Football

Coach Pako: Valencia will bounce back

Manager Ayestaran vows to put things right for the Peter Lim-owned club

Despite finishing 12th in a disappointing season, Valencia manager Pako Ayestaran feels his La Liga side, owned by Singaporean billionaire Peter Lim, can do a Leicester to rebound and win the Spanish league title next season.

In a press conference at the Singapore Sports Institute yesterday afternoon, the 53-year-old Spaniard said: "It's possible, but there are less opportunities than in the past because the difference between the big ones and the others is getting bigger and bigger than 10 or 15 years ago. 

"It is a great achievement for Leicester and they have done it probably because they have done great work during the season and they probably worked through the wire.

"To win the league in Spain, we have to beat Barcelona and Real Madrid but, in the Premier League, they have four or five teams like Manchester City, Chelsea, Liverpool, Arsenal and Manchester United, so it (underdogs like Leicester winning the EPL) is something that is not going to happen in the next 100 years."

For a club who won two of their six La Liga titles, qualified for two Champions League finals this millennium and finished fourth last term, finishing in the bottom half and 47 points adrift of champions Barcelona this season must be considered a failure.

Admirably, Ayestaran, Los Che's third manager in just six months after Nuno Espirito Santo and Gary Neville parted ways with the club after being unable to stem their slide down the league table, did not shy away from calling a spade a spade.

At least, there appears to be some semblance of stability with Ayestaran's presence at the presser seemingly indicating that he will be trusted to take the team into the new season.

The 53-year-old did not wade into the debate of whether the appointment of the inexperienced Neville was a mistake to begin with and he, who won the 2005 Champions League as assistant to Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez, vowed to put things right.

He said: "I have been the manager for just the last three months. Whatever that has happened, we have to analyse.

"If you are able to critique yourself when you succeed, you are able to sustain your success.

"In this case, when you have failed, probably there have been things you haven't done the right way.

"But, of course, there will be many things you can rescue from the season. The mistake you can make when you have failed is you think that every thing that has been done is not useful.

"So you have to be able to analyse and that is something the club are doing now, for sure."

MATCH FOR THE BIG GUNS

Ayestaran can also take comfort from the fact that despite an underwhelming finish, Valencia have shown that on their day, they are a match for the big guns in the league.

They were unbeaten against champions Barcelona with a 1-1 draw at the Mestalla and a 2-1 win at the Nou Camp, while also managing to hold Real Madrid to a 1-1 draw at home this season.

Club legend Gaizka Mendieta said: "Always learn from your mistakes. With too many changes and new managers, the team didn't seem to have continuity and consistency, and the results didn't arrive.

"(Peter Lim) seems to have the right vision and the resources, and the way they are working seems to be the right one." 

Former Valencia captain and two-time La Liga winner David Albelda added: "Peter Lim has the opportunity this year to make a big team because now the team aren't good.

"Valencia need to change their defence and it's very important to buy the new players and to sell the old ones."

- ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY AQIL HAZIQ MAHMUD

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