In a twist that few saw coming, Gary Neville has been appointed as the new Valencia head coach until the end of the season. The former Manchester United defender has left his role at Sky as a pundit with immediate effect to take up his new role in Spain. He replaces the outgoing Nuno Espirito Santo who resigned as manager on Sunday following Valencia’s 1-0 defeat to Seville which left them ninth in La Liga. Gary wont be in the dugout for this weekend’s crunch match with Barcelona but there will be one Neville who is. His brother Phil, who was assistant to Nuno since the summer before his resignation will take temporary charge before handing the reins over to his older brother on Sunday ahead of their Champions League match against Lyon next Wednesday. It has been confirmed that Phil will stay at the club beyond that point as part of Gary’s backroom staff but which role that will be has yet to be announced.
Since retiring, Gary has been working both as a pundit for Sky Sports and as assistant manager to Roy Hodgson in the England setup. Neville had been gaining rave reviews for his stint at Sky with many seeing the former defender in a new light. He appeared to have found his calling with some smart insights and analysis for Sky’s Monday Night Football show but his ambitions to coach and eventually manage led t him leaning back towards the training ground. After picking up his UEFA A and B coaching licences, Gary was appointed to Hodgson’s backroom team in 2012 along with Ray Lewington and goalkeeping coach Dave Watson in what has now been described as a shrewd move by the England boss with many tipping Neville to step up and replace him full time as manager. But the draw of club management meant that Neville was always on the look out and when Valencia came calling it was too good an offer to turn down.
The shock decision to appoint Gary Neville to the role happened shortly after Nuno handed in his notice. Club president Layhoon Chan led the negotiations with Neville but it was the influence of Valencia’s owner Peter Lim that was the key driver in his selection. Singaporean businessman Lim has forged a good personal relationship with the Neville brothers after becoming involved in the brothers pet project with home town club Salford City. The semi professional club which plays in the Northern Premier League Premier Division was acquired by five members of the famous Manchester United class of ’92 in the summer of 2014. Along with the Neville brothers, Nicky Butt, Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs bought the club with the ambition to get them to Championship level football within fifteen years. All five had an equal share of 20% in the club until they agreed to bring Peter Lim into the fold as a majority shareholder of 50%, dropping their ownership down to 10% each. Lim’s arrival brought business acumen and money into the club which was much need on both accounts. When Lim acquired Valencia last year, he was instrumental in Phil Neville moving too Spain to work under Nuno and has now played a significant role in persuading Gary to do the same as well.
Whether Gary will be a success in Spain is yet to be seen but it could be a costly decision for Lim if he isn’t. Lim’s existing relationship with Neville could have clouded his judgment somewhat in the appointment which may end up putting the future of Valencia in La Liga in jeopardy. However Neville inherits a strong squad including former Manchester City striker Alvaro Negredo, Algerian international Sofiane Feghouli and the exciting Argentine youngster Rodrigo De Paul who he will hope to get the best out of. Neville is a strong coach and brings a lot of knowledge of the game from his playing days at Manchester United under Sir Alex Ferguson and his England days under several different coaches including Fabio Capello, Glenn Hoddle, Terry Venables and Seven Goran Eriksson. He has also confirmed that he will stay on as assistant to Hodgson who will continue to act as a mentor to the first time manager throughout the rest of the Spanish season. He has learned from the best during a glittering playing career and now has to use that knowledge as he embarks on the next chapter of his career as a football manager.