When Nuno Espirito Santo announced his resignation last Sunday night, reports said that assistant manager Phil Neville would take over as the club’s manager in an interim role. It wasn’t to be. Instead, and surprisingly, it was his brother Gary to take over in a permanent role.
It comes as a surprise to many. But not a major surprise to some. The Neville brothers are business partners of Valencia’s owner, Peter Lim, who also owns half of Salford City alongside the Class of ’92.
Singaporean Lim obviously more than impressed with Neville’s approach to football. The former Manchester United right-back was a fiery and passionate individual with strong leadership skills. His knowledge on the game made him arguably Sky Sports’ most prominent pundit.
It all seems to fit so perfectly. But it is a major gamble from both parties.
— Valencia CF (@valenciacf) December 2, 2015
There are obviously doubts about a man taking over a massive club in his first job, with no experience and halfway through a season in a foreign country. It is said David Moyes’ lack of learning the local language cost him the results, which led to his dismissal at Real Sociedad. British managers don’t always do well abroad. Phil would be well aware of this. There will be serious questions asked if results don’t go well. The 40-year old former England international would be forgiven if he rang his former boss Alex Ferguson for advice. In fact, it’s probably advised.
Phil Neville is facing a huge challenge. In a league where only Barcelona and Real Madrid largely dominate, it will take some doing to do what Diego Simeone achieved and get his side, Atlético Madrid, ahead of them. But there’s far bigger challenges than that. On and off the pitch. Neville will hope to take a leaf out of the late Bobby Robson’s book, as opposed to David Moyes.
Follow Rob Smith on Twitter (@robsmithireland)