Valencia: Europe's new crisis club

Its more anodyne English counterpart is "when it rains, it pours." In Valencia right now, there is a downpour of pregnant grannies.

Senior players hear from reporters that they will never play for the club again. The man making this decision is the third to sit in the dugout at Mestalla this season, and, according to the Spanish, looks far too much like Tintin to take seriously. Big name players are upset at not receiving the captaincy. One of the summer's expensive strikers played right-back in a game in which the team couldn't even beat bottom-placed Levante at home. One young, talented and expensive midfielder has been shipped out on loan just five months after joining for off the pitch misdemeanours. His replacement is a younger, just as talented and just as expensive South American who has a penchant for wrecking hotels and filming himself with no clothes on and posting it on the web. Welcome to Valencia.

Barely a week into 2008, there is a predictable air of disaster and uncertainty at Valencia - a club which spends like a Champions League team but performs like an Intertoto has-been. With another season already written off by Christmas, the club decided to bring in another big name.

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Ever Banega was Fernando Gago's successor in midfield at Boca Juniors. Yet while Gago went on to win the league title in his first six months with Real Madrid, no-one is daft enough to think that Banega will follow in his footsteps. The 19 year-old has walked into a club for who 'crisis' is a permanent state of being. And the latest scandal to engulf Mestalla is of Banega and Valencia's making.

First of all the business side, which is of Valencia's doing. Real Madrid included an option to buy Banega with the Gago deal 12 months ago, but this didn't prevent Valencia, or Boca, agreeing an 18 million euro figure for the midfielder. At the time of writing Banega may be training with the club, but he has yet to sign his contract as this issue is resolved.

Secondly is the issue of the player's indiscipline, and not the two-footed kind. It is something that is fresh in the supporter's minds. Portuguese midfielder Manuel Fernandes has just been off-loaded for the rest of the season after spending a night in jail for an alleged fracas with an off-duty policeman. Fernandes cost Valencia around 15 million euros and made just five starts for the club since his summer move. Banega, meanwhile, was involved in the Argentinian under-20 squad trashing a hotel last summer. Valencia winger Joaquin, meanwhile, shouted out a "Nooooooo!" when he heard about Banega's more recent conduct - filming himself in a very private act and posting the video on the internet.

Once this particular storm has washed over, however, it will be time once again to focus on Valencia's miserable season. Ronald Koeman took over in November, after Quique Sanchez Flores lead the team to fourth in the league but not playing 'well enough' and all but out of the Champions League. Oscar Fernandez oversaw a 5-1 drubbing at the hands of Real Madrid and a 2-0 win in Mallorca before handing over to the former Barcelona legend.

Since taking over Koeman has just one league win to his credit, from seven games. "Despite the result," he said after a drab goalless draw with Levante last weekend, "I think we are improving."

He is the only man who believes it.

Valencia have not won in their last six league games and taken three points from a possible 18. What is worse for the high-maintenance Valencia supporters, Koeman has no idea what is his strongest team. He has used 25 players since November, and this included three different goalkeepers and putting the striker Javier Arizmendi at right back.

Koeman may not know his favoured started eleven, but he knows who he does not want. The two club captains David Albelda and Santi Canizares were informed that they will not be selected to play for the club anymore.

"It is for the good of the club," Koeman announced. "He doesn't have the credentials to humiliate me like this," retorted Albelda. Miguel Angel Angulo has since been added to the list of scapegoats.

Without a leader on the pitch, the Dutch coach has also now upset Vicente by snubbing him the captaincy.

"I would have loved to captain the team," the left winger told reporters, "but you have to respect the coach's choice."

Right now, however, there are more pressing issues at Valencia. Juan Soler has not been seen at Mestalla for a month as the president is subjected to all kinds of abuse when he attends a home game. The ill-feeling towards Soler was not helped by the news that he was on holiday in Mallorca for his club's first league match of 2008. His days may be numbered.

Whatever the next months bring at Valencia, it may not be fun for Valencia fans, but for the rest of us it is compulsive viewing. Expect the deluge to last.

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