Valencia CF30 November 2020

Anil Murthy: "The VCF Academy is the future of the club, in the long term it will generate a very strong identity"

Highlights of the Virtual Call interview with VCF President Anil Murthy organized by LaLiga with sixteen other media outlets

VCF President Anil Murthy responded last Thursday, before the match against Atlético de Madrid, to questions from sixteen media outlets around the world (India, Singapore, United States, Brazil, Mexico, United Kingdom, France, Thailand, Morocco, United Arab Emirates, Vietnam, Denmark, South Africa…) in a Virtual Call event organized by La Liga. Below are some highlights of the interview.

Javi Gracia

During the interview, Anil Murthy recalled that during the international break, Coach Javi Gracia knew the names of every single player, including the younger ones from the Academy. Gracia spoke to them and coached them personally. This was vastly different from what happened in the past.

VCF Academy

Asked if he could give a name to the project, Anil Murthy replied that if he had to, he would name it “Project Academy”. Today, the Academy is not only the future of the club, but also fuelling a strong identity for the club. Anil noted that Yunus Musah, who is an international phenomenon at 18 years old, is from the Academy.

Beyond the immediate issues that had to be dealt with because of the pandemic, in the longer term, the club is trying to use the Academy to fuel a very strong identity. He has told the coaches and team that he would like to see at least seven local players in the team because while the academy is important, our identity is important too. Today, VCF is achieving this goal. Referring to an earlier question, Anil Murthy reiterated that he was not worried that the club has sold its best players. The best players remain with VCF.


Pandemic management

When it happened in March it was a huge earthquake and nobody was prepared; neither society, nor football. It hit us earlier but we reacted in March by closing things down. Nobody knew what was going to happen. We got to talk to the TV providers… What are you going to do? Are you going to carry on your contract? Most of the clubs in LaLiga depend on TV rights to function. We, because of us losing the business of our stadium, depend 75% on TV rights. Some clubs on 100% or 99%...  What were the protocols to return to training? Everything started from scratch. I think everything has been handled extremely well to maintain revenues, especially from TV, to build quick protocols… It hit us like a storm but LaLiga and all the clubs reacted really well. 

All clubs reacted by negotiating reductions in player salaries. It was actually quite frightening at that point, because any little thing you didn't solve could sink the ship. Everyone took it seriously. We now have a case of a positive test in our first team, and we think it’s a lapse in someone else’s protocols, but these things are going to happen. I always tell the team: Don’t celebrate that you have none, be prepared when you have one. What do you do? React immediately. LaLiga are being extremely responsible and most of the major leagues too. The most important thing today is to keep the competition going and LaLiga have managed extremely well.

We are much more optimistic now than we were in March about the competition finishing because we have gained more experience. LaLiga and the clubs have so many structures set up to deal with emergencies, to deal with problems.

Peter Lim’s Purchase of the Club

Why was the club bought? What I do know from the time I’ve been with Peter Lim is that he’s always been involved with football, for decades. He’s always enjoyed football, he’s always liked football, he had the plan to buy a football club and the opportunity of Valencia CF came along. Valencia CF were being sold for obvious reasons that we all know. And Valencia CF are such a big European club with a big history, who wouldn't want to buy them? That’s the reason why the club was bought. Can you buy a club for any other reason? I would like to know, based on your experience, how many clubs make money? In terms of actual profits and losses. We have lost money every single year since Peter Lim bought the club. Who doesn't want to buy Valencia CF if you have the money and the timing is right? That’s’ the only way I can answer you.


Has Peter Lim ever consider selling the club?

We’ve answered this many times, Peter Lim has never considered selling the club, and the club is not for sale. This club is something that he came into with a very clear project in mind. He has repeated many times that the VCF Academy and the youth is the future of this club. This is something that has come to fruition today.

If you had the chance to come and visit our Ciudad Deportiva, the atmosphere is so positive, all the way from the first team down to 8-year-old players, who say “I have the chance to go up to the first team to play, it is finally a reality”.

A politician come to see me and he told me that we needed Singaporeans to come to Valencia CF, to give this club a Valencian identity. I was shocked by what he said, he told me that, and I said “yes, maybe you’re right”. Finally, we have a clear project of Valencian players who are going to go up to our first team. We made it very clear. We are going to recruit the best Valencian players to our Academy, and today we are showing them that they can move up.


