Koeman sacked in Valencia’s “night of the long knives”

April 22nd, 2008 - 12:48 pm ICT by admin  

Madrid, April 22 (DPA) Five days after winning the domestic cup, a football team should still be celebrating their triumph, basking in the warm memories - and looking forward to a bright future. Instead, Valencia are immersed in a massive crisis. On Monday, night sacked coach Ronald Koeman, who led them to a 3-1 cup final triumph against Getafe in Madrid last Wednesday. The final nail in Koeman’s coffin was Sunday’s 1-5 thrashing away to Athletic Bilbao, a defeat that leaves Valencia sixth from bottom in La Liga - and just two points above the relegation zone.

Koeman has been axed along with assistants Jose Mari Bakero and Toni Bruins Slot. Valencia will have to pay the trio off to the tune of around $18.99 million since they were all under contract until June 2010.

Also put to the sword on Valencia’s “Night of the Long Knives” is sporting director Miguel Angel Ruiz, the man who recommended that Koeman and company be brought in to replace Quique Sanchez Flores in October - when “Los Ches” were fourth in the league.

Taking over from Koeman on a caretaker basis, until the end of the season, will be former Valencia and Spain defender Voro (full name Salvador Gonzalez Marcos), assisted by former club goalkeeper Jose Manuel Ochotorena.

These controversial - and expensive - decisions were announced by club president Agustin Morera, who took over the presidency last month from the unpopular Juan Soler.

Valencia only really need, at the most, six or seven points from their last five games, to avoid the drop.

The favourite for the burning Valencia bench next season is Marcelino Garcia, doing so well at the moment for Racing Santander.

Taking over from Ruiz as sporting director will be Juan Sanchez, former striker for Valencia and Spain.

This “Night of the Long Knives” is just the latest episode in the most tumultuous season in Valencia’s 89-year history, a season that has seen the club lurch from disaster to triumph - and back to disaster again.

The season started with club president Soler appointing Ruiz to replace former club defender Amedeo Carboni as sporting director, after coach Sanchez Flores had forced Soler to choose between himself and Carboni.

At the same time, however, Soler - in charge since 2004 - pushed out all of Sanchez Flores’ assistants, making clear that his confidence in the coach was not unlimited.

Valencia started solidly in La Liga but poorly in the Champions League, and it was little surprise when Sanchez Flores was axed in October.

In came Koeman and company, at great expense. Instead of improving, however, the results got worse, to the chagrin of the ever-critical Mestalla crowd.

In December, he headed off a potential dressing-room revolt by announcing that veterans Santiago Canizares, David Albelda and Miguel Angel Angulo would never play for the club again.

This decision made him enormously unpopular, since the trio were the backbone of the most successful Valencia side ever - together with Carboni and Sanchez - from 2000 to 2004.

From then on the writing was on the wall for Koeman, despite unexpected success in the King’s Cup. He spent heavily on young midfielders Hedwiges Maduro and Ever Banega, but league results went from bad to worse.

Soler, meanwhile, was beginning to feel the heat and - with private security guards protecting his house and business around the clock - quit the presidency in March.

Soler is now trying to sell his shares in the club, but this looks like a difficult task given the turmoil in Valencia right now.

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