Barcelona 7 Valencia 0
Gary Neville insisted that he had no intention of resigning as Valencia manager after his side was hammered 7-0 at Camp Nou by Barcelona on Wednesday night – but the club's sporting director Suso Garcia Pitarch described it as "one of the worst results in our history" and evaded questions about the Englishman's future at Mestalla. Valencia are not expected to take a drastic decision.
Neville was asked three times if he was thinking of resigning after four goals from Luis Suarez and three from Lionel Messi saw his side fall to a semi-final first leg defeat in the Copa del Rey. He gave a one-word response to the first question, replying simply: "no." When the issue was raised again, with Neville asked if he would understand it if he was sacked, he responded: "next question". The third time, he replied: "Next question. I have answered that before. I think I was very clear.
“This was one of my most painful nights in football,” the former Manchester United full back revealed after Valencia were effectively knocked out even though there is a second leg to come at Mestalla next Wednesday night. It was not just that his side was defeated; it was that Barcelona could have beaten them by more than seven. Even the first-half sending off of Shkodran Mustafi was no excuse. Valencia were humiliated.
Neville admitted that had he been a pundit analysing his team’s performance he would have been “critical”, adding: “The scoreline is unacceptable. I have not enjoyed tonight. I won’t sleep well tonight. I didn’t like what I saw. The fans didn’t deserve that tonight. We have to recover incredibly quickly”. But he insisted that he would not throw in the towel, despite a difficult start to his managerial career.
“Positivity has been immovable in my life,” he said. “I last had doubts as a player 18 years ago and from that moment on I developed a mechanism to deal with situations like this. Be clear, we have to deliver on Sunday [against Real Betis].
Valencia have not won in 11 league games since Neville took over – the longest any side in La Liga has gone without a victory this season – and last weekend they lost 1-0 to Sporting Gijon at Mestalla, the first time they had been beaten at home in the league since 2014. The Copa del Rey had come as a welcome distraction – until Wednesday night.
Valencia had won four times under Neville in the competition, his only wins as manager in 15 games: against Second Division B side Barrakaldo, twice against Granada and then away at Las Palmas. Defeat only increases the pressure, even though the supporters’ anger has so far been directed more at the players and the boardroom than the manager.
The club’s Singaporean owner Peter Lim was not at Camp Nou but the president, Layhoon Chan, was watching from the directors’ box. Garcia Pitarch revealed afterwards that they he had spoken to her following the game and pushed by TV channel Canal Plus to confirm Neville’s continuity at the club, he was evasive.
“This isn’t a day to give any explanations and simply to recognise that we have done things very badly and we have to rectify it in any way we can,” Garcia Pitarch said. “We apologise to our fans for one of the worst days and one of the worst results in our history. Asked again, he responded: “Simply, we have to reflect [on this]internally.”
Garcia Pitarch was then asked if he had spoken to Peter Lim and whether the owner supported the manager. “I speak with Lay Hoon every day, I don’t normally speak with Peter Lim,” the sporting director replied. “We have had a meeting to see what our reflections were on the game. These are internal reflections [to be made] inside the club and there are many things to evaluate. Today is the worst day to try to give explanations. Our fans don’t deserve a result like this.”
He added: “We know what we have to do. We know the situation the club is in is difficult. We have to reflect internally whilst recognising we have caused tremendous disappointment to our fans.”