By Ben Hayward | Spanish Football Writer
When Valencia meet Paris Saint-Germain in the last 16 of the Champions League on Tuesday, there will be envious glances from the Spanish side at their nouveau-riche rivals.
Valencia reached the final of the Champions League in 2000 and 2001, part of an exciting era which also saw the Costa Blanca club claim La Liga in 2002 and 2004. But such successes are merely fading flickers in the memory at Mestalla these days.
Plunged deep in debt and forced to sell their best players year-in, year-out (including Spain stars David Villa, Juan Mata, David Silva and Jordi Alba all since 2010), Valencia's current crop can compete only in one-off matches against the top teams, while today's target is simply stability - to remain among La Liga's first four sides in order to seal qualification for the Champions League each year. At the moment, it's just about all they can hope for.
Valencia owe around €225 million to the banks, while their total debt sits at €360m. On top of that, the club is now officially owned by the Gobierno Valenciano, Spain's third-poorest autonomous government and one which cannot even afford to pay many teachers or nurses. Needless to say, their financial involvement in a football club (thought to be unique in world football) has not gone down well and if any side in Spain mirrors the country's current bleak economic crisis, it is Valencia.
Plans for the club had been ambitious, with a state-of-the-art stadium sanctioned to see the side flex their muscles alongside Europe's elite, but the end of February will mark four years since work on the notorious Nou Mestalla was halted. Valencia had originally secured a deal to pay off debts with the future sale of their current Mestalla home, thereby wiping off the €225m owed to the banks and allowing extra credit to continue construction of the new ground, but stricken Bankia was bailed out by the government and the nationalisation of the Spanish lender last year saw the agreement scrapped. Building work on the Nou Mestalla was therefore never resumed.
Valencia's current crisis
|3||The top players likely to be sold if the club cannot seal a top-four spot in La Liga this season|
|7||The Spain stars sold to raise funds since 2010: Villa, Silva, Mata, Isco, Alba, Joaquin and Marchena|
|25||Valencia will miss out on around €25m if they do not qualify for next season's Champions League|
|225||The millions of euros owed by Valencia to the banks, which has halted the work on the Nou Mestalla|
|360||The club's total debt sits at a massive €360m.|
In terms of income, Valencia are the third-richest Spanish side. Figures released by Deloitte last month showed earnings of over €110m in 2011-12, with €48m coming from television money alone. However, the Costa Blanca club raised less than €25m in terms of merchandising and the €3.5m in shirt sponsorship from Chinese energy company Vinko pales in comparison with Atletico Madrid's €20m deal with Kazakhstan.
Atletico are currently flying high in La Liga and won last season's Europa League, but in terms of trophies, history, fanbase and income, Valencia are still Spain's third team, sitting eighth in Uefa's club coefficients and 21st in terms of finances throughout Europe. The city itself is the third-largest in the Iberian country, while the new 75,000-seater stadium will - if ever completed - be on a par with any other ground in Europe. The potential, then, is huge, yet the club has been unable to exploit their commercial clout in recent years and, following a poor start to the season, now faces a real battle to stay in the top four this term.
Fail to do so and Valencia will lose out on €25m of income for qualifying for the Champions League, which will likely lead to the sale of several stars in a squad already thin in terms of marketable assets. If that were to happen, three first-team footballers would almost certainly need to be sold, with star striker Roberto Soldado and maverick midfielder Ever Banega perhaps among them.
There are no such troubles for Paris Saint-Germain these days. The French side's economic situation has never been so good. Since Qatar Sports Investments took control of the capital club last year, pumping in over €300m already, PSG's money troubles have now been confined to the past and the aim of Sheik Tamim is to turn the team into the finest in the whole of Europe. As part of the plan, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Thiago Silva and, more recently, David Beckham have been brought in.
Valencia can only dream of such signings. That dream, however, could yet become a reality. The Spanish side are actively seeking a new investor to wipe out the current deficit and take the club to a new level, although potential buyers have expressed concern at the financial mismanagement of the club by the board, which has seen debts mount despite decent income, while one of the country's finest young talents, Isco, was inexplicably allowed to slip from their grasp as he moved to Malaga in 2011 for €6m. The young midfielder had barely featured for Valencia, but is now worth in excess of €20m.
"Before the arrival of QSI, PSG was much like Valencia, a fallen giant economically and sportingly. Between 2009 and 2011, the club had big losses, losses that went over €45 million," explains Goal.com France's Hocine Harzoune.
PSG will continue to spend in the coming seasons, but will need to justify their outlay in the light of the forthcoming Financial Fair Play regulations. "The owners planned to spend €500 million in five years but Gianni Infantino, Uefa's General Secretary, will keep an eye on them," Hocine adds.
|"Before the arrival of QSI, PSG was much like Valencia, a fallen giant economically and sportingly"
- Hocine Harzoune, Goal.com France
"The days of poverty are over, of course, but the threat today is more about opaque fundings and non-transparent deals like the one between PSG and the Qatar Tourism Authority which brings between €150-200 million a year to the Paris club. Today. PSG is among the 46 European teams that fail to fulfil the FFP moral contract demanded by Uefa."
Valencia are another and the Spaniards' situation is much more critical. In order to attract a wealthy investor, the club must ensure they continue to qualify for the Champions League and retain their top talents. If they can do so, while reducing debts and eventually recommencing work on their flash new stadium, all of the potential is there for a potential buyer, including a spectacular city described by The Lonely Planet as the world's fifth-finest metropolis in 2011.
On the pitch, the club are improving under Ernesto Valverde and will aim to claim fourth spot behind Barcelona, Atletico and Real Madrid in La Liga, in order to keep their stars and boost the club coffers with much-needed funds, while they can also make a statement in Europe by beating PSG. More importantly, however, they will hope to follow the French route and attract a big buyer in the near future - or face a future of obscurity and uncertainty in mid-table.