What matters to us is the large majority of fans, the silent majority who have their day to day lives, their jobs, they go home, they watch games on weekends. What do they want? They want, like any fan, to see the club winning games. When the club are not winning games, they are very disappointed. A fan wants to see new players coming in to help boost the team and give it fresh faces. All fans in football want the same things. But if we start winning games, and they see that the players are all here, they feel proud. That is what we have today. Who are the captains? Gayà, Jaume, Soler, Paulista. Three out of the four are from here, from our Academy. The large majority are proud of the team today. They are very proud of this project, seeing that young players are beating Real Madrid 4-1, that our team was 24 years old on average.

At the end of the day, you have a project that is working, there’s a strong identity, fuelled, for once, by people from here, and a structured programme. There’s a small group you read about on the press, and to be honest, we have little time for them. The interest there is not really for the best of the club. Retired people need something to do, they keep themselves busy by getting involved in things they shouldn’t get involved in. We are sure none of them are able to name one of our young players from our VCF Academy. So we are not too concerned about this fracture you read about in the press, which is a few hundred people going outside the stadium, most of them violent people involved in illegal activities. That's of little interest to me. What we want to do today is to be involved with the great majority of the fans.

Summer transfer market

First of all, we don’t think we sold the best players. Why we sold players is another issue. We sold players for a very simple reason: We had a revenue of 200 million euros, which dropped to 100 million euros. If we didn’t sell players, we wouldn’t have money to pay salaries, we wouldn’t have the money to pay debts, and we wouldn’t have money to pay service providers for the functioning of the club.

So, I repeat, we did not sell the best players, the best players are still with us. Everyone has their own reflections and comments on who the best players are or not, we maintain that we did not sell the best players, and the best players are still at the club.

Financial adjustment

It is purely a financial reason. If you don’t deal with your financial issues, then your club goes back to what it used to be with financial problems. We decided from day 1 in March when Covid started; we were the first to decide our measures to protect our players from Covid, knowing that even if we got into the Champions League there is no guarantee that Covid wouldn't stop football. Every month you have to pay salaries, and what guarantees do you have of a risk-free environment in which football will not stop? I can tell you today I don’t have that.

We don’t know what is going to happen in the world. People talk about everyone going back to the stadiums and everything going back to normal… We cannot base the club’s future on uncertainty. What we can base the club’s future on is making sure that we don’t end up in a situation where we are bankrupt. The other reason we did this is we saw an opportunity to firmly push the VCF Academy as the future project. We know it seems like a lofty idea, that many are questioning us, saying that this does not happen in football and you cannot have this idea that young players are going to come up to save the club. Sometimes the loftiest of ideas are the ones that create the future.


Winter transfer market

As of today, I’m fully confident in this team, that we have everything it takes to win games. Now, do we need more players? Well, we’ll see, it’s too early in November. The market opens in January, and of course our scouting department is looking at all possibilities that exist outside. And we should decide later, but I’m fully confident with the team that we have today, the people we have on the team. The coach is working very closely with them. We are satisfied how we are, and if we can do anything to help, we’ll try.

Long-term project

You have to be patient when you build the project. Some clubs have bigger problems than us, but I won’t mention anyone by name. You go through difficult times, and if all you’re thinking about is what to do in the next six months, how to win next year, who to sign so that you can win next season, it's a problem. Many clubs go through this, which is what I call a trap, thinking about next year, the second year, the third year. But that’s also due to the fact that many football professionals’ lifespan is only two years. Coaches as well. The stay for a while, then they leave. Everyone wants to make a mark within a couple of years. The club has to control this. The club has to decide what its project is over the next three, five, ten years.

We will answer you again in ten years, when we win LaLiga with young players. Because we think the football world is changing tremendously, with the fact that Covid has exposed excesses in the football market. It is not a joke. What Covid has done is really exposing how people are overspending thinking of the next year, the year after… They say “I’m going to sign someone for 120 million”, “I’m going to pay someone 20 million net to play” “It’s okay, we’ll solve the problem next year” We are not following that approach; our project is to win LaLiga with the VCF Academy as the future of this Club.

Aspirations for the current season

We can qualify for the Champions League. With all the changes that we had this summer with players leaving, we think the team took some time to get to know each other again.

Nobody had heard of Yunus Musah, nobody had heard of him. The other players looked at him, “Who is this kid?”. After a few months working together, they know each other and the team's performance is improving.

What is our objective? To win the next game. To win the following week, and so on. Then let’s see where we go. But we aren't setting objectives now. We set objectives to win every single game. And that will bring us to where we want to be.

Is your commitment to the VCF Academy too romantic?

