Have Valencia Reached It's Tipping Point?

Once the tipping point is reached departures become inevitable and the slide becomes harder to arrest than ever; what starts as an emergency solution risks becoming a permanent situation, the enshrinement of inequality and the inability to compete. Handled well, the effects can be palliated but, barring a sudden shift, the trend is unavoidable. Spanish football has reached that tipping point. Valencia certainly have.

David Silva and David Villa had to leave Valencia. The consequences of them staying were unthinkable. Lumbered with two stadiums - one they could not sell and one they could not afford to finish building, standing as an empty monument to the collapse in Spain's economy and the construction industry in particular, as well as the wastefulness of the former owner - the club faced the possibility of disappearing altogether.

Manolo Llorente, the president, had rescued Valencia with the assistance of the local government but still needed to service the debt left by predecessor Juan Soler. Silva and Villa were the key, bringing in almost €80 million with their moves to Manchester City and Barcelona respectively.

But if the consequences of them staying were unthinkable, the consequences of them going are concerning too. The initial, crippling debt remains and will do so until Valencia can find a buyer for Mestalla and, allied to the direction that Spanish football has taken, that serves to eclipse the country's "other" clubs - of which Valencia is the strongest, finishing third for the last two years. The realization of that very fact only hastens it. When Silva and Villa left, they made the departure of other players all the more probable.

The tipping point had been reached. When Silva and Villa left, Valencia rebuilt remarkably well. With a sensible plan, and led by determined, skillful negotiators, they constructed a competitive side and still had a profit in excess of €45 million. But it was not competitive enough. Valencia won the league in 2002 and 2004. This season it finished 21 points behind second placed Real Madrid. And that was an improvement on last season.

Valencia is one problem, and the debt remains a hungry one. The players, conditioned by that situation, are another. All players want to win things; good players think they have to. When you can't compete, you leave. And when you depart, the team you leave behind can compete even less. It is a vicious circle. The hierarchy of clubs gets ever more defined. So far this summer, Valencia has been among the most active clubs in the transfer window.

Dani Parejo and Diego Alves have signed already. But that is a prelude to movement in the other direction.

The man nearest the exit door is Juan Mata - both because he wants to compete and because Valencia know that he is the player most likely to raise a sizable transfer fee. He would make a superb signing for any number of clubs joining the queue.

Mata stepped out of the shadow of Villa and Silva to become the central figure for Valencia this season. Now, someone else will have to do the same.

Last summer Barcelona were among Mata's potential destinations; this summer, England is. Liverpool is a genuine possibility. Last summer resistance was possible with Silva and Villa to sell; this year it is futile. The good news for Valencia comes in the shape of a check for around €25 million, another lifeline provided by selling their family jewel.

At 22, Mata took responsibility. Intelligent and instantly likable, he has studied at university and is making strides with his English. Mata has been a remarkably consistent performer in at team that has often been erratic. Fast, skillful, and creative. As he has shown at the European U-21 championships, he can also take a more central, playmaker's role.

At the end of the season, the football statisticians at Opta put together a team of the season. Mata was one of only two outfield players included to play for one of Spain's "other" clubs - the other was Santi Cazorla. The pity is that when that happens, they tend not to be playing for one of those other clubs for very much longer.

Source: Opta

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