So much for Copa del Rey salvation. Back in 2008, Valencia were in crisis. The club captain and two team mates were about to end up in court against the club. The money had run out. The players hated the manager. And results were dreadful. In the league, at least. In the Cup it was like they were given a second chance, like they were a totally different team. They went all the way to the final and won it. After the game, Ronald Koeman, the manager, stood alone. No one celebrated with him. Less than a week later, he was the ex manager.
This season, something similar seemed to be happening. That, at least, was the hope. Valencia have not won in eleven league games — the worst run of any side in the division — and they have slipped to within five points of the relegation zone. Gary Neville replaced Nuno Espirito Santo as manager but his first match saw them get knocked of the Champions League and he has not managed a win in the league, eight games later.
But Valencia did keep going in the Cup. And this week they faced Barcelona — just as they had back then. “We’re not scared of them”, Alvaro Negredo declared on the front cover of Super Deporte, clenched fist making the point.
On Wednesday night, Barcelona beat Valencia 7-0 — their worst result in over twenty years. And still it was a better result than they might have been. Valencia were hammered, torn to bits and left in tatters. Humiliated. Sporting director Suso García Pitarch called it “one of the worst results in our history.” Gary Neville called it “one of the most painful moments” he has experienced.
Super Deporte, the local newspaper led on a front page aimed at the club’s owner: “Mr Lim, you choose the headline … Ruinous, Shameful, Indignant, Unacceptable, Insulting.” Valencia had been ridiculed, they said.
Poor Denis Cheryshev had. On loan from Real Madrid, it was playing him despite a sanction held over from last season that had seen them knocked out of the Cup. Now, he came on as a sub for Valencia and was effectively knocked out again. Barcelona’s fans chanted his name and gave him a huge ovation when he came on. “Cheryshev, we love you!” they sang.
If only Valencia’s fans felt the same way. Some waited for the team, ready to abuse them on their return to the city afterwards. Players were called mercenaries and for the first time some suggested that maybe the time has come to blame Neville himself. Asked if he was going to resign, he replied: “No.” Asked again, he said: “next question.” The next question was the same, so again he said no.
The club’s sporting director, meanwhile, was more evasive. “Now is not the time to talk about that,” García Pitarch said. “Now we just have to say sorry to the fans.”
At the end of the game, Barcelona’s match day delegate Carlos Naval sought out the officials, had a word and came back with two match balls … one for Luis Suarez and one for Leo Messi, who’d both got hat-tricks. “Do you know how many goals you have this season?” Suárez was asked pitchside. The pause was a long one, before eventually he responded: “Erm … 35?”
35 in 34 games.
Jackson Martínez is off to China and he doesn’t look too happy about it. In fact, the pictures of him make him look downright miserable. As for Atletico they are delighted: he has been a failure at the club, far, far worse than anyone could have ever imagined. And, put bluntly, they can’t quite believe their luck: someone paid 42m for him and they made a profit. Maybe those six months weren’t a total waste of time, after all.
“Come on presidente, let us play: we’re not Maradona.” So said Espanyol’s Burgui in the build up to his team’s visit to the Bernabéu to face Real Madrid on Sunday night – the club that he and Marco Asensio belong to.
Madrid had imposed another of those clauses that stops loan players facing them and what followed felt somehow inevitable. It would have been even if they had been Maradona, in truth. Madrid scored 6, Ronaldo scored three. He quite likes Espanyol: he’s over 40% of his league goals against them this season.
Cristiano Ronaldo scored a hat-trick to take him level with Luis Suárez at the top of the Pichichi chart, the second of them, superb. He has 19 goals in the league, 42.1% of them against Espanyol.