago, Valencia were holding out for a fee in excess of 100 million euros for the Spanish international. A few days ago he headed to the premiership for a fee reportedly in the region of 30 million euros, less than a third of the previous asking price.

The allowance of Ferran to leave for Manchester City is probably the transfer that upset the fans the most. A supporter of the club throughout childhood and growing up through the youth system, he seemed to fit into the “Meriton mantra”, a promising youngster who could help take Valencia to the next level.

To see him feel alienated from his home town club and desperate to leave because of the lacklustre efforts on the pitch and off the field shenanigans was a bitter pill for many to swallow. It was a Paco Alcácer situation once again, suggesting the club had not learnt how to protect their nurtured prize assets from the city and surrounding areas.

The new manager Javi Gracia has been left with some big shoes to fill and with the October 5th transfer deadline still well off, he may have to resign himself to losing one or more key players.

That said, the three friendlies that Los Che have played to date under his management have been positive, with youth, and in particular, youngsters from Valencia Mestalla being given opportunities earlier than they might have previously expected.

Before the three matches, Gracia knew he could not call on the services of Kondogbia and Carlos Soler as they had both tested positive for Covid 19. Both were put on enforced on 14 day isolation periods, despite neither showing any signs of the virus.

Gracia’s first game in charge came against Ségunda Division A side CD Castellón who are owned by the former Valencia favourite Pablo Hernández. The match at the Antonio Puchades Stadium saw Los Che use a total of 21 players.

Thierry Correa, Centelles, Račić, Yunus Musah and Esquerdo all started the match in a very youthful looking side, which also included Kang-in Lee. Unfortunately for the South Korean, he received an injury just 15 minutes into the game. So, he was replaced by Manu Vallejo as a precaution. It was Vallejo who scored the only goal of the game to give Valencia victory and a winning start to Gracia’s tenure. Guillem Molina and Koba also got second half run outs for Los Che. The most pleasing sight for many was the appearance of Piccini, for the first time, since the horrific injury to his right kneecap around a year ago.

Valencia headed to Pinatar Arena next and an intriguing match-up with Villarreal. The team from the North of the Comunidad included Parejo and Coquelin, as well as other former Valencia stars Paco Alcácer and Raul Albiol. Unai Emery is also now in charge of the team who finished just outside the Champions League places last year.

A mistake by Valencia gave Villarreal the lead after just seven minutes. Chuckweze finished off a swift move involving Alcácer and Moreno, after Jason (back from his loan spell with Getafe) was robbed of the ball in his own half.

Little by little, Valencia imposed themselves on the game as Uroš Račić and Esquerdo looked more than a match for Parejo and Coquelin. Staying with the same eleven for the start of the second half, Los Che equalised from a corner, just after the hour mark.

Calpe-born Esquerdo, who started his football career with Benidorm, took an outswinging corner with his left foot… that Maxi Gómez met at the near post. His header had enough power on it to beat Asenjo, despite the Palencia born keeper getting both hands to the effort.

The Valencia winner came from the same source as Gómez collected a ball from Guedes and hit a shot with his left foot that squirmed through Asenjo’s hands to beat him at his near post.

A pleasing victory for Valencia against tough opposition. Within twenty-four hours, the team were back at Pinatar with a hastily organised fixture against city rivals Levante UD. The make-up of the Valencia side had a very, very young look about it…to the point that Kang-In Lee was the most experienced outfield player. The South Korean took the captain’s armband and looked menacing at times with his attacking flair.

The youth of Valencia against the experience of Levante proved to be an intriguing contest, but yielded very little chances as the match ended in a goalless stalemate.

Both teams can be happy with the workout. Valencia will be pleased that some of their Mestalla products handled the step up in class without any issues, whilst Levante will look at this as a useful exercise in which 23 players from their squad got some match-playing time.

The teams will not have to wait long to meet again as La Liga computer drew them out to play each other in the opening match of the season at the Mestalla in mid-September. Hopefully, spectators from both sides of the city will be able to attend the game and live football will become the norm once again for “abonos” of both Valencia CF and Levante UD.

