Valencia want to fight to the last match to get back into the Champions League, even if it means playing 2 matches a week and in an empty stadium.
“Public health comes first, but if we can, we want to finish the season,” said club president Anil Murthy in an exclusive interview with Batzine.
A few options have been proposed since the LaLiga season was suspended because of the Covid-19 outbreak: ending the season now, declaring it void or speeding through the last 11 matches by June 30.
“I’m not sure what it means if we void the season. Are we back in Champions League? You have to weigh the pros and cons. I prefer to fight till the last match and get into the Champions League again,” said Murthy.
Playing in the Champions League will give a significant lift to the club’s finances, which have been diminished by loss of gate takings and, potentially, TV income. Discussions are ongoing with TV rights owners, he revealed.
Already, Valencia’s management is coming up with protocols to make sure that the first team will be ready to make a comeback at short notice. Players are kept on a training regime with the aid of gym equipment that have been transported to their homes. Training staff are also keeping a close eye on them.
Now, the club is looking at delivering specially-prepared meals to the players while also teaching them via video-conferencing how to cook healthier meals. The club is also keeping their mental health in check during the lockdown, especially those who are living alone.
One way to restart training is to do it in smaller groups. “The key is when it will be safe to restart. It depends on how the situation evolves over the next few weeks,” said Murthy. “The general consensus is that we need a minimum of two weeks of ‘pre-season’ preparation to get back to fitness, or we will suffer a lot of injuries.”
Even if the league returns, there is a chance that the remaining matches will be played behind closed doors, and the club is prepared to not sell any tickets for the last 11 matches. That is still better than not resuming the games, he shared.
To remain financially sound in the meanwhile, the club has cut cost by cancelling or delaying some projects. “We have started planning based on worst-case scenarios and how that would affect our cashflows,” he said.
But while other LaLiga clubs are considering putting some of their non-sporting staff, such as ticketing booth employees, on no-pay leave and reducing players’ pay temporarily, by possibly 30 per cent, Valencia have no such plan yet.
“We have decided that in this time of uncertainty and difficulty for so many people and their families, if we can manage to continue paying their salaries, we should, because we don’t want to add to their distress,” Murthy said.