It seems like an eternity since Rafa Benitez had Valencia CF breaking up the dominance of Real Madrid and Barcelona in La Liga. Replacing Héctor Cúper as manager at the Mestalla in 2001, with hindsight it is difficult to believe he was actually the club’s fourth choice option after Javier Irureta, Mané and Luis Aragonés all turned the job down.
The exciting and talented team led by Benítez was hungry for silverware and over the space of three seasons, Valencia secured two La Liga titles and also achieved success on the continental stage, beating Marseille in the 2004 UEFA Cup final. During this period, it genuinely looked like Los Che were heading into a golden era. One which could have seen the club regularly claim domestic titles and push for the biggest honours in Europe.
Benitez was keen to strengthen his squad even more, but after disagreements with the club’s sporting director over signings, the Spanish coach opted to pack his bags and head to Liverpool for a new challenge in England. Valencia failed to build on what he achieved and his legacy seemingly became little more than a distant memory.
Since then Valencia have been in the doldrums, failing to recapture former glories aside from a Copa del Rey win in 2008. After years of flirting with bankruptcy, commencing the construction of a new stadium that still sits unfinished, and having amassed huge debts, Singapore magnate Peter Lim was seen as a saviour by fans when he completed a very protracted purchase of the club in 2014.
At first things looked positive as new coach Nuno Gomes guided the team to 4th spot in La Liga and a return to the Champions League. However, his tenure wasn’t to last long as the team made a poor start to the following campaign and after a succession of different managers in the last two seasons, the club has even flirted with relegation, only managing to improve in the final runs of each campaign to finish an unsatisfactory 12th in the table.
From cheers of welcome to jeers of protest, fans have since questioned how Lim is running the club from his base in Singapore. A revolving door transfer policy and the influence of Portuguese super-agent and friend of Lim, Jorge Mendes, has failed spectacularly. Power struggles in the boardroom, several different managers; it has been nothing short of a disaster.
However, in the 2017-18 season and with the arrival of Marcelino García Toral as manager, a coach with a stellar track record during his time with Villarreal, it’s finally looking as though Valencia have the right man leading their team. Unbeaten in their opening nine games, the team is second only to Barcelona for points and goals scored.

Along with summer signings that actually make sense, Marcelino has also managed to get the best from players who hadn’t performed well enough last season. Valencia’s odds for a surprise La Liga title bid have been slashed to 67.00 in the football betting markets and although they should still be considered a longshot, many La Liga critics are now paying very careful attention.
If their current form continues, Los Che may be worth backing as a genuine contender. Having already held Real Madrid away at the Bernabeu and thrashing Sevilla 4-0 at the Mestalla, although the defence is still leaking goals the attack potency of the team is more than compensating.
Five straight wins is also no easy feat in La Liga, but Valencia have come away from very difficult matches with all three points by outscoring their opponents. Of course, it’s still early days in the championship race, but keeping an eye on this team and their performances will prove very interesting this season. It could prove to be one to remember at the Mestalla and the fans are certainly enjoying what they see.