Anil Murthy pauses for a moment before summing up that fateful day in March when LaLiga was brought to a halt by the coronavirus pandemic.
“It was a grade 10 earthquake, no one was prepared, society or football not,” he said Sportsmail this week.
‘It hit us before, but we responded by closing in March. Nobody knew what was going to happen. ‘
Valencia’s president Anil Murthy reflected on the impact of the coronavirus pandemic
Carlos Soler (center) led a revolution of first-team Academy players
Sales fell 50 percent as fans were kept out of their Mestalla Stadium
Murthy, the Valencia club president who acts as a middleman for the players and owner Peter Lim, faced issues that needed to be resolved immediately.
What will happen to sponsors? Is the TV deal void? How are salaries paid without the earnings on match days from supporters in their Mestalla stadium?
In the blink of an eye, Valencia’s sales fell dramatically from € 200m (£ 180m) to € 100m (£ 90m). Murthy, who can now show off with a wry smile with Valencia in a much more stable position, had to make some big decisions.
There was a section of supporters who objected to some of those decisions, most notably the decision to sell five players from the first team.
Dani Parejo (left) and Francis Coquelin (right) were prominent departures for Villarreal
Ferran Torres (left) moved to Manchester City while Rodrigo Moreno (right) moved to Leeds
Dani Parejo and Francis Coquelin moved to Villarreal, Rodrigo moved to Leeds, and savvy winger Ferran Torres moved to Manchester City.
Geoffrey Kondogbia criticized Murthy on social media and his dressing room relationship had soured before he left for Atletico Madrid, which hosts Valencia on Saturday at the Mestalla.
Club officials were being followed across town by a mariachi band, ultras were outraged at the lack of newcomers, and new boss Javi Gracia had concerns about their ability to compete.
The top five sales again proved to be a major point of conversation with international media gathered during a Zoom call with Murthy. But when asked whether the departure was regrettable, whether Valencia was worse off, Murthy was defiant.
“I don’t think we’ve sold our best players, that’s number one,” he said.
“We sold players for the very simple reason that we saw sales fall from € 200 million to € 100 million. If you don’t sell players, you have no money to pay salaries, pay debts, pay service providers who help the club function. I repeat, we have not sold the best players, they are still with us. ‘
Geoffrey Kondogbia faced Valencia on Saturday after he left for Atletico Madrid
Murthy’s mind is never far from March when he admits he was ‘scared’ of LaLiga with so much uncertainty.
Many clubs rely almost exclusively on money from the TV deal and so with the remaining negotiations on rebates and possible early termination, it was a time of real danger.
“What shocked the world when we stopped was that no one understood,” he added. What were the protocols for returning to training? Everything started all over again.
‘I think everything was handled exceptionally well. It hit us like a storm, but LaLiga and all the clubs responded very well.
“It was pretty scary at the time, because any little thing you didn’t solve then could sink the ship.”
LaLiga president Javier Tebas told Marca this month that there is likely a € 500 million black hole that needs to be filled to complete the season, but Murthy is more optimistic now than he was eight months ago.
Murthy emphasizes that the tight finances have allowed the club to focus more on their Academy
“I am more optimistic now than in March because we have more experience,” he said. “LaLiga has set up so many structures to deal with emergencies.”
There’s an excitement about Murthy as the conversation turns from sales to those who benefit from it, namely those in the Academy.
Yunus Musah, formerly of Arsenal’s youth academy, is a revelation stepping into the first team, but there have been others.
Against Getafe last month, there were seven academy players in the starting XI and in the win over Real Madrid, it was those from the youth rankings who put Zinedine Zidane’s champions to the sword.
Today the academy feeds a strong identity for the club. I call it Project Academy, ”said Murthy.
Javi Gracia has put faith in young players and he has been rewarded with great performances
‘What are we trying to deal with in the longer term? We want to use the academy to nurture identity and philosophy. We want at least seven academy players in the first team. This situation has given us the opportunity to do something that we have wanted to do for years. ‘
There is no Champions League, or even Europa League football this year, but there is real optimism that the tide is turning in Valencia.
The kids come forward to fill the void of those wrapped up this summer.
Atletico’s turn, and as their city rivals have learned, Project Academy isn’t a pushover on the Mestalla this season.