Having spent the best part of 20 years at Manchester United, Gary Neville called time on an extremely successful playing career in 2011. For a lot of players, retirement signals the end of their involvement in the game, but this simply hasn’t been the case for the former England international.
A busy few years
Before taking the manager’s job at Valencia last month, Neville had worked for Sky Sports since the 2011-12 season. He performed different tasks whilst he was there, from commentary to punditry, and his vastly improved knowledge of the game as a result is clear for all to see.
He managed to combine that with a coaching role under Roy Hodgson at England and if that wasn’t enough, in 2014 Neville became a co-owner of non-league club Salford City. As a ramification of all the things he has done over the past four or five years, Neville’s appreciation of all facets of the game has come on leaps and bounds.
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Putting the club before himself
It would have been very easy for Neville to put his own personal success ahead of the long-term health of Valencia in what is his first managerial role. After all, the Spanish club have a demanding set of fans, a squad containing nine players under the age of 23 and Neville’s reputation is firmly on the line.
Most managers in his situation would’ve requested that the club spend heavily in the current transfer window on experienced players. Instead, Neville has placed his focus on developing the existing youth talent at the club.
What has Neville done behind the scenes?
Like most newly appointed managers do, Neville could've brought his own backroom staff to the Mestalla and turned the structure of the club upside down. However, the 40-year-old Englishman opted to promote Miguel Angel Angulo, an academy coach, to work with the first-team on a daily basis as the assistant coach.
Salvador Gonzalez ‘Voro’ already worked closely with Valencia’s players before Neville’s arrival and he helps the former United defender to overcome the language barrier. Better still, in his brother Phil Neville, Gary has someone by his side who he can confide in and who can help to get his message across more effectively.
Neville prefers to talk to the players in small groups of three or four as opposed to the whole squad. This has meant that players like Shkodran Mustafi, who can both understand and speak English, have acted as an invaluable means of communication between Neville and his team.
Valencia produce real talent
In recent memory, the likes of David Silva, Juan Mata and Spain’s all-time leading scorer David Villa have rose to fame at Valencia. Los Che had to sell those calibre of players in order to stay in existence but nowadays the club’s financial situation is much better. In Jose Gaya, Andre Gomes and lethal striker Paco Alcacer, Neville will be coaching some talented youngsters who genuinely have the potential to be world-class in a few years time.
There’s no doubting that G. Neville is an ambitious man and he feels that a side of Valencia’s stature should be challenging for a top four place in La Liga as well as enjoying a long run in a cup competition. Neville hopes that his six-month stint will help to bring stability to a club that has had 15 coaches in 14 years.
So far so good
What has impressed me the most about Neville is his fearless attitude towards this new adventure and his full commitment to his new job. He lost his first game in charge against Lyon, but has since registered two Copa del Rey victories and three points in La Liga which included a fantastic draw against giants Real Madrid.
Neville’s temperament, humility and footballing knowledge suggests to me that he has what it takes to lead Valencia to success this season, and who knows where that could take him thereafter.
Can Neville lead Valencia to a top four finish in La Liga? Give YOUR opinion in the comment box below!