Football News

Gary Neville names two rival managers who made him feel ‘totally out of his league’ at Valencia

By Mohamed Moallim

Published: 11:47, 28 March 2020

Former Manchester United defender Gary Neville has earmarked Ernesto Valverde and Diego Simeone as two coaches who made him feel out of his depth while managing Valencia.

The 45-year-old footballer-turned-pundit briefly stepped away from his television duties in December 2015 to manage the struggling La Liga outfit, owned by friend and business partner Peter Lim.

How did Gary Neville manage at Valencia? Five key things to know…

  • Matches: 28
  • W-D-L: 10-7-11
  • Goals-Conceded: 39-38
  • Biggest win: Valencia 6-0 Rapid Wien (Europa League)
  • Heaviest defeat: Barcelona 7-0 Valencia (Copa del Rey)

Lim turned to Neville in an hour of need after the resignation of Nuno Espírito Santo, but the co-owner of Salford City couldn’t galvanise Los Che and would step down after 119 days at the helm.

Neville, whose brother Phil was already coaching at the club, would ultimately oversee no fewer than 28 matches in all competitions, registering 10 wins and losing a further 11 times, including a humbling Copa del Rey semi-final first-leg 7-0 loss at Barcelona.

Since returning to punditry, the former Manchester United defender has stated on several occasions that he has no intention to ever return to management, with the Valencia experience undoubtedly scarring him.

In a recent conversation with Sky Sports colleague Geoff Shreeves, he would go into detail about his time in Spain’s top division, subsequently revealing former Barça coach Valverde – then coaching Athletic Bilbao – and Simeone were proof that he wasn’t cut out for this particular line of work.

He said: “There were a couple of games where I felt like I was up against coaches and thought, ‘I am totally out of my league here’.

“[One] was Ernesto Valverde, who went on to manage Barcelona from [Athletic] Bilbao. He changed system three times inside one game and he was always one step in front of me. I always felt like he was toying with me, like a little puppet. Honestly, I could feel it on the touchline. This is what inexperience feels like.

“I just thought, ‘you are one horrible so-and-so’.”

Elsewhere, Simeone gave Neville the impression he needed to be taught a “lesson” after having been offered such a prestigious role with so little experience.

Neville added: “And I remember being on the touchline against Atletico Madrid, and I felt like Simeone was strangling me gently throughout the game. It was 0-0 up to 60 minutes, and I felt like he put his hands around my neck after five minutes and he thought, ‘do you know something? I’ll just toy with you a little bit.’ He was almost torturing me, football-wise, over 90 minutes.

“And at the end of the game, I went to shake his hand and he just stormed off past me down the tunnel. To me, you always shake your fellow manager’s hands out of respect whatever happens. So I just thought, ‘you are one horrible so-and-so’.

“I admired that in his teams when I’d watch them, I’ve admired it since. His team represent him. His bench was all over the place during the match. They’re all screaming and shouting.

“[I don’t know] whether he’s like that anyway or whether he just thought, ‘I think I need to leave one on you, here. You need a lesson.'”