"Valencia Revolution" sees ousting of Canizares and Albelda
Valencia coach Ronald Koeman stunned Spanish football on Tuesday afternoon.
19 December 2007
MADRID - Valencia coach Ronald Koeman stunned Spanish football on Tuesday afternoon by announcing, in effect, that veterans Santiago Canizares and David Albelda would not play again for the club.
Koeman made this astonishing announcement almost as an afterthought, after reading out his squad for Wednesday's cup match against third division Irun.
The Dutch coach - who took over in November in chaotic circumstances - would only say that the pair of veterans would not be in his cup squad nor in his squad for Sunday's league match away to Zaragoza.
When asked if this meant that he would never pick them again, he answered "we shouldn't talk about that now, at the moment it is for the two games, then there will be time to think about the future."
Koeman added that "these are decisions that are taken for a reason, I want to change things and to give opportunities to other players."
Koeman - who denied that he'd had any problems with the two veterans either in the dressing-room or on the training-ground - then pointed out that he had made his decision known to embattled club president Juan Soler.
"These are strong decisions," he said, "with which the president is in agreement. I don't see any problem just because they are important players."
When asked if his decision would be unpopular, Koeman replied "Maybe. There are people who are going to criticise me and people who are going to be in agreement with me, but you just have to accept it because life is like that. I am going down my path, which is the path of changing things, the future will tell if I am wrong."
Indeed it will.
The decision to leave out Canizares and Albelda, almost certainly forever, will condition Koeman's entire future at Valencia.
If he manages to build a strong new team without them then he will be hailed as a hero, as a man strong enough to take unpopular decisions when necessary.
But if his troubled team continues to turn in ridiculous, depressing display - as in Saturday's 0-3 meltdown against Barcelona - then Koeman will soon be run out of town as the man who threw out the two veterans just when Valencia needed them most.
Canizares and Albelda are two of the most popular, and successful, players in the club's history. Now they will both be planning to leave in the January transfer "window".
What makes the timing of Koeman's decision even more controversial is that Tuesday is Canizares' 38th birthday.
He will go down in Valencia history as the club's greatest ever keeper, the man whose authority between the posts guided the club to the 2002 and 2004 Liga titles, plus the UEFA Cup and the European Supercup in 2004.
Canizares, who joined Valencia from Real Madrid in 1998, captured the hearts of all "valencianistas" - and of many neutrals too - with his tears of frustration and impotence after losing the 2001 Champions Cup final to Bayern Munich on penalties.
The eclipse of Canizares could turn out to be a window of opportunity for Timo Hildebrand, rumoured on Tuesday to be considering a January move to Wolfsburg out of frustration at being on the bench.
Albelda was even more of an idol for the fans than Canizares - the Captain Marvel during the glory years of 2002-2004, the local boy who refused to listen to offers from Real and Barcelona, the indefatigable leader in the middle, the hard man that ever successful team needs.
Pulling down the curtain on Canizares and Albelda is not only a massive gamble for Koeman but also for Soler.
Valencia have won absolutely nothing since Soler bought his way to the presidency in 2004, with his father's construction millions.
Valencia are currently seventh in La Liga, having not won or even scored for five matches, and already out of Europe, having finished bottom in their Champions League group.
At the end of practically every home game this season, and especially on Saturday, the fans have been chanting for Soler's head.
They will surely continue to do so unless Koeman's "Valencia Revolution" brings a change in results - and quickly.
[Copyright dpa 2007]
Subject: Spanish news