The ‘romantic’ idea that young people could help us in a competition is not romantic in football anymore. If you look at teams like RB Leipzig, they were created from a group of young people. It is not that romantic anymore. It depends on what kind of academy you have. If your academy is an academy that is disconnected from the project, from the first team, then you are just producing talent with no connection to your project. You want your project to be connected to the talent you are creating, and the wonderful thing that we have in Valencia is that our raw talent in the community is huge. It has always been the case, but we lost this in the past.

Emotionally and contractually 

We hope we keep the majority of our young players. Look at our past experience with bringing people under 16 years old from other countries who have no history of living here, don’t have friends, cousins or grandparents living here. They of course are playing for money. If you train someone for 8 years and they have no roots here, what happens? He goes where a club pays more, which has happened many times with us as well.

We have restructured, and for those under 16 years old we only want Valencians who have their families here. There will be cases like Ferran Torres without a doubt, but hopefully, keeping the majority would be much better. The second thing we are doing is a contractual thing. That is something we have changed with Yunus Musah and many other young players like Hugo González, Fran Pérez, Facu… We have been able to keep them here. Our way of doing that is by employing a strategy that connects them both emotionally and contractually to the club.


Accusations that VCF and Peter Lim are involved in a player trading operation to make money

Such accusations are fake news. If they were true, there would be no reason the club loses money each year. Rodrigo would not have stayed in VCF until he was 30-31 years old instead of being sold at his peak of youth and performance. Gaya, our captain and one of the best left backs in Europe, is still in VCF. This group of people who wanted to take Peter Lim, Anil Muthy and others to court, got rejected twice even in Valencia. All shareholders can look at the accounts, we lose money every year, if there was some operation underground to make some secret money, then we are living in some fantasy world that doesn’t exist.

Popularity of Football after the pandemic

Post-pandemic, things will not go back to normal again. Every economic sector is going to move to something different, which always happens whenever a crisis hit. In April, VCF began thinking about how to build an Innovation Hub. Today, it has already signed its 7th agreement in addition to previous ones with companies in Augmented Reality and Artificial Intelligence. Recognising that people’s habit of going to a live football game might change in a post-pandemic world, VCF is responding to young people today who  are requesting a totally different entertainment service from what we used to have.

Views on football in Mexico

For VCF, Mexico is its 7th largest market in terms of fanbase. Mexican fans are following VCF and is a huge presence in the digital sphere. Mexico is also the 3rd largest market in terms of audience in La Liga matches. Anil Murthy thought that many Mexican fans will connect with the way VCF plays football now such as the way VCF fights from start to finish, and the kind of beautiful football VCF’s young players are playing. Overall, Anil Murthy observed that the quality of football in Mexico is growing very fast. Its league is doing well and there are now players going back to play there because of the high quality. As the quality of the league goes up, there will be more Mexican players playing in Europe in the future.

The Spanish government's ban on the use of betting advertisements

VCF knew about this debate in Spain which has been ongoing for several years. Now a decision has been made and VCF has been working on a strategy to replace Bwin in such a scenario. VCF is in advanced talks and is prepared. In this context, Anil Murthy highlighted that it was also particularly important to have international sponsors who support VCF. Today, VCF has 16 sponsors from 10 different countries. Although there is a local side to VCF, given its Academy Project and its location, it is also an international club.

Plans for Southeast Asian markets

Anil Murthy noted that football is growing in Southeast Asia and VCF is looking for opportunities there as football grows in popularity. For example, Indonesia is VCF’s biggest market and it has a huge fanbase there. VCF had also visited Indonesia once to play with a small group of players. In addition, VCF is also collaborating with teams in Southeast Asia such as JDT, one of the top teams in Southeast Asia. Anil Murthy expressed hope to see more Southeast Asian players and more Southeast Asian fans watching La Liga in the future.

Appreciation to LaLiga

Thank you so much for organising this. I think it is a great opportunity for the club to be able to speak to representatives from all over the world.

First of all, of course we represent Valencia CF here, but we think we also represent LaLiga and what LaLiga is trying to do as well. This is to have the best league in the world. We are happy to answer questions regarding Valencia, I’m happy to answer questions about Spanish football, LaLiga, and how LaLiga is meeting its challenges of the economic situation currently.

The president of LaLiga, Javier Tebas, is doing and excellent job with all the clubs, trying to manage the challenges that all leagues face today with the fact that there are no fans in the stadiums, that we need to get tests done, the protocols of how to keep football the league going and how to keep the fans engaged. And Valencia CF is a real true partner in everything LaLiga is doing, and we are trying to ensure clubs take on this challenge in a very responsible manner. Because the most important thing for fans, generally, and globally, is that they can keep watching football in a highly competitive level and all of us are in a same situation and work together very well.

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