John Howden

• JORNADA 1: Valencia CF – Levante UD (13/09/2020)
• JORNADA 2: Real Celta – Valencia CF (20/09/2020)
• JORNADA 3: Valencia CF – SD Huesca (27/09/2020)
• JORNADA 4: Real Sociedad – Valencia CF (30/09/2020)
• JORNADA 5: Valencia CF – Real Betis (04/10/2020)
• JORNADA 6: Villarreal CF- Valencia CF (18/10/2020)
• JORNADA 7: Elche CF – Valencia CF (25/10/2020)
• JORNADA 8: Valencia CF – Getafe CF (01/11/2020)
• JORNADA 9: Valencia CF – Real Madrid (08/11/2020)
• JORNADA 10: D. Alavés – Valencia CF (22/11/2020)
• JORNADA 11: Valencia CF – Atlético de Madrid (29/11/2020)
• JORNADA 12: SD Eibar – Valencia CF (06/12/2020)
• JORNADA 13: Valencia CF – Athletic Club (13/12/2020)
• JORNADA 14: FC Barcelona – Valencia CF (20/12/2020)
• JORNADA 15: Valencia CF – Sevilla (23/12/2020)
• JORNADA 16: Granada CF – Valencia CF (30/12/2020)
• JORNADA 17: Valencia CF – Cádiz CF (03/01/2021)
• JORNADA 18: R. Valladolid – Valencia CF (10/01/2021)
• JORNADA 19: Valencia CF – CA Osasuna (20/01/2021) *
• JORNADA 20: Atlético de Madrid – Valencia CF (24/01/2021)
• JORNADA 21: Valencia CF – Elche CF (24/01/2021)
• JORNADA 22: Athletic Club – Valencia CF (07/02/2021)
• JORNADA 23: Real Madrid – Valencia CF (14/02/2021)
• JORNADA 24: Valencia CF – Real Celta (21/02/2021)
• JORNADA 25: Getafe CF – Valencia CF (28/02/2021)
• JORNADA 26: Valencia CF – Villarreal CF (07/03/2021)
• JORNADA 27: Levante UD – Valencia CF (14/03/2021)
• JORNADA 28: Valencia CF – Granada CF (21/03/2021)
• JORNADA 29: Cádiz CF – Valencia CF (04/04/2021)
• JORNADA 30: Valencia CF – Real Sociedad (11/04/2021)
• JORNADA 31: CA Osasuna – Valencia CF (21/04/2021)
• JORNADA 32: Valencia CF – D. Alavés (25/04/2021)
• JORNADA 33: Real Betis – Valencia CF (28/04/2021)
• JORNADA 34: Valencia CF – FC Barcelona (02/05/2021)
• JORNADA 35: Valencia CF – R. Valladolid (09/05/2021)
• JORNADA 36: Sevilla FC – Valencia CF (12/05/2021)
• JORNADA 37: Valencia CF – SD Eibar (16/05/2021)
• JORNADA 38: SD Huesca – Valencia CF (23/05/2021)

• JORNADA 1: Valencia CF – Levante UD (13/09/2020)
• JORNADA 2: Levante UD – Atlético de Madrid (20/09/2020)
• JORNADA 3: CA Osasuna – Levante UD (27/09/2020)
• JORNADA 4: Sevilla FC – Levante UD (30/09/2020)
• JORNADA 5: Levante UD – Real Madrid (04/10/2020)
• JORNADA 6: Athletic – Levante UD (18/10/2020)
• JORNADA 7: Levante UD – Celta (25/10/2020)
• JORNADA 8: Granada – Levante UD (01/11/2020)
• JORNADA 9: Levante UD – Alavés (08/11/2020)
• JORNADA 10: Levante UD – Elche (22/11/2020)
• JORNADA 11: Valladolid – Levante UD (29/11/2020)
• JORNADA 12: Levante UD – Getafe (06/12/2020)
• JORNADA 13: Barcelona – Levante UD (13/12/2020)
• JORNADA 14: Levante UD – Real Sociedad (20/12/2020)
• JORNADA 15: Huesca – Levante UD (23/12/2020)
• JORNADA 16: Levante UD – Betis (30/12/2020)
• JORNADA 17: Villarreal – Levante UD (03/01/2021)
• JORNADA 18: Levante UD – Eibar (10/01/2021)
• JORNADA 19: Cádiz – Levante UD (20/01/2021) *
• JORNADA 20: Levante UD – Valladolid (24/01/2021)
• JORNADA 21: Real Madrid – Levante UD (31/01/2021)
• JORNADA 22: Levante UD – Granada (07/02/2021)
• JORNADA 23: Levante UD – CA Osasuna (14/02/2021)
• JORNADA 24: Atlético de Madrid – Levante UD (21/02/2021)
• JORNADA 25: Levante UD – Athletic (28/02/2021)
• JORNADA 26: Real Sociedad – Levante UD (07/03/2021)
• JORNADA 27: Levante UD – Valencia CF (14/03/2021)
• JORNADA 28: Betis – Levante UD (21/03/2021)
• JORNADA 29: Levante UD – Huesca (04/04/2021)
• JORNADA 30: Eibar – Levante UD (11/04/2021)
• JORNADA 31: Levante UD – Sevilla (21/04/2021)
• JORNADA 32: Elche CF – Levante UD (25/04/2021)
• JORNADA 33: Levante UD – Villarreal (28/04/2021)
• JORNADA 34: Celta – Levante UD (02/05/2021)
• JORNADA 35: Alavés – Levante UD (09/05/2021)
• JORNADA 36: Levante UD – Barcelona (12/05/2021)

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