Gary Neville has hit the lowest point of his Spanish adventure at Valencia. On Sunday 7 February, "Los Murciélagos" lost to Real Betis, a result which leaves the Englishman on the ropes, with supporters and the press against him.
"You should not laugh at us," some fans told the former Manchester United defender after the game, as shown in a video released by Spanish newspaper ABC.
The ex-England international's players have not won a single La Liga game since his arrival and the statistics paint a gloomy image since he was appointed as new coach of Valencia in December 2015: Five draws, four defeats and no victories after nine games. Since his arrival, Valencia have the worst form of any La Liga side. Their only possible salvation was dashed in the form of the Copa del Rey humiliation by Barcelona, a 7-0 thrashing.
Despite drawing with Real Madrid and a change in style, his tenure has been disappointing. Neville said in his first press conference: "Whatever happens in this next five months, people will want to put the word failure and success at the end of this, but I will put the words 'experience' and 'lessons' at the end of it." He may be forced to add several other words to define his tenure of torment.
Among them, "relegation" or maybe "joke", the language word chosen by Yaya Toure's agent, Dimitry Seluk, to define Neville as a manager could be able definitions. "He is a great person but a joke as a manager," the representative said. "My tip is: you should return to television as a pundit. You did not speak well about Yaya, and now it seems obvious that is easier to speak rather than put ideas into practice. Peter Lim gave him the chance to show his skills as a manager, to show how good his tactics were and now he is not able to win a single match."
According to Spanish publication Cadena Ser, Neville will survive being sacked while the United legend has insisted he won't resign as manager. However, he knows he needs to win as soon as possible or his adventure will reach to an end. Valencia, who began the season in the Champions League, are just four points above relegation zone. Twelve years ago, Celta Vigo got relegated months after playing in Europe's premier club competition so even though it might sound impossible, Neville's side must step up to remain in the Spanish top flight.
Linked to Neville's disastrous tenure at Valencia is David Moyes' spell with Real Sociedad, where he won just two La Liga matches. During Moyes' tenure, Real Sociedad averaged 0.81 points per game this season, whereas his successor, Eusebio Sacristán, has been able to win 1.36 points per game – a run which has included meetings with Barcelona, Real Madrid, Villarreal and Sevilla. Sociedad are vastly improved since ditching the long ball tactics of the Scot.
Nuno Espirito Santo, Gary Neville's predecessor, averaged 1.46 points per game this season; a poor record taking into account that a top four finish was among Valencia's goals this season. However, they dwarf the 0.55 points per game averaged during the Neville era.
This leads to a deeper debate: why are British managers are unable to succeed at Spain? Is the language barrier so important? Real Sociedad's defender Carlos Martínez said recently: "At least, now we understand Eusebio. What was unbelievable about David Moyes is that he was here for over a year and he did not learn a single word of Spanish." But if the language barrier is so important, why did Mauricio Pochettino, for instance, stand out at Southampton while having to use a translator?
The reason may be linked with Premier League's poor adaptation to tactical revolution, which is led by Spanish football. The English Premier League is arguably the best in the world; the wealthiest certainly and is among the best supported while being bathed in history. But, and recent results in European competitions reinforce this idea, they have not been able to combine performances with results.
This might be emphasised by the arrival of Pep Guardiola at Manchester City. He should be the standard-bearer of a change in British football. Meanwhile, Everton's Roberto Martínez, Middlesbrough's Aitor Karanka and Watford's Quique Sánchez Flores – considered low profile managers in Spain – are doing their part before the Bayern Munich manager moves to Etihad Stadium.