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Derby Week: Q and A with Paco Polit about Villarreal vs Valencia

A big match for both clubs in the Derbi de la Comunitat.

Atletico de Madrid v Villarreal CF - La Liga Santander Photo by Diego Souto/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

Today we have the genuine pleasure of being joined by Paco Polit, (@pacopolitENG) journalist with La Liga Lowdown , expert on all things Valencian Community football, and fan of Valencia CF. We talk about the ownership controversy surrounding the club, Dani Parejo, this week’s match, and more.

1. I wanted to start out by just giving you free reign to sound off on Meriton Holdings. They promised signings, they didn’t deliver any. What has their leadership done to your club?

They’ve run it to the ground. Plain and simple. Obviously my two cents on Valencia CF’s predicament won’t add earth-shattering elements to what already can be seen by all the football community: the club is in absolute shambles, a mind-bloggling dumpster fire being managed by a largest shareholder (Peter Lim) and a president (Anil Murthy) who have destroyed what both CEO Mateu Alemany and coach Marcelino García Toral took to soaring heights in May 2019. After conquering that Copa del Rey trophy against Barça, Valencia fans have had to endure blow after blow after blow product of appalling decision-making, ill-advised planning and overall lack of respect to what football both represents and demands. This year’s turmoil began early, as coach Javi Gracia landed last summer under the promise of rebuilding a squad which was going to see many top players go. And oh boy did they go: up to 8 important players (Parejo, Rodrigo, Ferran, Coquelin...) left or were sold, whereas no single replacement came in the transfer market. That’s why Javi Gracia wanted to resign in the first days of October, with five games already being played, and he wasn’t able to leave because a penalization clause in his contract. That’s Meriton Holdings’ VCF in a nutshell: kicking out people and players who wanted to stay and make the club great, and keeping against their will professionals who feel cheated and disenchanted with the way the club is managed.

2. Despite the owners, Javi Gracia has this team sitting on seven points through five games, what do you think about the job he’s done at Valencia?

Overarchieving through and through. Valencia haven’t been the better team in any of the five games played to date. They came out alive at home vs Huesca when they deserved to lose, they only beat Levante in MD1 after crucial subs made by Gracia in the second half... 7 out of 15 is great if we consider the way the team has played.

3. What have you made of Dani Parejo’s early performances at Villarreal?

He’s always had trouble starting every single season because of his particular set of physical traits. He never gets injured because of his physique, but at the same time he lacks the explosiveness and pacing other players have from the get go. He’s adapting to another side after 9 years playing with familiar faces around, so he’ll come around and improve as the season progresses.

4. Realistically, what are your goals for this season as a Valencia fan?

Realistically, everything above 8th or 7th would be a huge success in my book.

5. Despite the fire sale this summer, Valencia still probably has the best current Spanish left back in Jose Gaya. For those who don’t know much about him, what makes him so special?

His drive to always keep improving. He started as a left-winger in his early years and only began playing regularly as a left back the season before he was promoted to the first team (summer 2014). His focus was purely defending and, even though he struggled because of his lack of height, became a very reliable left-back. But under Marcelino he slowly unleashed his potential also when attacking, making him one of the best LBs in Europe and hands-down the best right now in Spain.

6. Valencia still has bright young talents in Kang-in Lee, Hugo Guillamon, and others. How would you describe the club’s future outlook? Do you think the ownership will let these players stay and grow at the club?

Frankly, I don’t really know. The youth policy with Meriton is trying the people to ‘buy’ comes really out of pure necessity, it wasn’t a real plan back in the day. Promoting youngsters is the cheap way of rebuilding, and that’s why they’re doing it. The belief in the youth can be seen in the inability to extend Ferran Torres’ contract, for example. Or selling Paco Alcácer back in the day. If there was a real youth policy, the team would be built around those type of players.

7. You’re an expert on football in the Valencian Community. What is unique about football in this part of Spain that has allowed it to produce four separate La Liga teams?

There are a number of reasons. The sun, incredibly, is one of them: the whole region enjoys an excellent climate around 95% of the year, which makes it very attractive to go outside and play some football. Plenty of youth academies and clubs have kept popping up in the last few decades, we’re talking around a thousand clubs or schools nowadays. It’s an evergreen place for talent to be fostered and improved. Elche’s promotion came out of nowhere, but it was incredibly well received because their struggle in the last five seasons has been huge. Villarreal is already one of the big ones alongside Valencia, while Levante are now in the middle of a big restyling of their ground. Football in our region is in a great place nowadays, indeed!

8. Score prediction for the derby?

Never underestimate Valencia, even though I see Villarreal as a better team. Possibly goals, possibly ups-and-downs. I’d settle for a 2-2.

Final Thoughts

We certainly want to thank Paco, again, for taking the time to speak with us. Despite his loyalty to Valencia he has always been fair-minded and complimentary to Villarreal in his work as a journalist, and that sticks out to me. Throughout this entire crisis with the ownership he has remained loyal to his club and the players and managers of it above the leadership that is running his club into the ground and in my book that speaks very well of him. While certainly hoping for a win this Sunday, for the sake of fans like Paco I do hope Valencia keep things together and doesn’t have to battle relegation all season.