Chelsea’s Champions League opponents Valencia have been thrown into chaos after the club’s owner, Peter Lim, announced the sacking of Marcelino García Toral six days before their visit to Stamford Bridge. Marcelino has been replaced by the former Spain Under-21s manager Albert Celades, after a crisis that has been growing steadily over the last year and was played out publicly during the summer finally exploded on Wednesday. Valencia face Barcelona at the Camp Nou on Saturday night before travelling to London.
Lim summonsed the club’s president, Anil Murthy, to Singapore in order to fire the manager. Marcelino did not know about the meeting until reports appeared in the media on Wednesday morning and the official announcement was made in the afternoon. The club’s director general, Mateu Alemany, remains in his post for the time being, although his long-term position appears untenable. The players are understood to be shocked by the decision, but they knew that this was likely sooner or later.
Marcelino has been credited with bringing stability back to Valencia, a club with a propensity for infighting and crisis. He led them to a Champions League place last season and to a Copa del Rey final victory over Barcelona in Seville – their first trophy for 11 years, and in their centenary season. But his relationship with the club’s owner had become unbearably strained. That was not helped by the very fact that he and Alemany were seen as the architects of the success, rather than the owner – or in spite of the owner, in fact.
Lim bought Valencia five years ago, and has signed 52 players since. Celades will be his eighth manager, with Salvador González “Voro” having had three different spells in charge. Questions have been raised over Lim’s motives for owning the club and his commitment from Singapore as well as the role played by the agent Jorge Mendes. Marcelino arrived in July 2017, employed by Alemany, who had joined the club in March that year. Murthy took over as president in July. It was a significant turnaround for Valencia. A new structure appeared to be set up with Alemany and Marcelino constructing the squad and tranquillity at last.
But over the last few months a barely concealed battle for control had become evident, with an open breakdown in relations between manager, general manager and owner. Marcelino had been publicly critical of the construction of the squad and the club’s failure to sign off on players for whom deals had been set up, particularly the Barcelona midfielder Rafinha. He also opposed the proposed sale of striker Rodrigo Moreno, whom Lim sought to sell to Atlético Madrid. That deal, like the relationship, eventually collapsed.
Marcelino had the backing of supporters and both he and Alemany had threatened to walk away during the summer. That crisis was contained, continuity secured, but not for long. Marcelino’s press conferences were ever more challenging, his messages direct. At times he appeared to be almost daring the owner to take him on and sack him. At some point he was bound to do just that.