SINGAPORE — “Peter Lim bashing” may be what is prevalent in the internet and social media these days, but Valencia club president Anil Murthy is insistent that the Singapore owner has a long-term vision for the Spanish La Liga side – and is definitely not thinking of selling.
Speaking to journalists in a virtual conference last Thursday (26 November), the former diplomat refuted criticisms that the club were trying to sell off their best players for quick cash, and that Lim – the Singapore tycoon who bought the club amid much fanfare in 2014 – has no regard for the club’s long-term success.
However, Murthy disputed such views, saying that these come from the perspective of a small group of “anti-Peter Lim” individuals.
“There’s a small group you read about on the press, and to be honest, we have little time for them. The interest there is not really for the best of the club,” he said.
“Peter Lim has never considered selling the club, and the club is not for sale. He has repeated many times that the Valencia Academy and the youth is the future of this club. This is something that has come to fruition today.”
Critics accusing Lim’s handling of club matters
To the many critics of Lim and his running of the club, it seemed as if the owner was holding a fire sale to cash in on the club’s top player assets and ruining the club’s chances of challenging for the La Liga title this season.
“The reality of the current economic situation, due the COVID-19 pandemic, is that our revenue has been slashed from €200 million (S$324 million) to €100 million. If we didn’t sell players, we wouldn’t have money to pay salaries, we wouldn’t have the money to pay debts, and we wouldn’t have money to pay service providers for the functioning of the club,” Murthy said.
“But I disagree that we have sold our best players. Our best players are still with the club.”
That may seem like a highly-debatable statement considering that, during the offseason, Valencia had sold off the likes of winger Ferran Torres (to Manchester City); key striker Rodrigo (to Leeds); and midfielders Geoffrey Kondogbia (to Atletico Madrid), Francis Coquelin and Dani Parejo (both to Villarreal).
However, Murthy pointed out that the current first-team squad is filled with players promoted from the club’s youth academy, a sign that the club are committed to forming a bond with the city and relying on a sustainable model to produce talents for the club.
“If I were to name our project for the future of the club, it would be Project Academy,” he said.
“Our head coach Javi Gracia knows the names of every player in our academy, and he is committed to bring them up to the first team. That has never happened before in the past, when the club often sought expensive and short-term solutions to the squad.
“We are trying to use the Academy to fuel a very strong identity. I have told the coaches and players that I would like to see at least seven local players in the team, because our identity is important too.”
Young talents, notable victories
While Valencia are placed a lowly 14th in La Liga, they have registered notable victories over Real Madrid and league leaders Real Sociedad.
Results have been inconsistent, but young talents such as Yunus Musah (18 years old), Lee Kang-in (19) and Hugo Guillamon (20) are complementing established stalwarts Jose Gaya, Manuel Vallejo and Carlos Soler in the senior team.
Murthy insisted that Lim and the club directors are working towards a financially sustainable future for the club, and that means long-term progress is far more crucial than looking for immediate success this season.
“We are going to recruit the best Valencian players to our Academy, and today we are showing them that they can move up,” he said.
“The large majority of fans are proud of the team today. They are very proud of this project, seeing that young players are beating Real Madrid 4-1, that our players were 24 years old on average.
“You have to be patient when you build the project. We will answer you again in 10 years, when we win La Liga with our players. We think the football world is changing tremendously, with the fact that COVID-19 has exposed excesses in the football market, exposing how clubs are overspending, thinking only winning the next year or the year after.
“We are not following that approach.”
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