Dubai: Valencia FC, very much the third force in the Spanish La Liga behind Barcelona and Real Madrid despite a recent slide, are in the UAE on the lookout for sponsors to bail them out of their current financial woes.
The club’s president, Manuel Llorente, is on a visit to Dubai to meet a number of prospective investors and is keen to launch an exchange programme with an academy in Dubai.
Speaking to Gulf News in an exclusive interview, Llorente said that the debt-ridden club are open to talks regarding “commercial partnerships” and also have a meeting with the Dubai Sports Council (DSC) on the agenda to explore the possibilities of opening an academy here.
“Despite having to face up to giants like Barcelona and Real Madrid, we are very much the third force in Spanish football and still one of the top-10 clubs of Uefa. We have had a number of meetings with corporate houses so far,” Llorente said through an interpreter.
A member of the G-14 Group of leading football clubs not so long ago, Valencia are now grappling with an outstanding debt of €350 million [Dh1.67 billion] and looking to finish work on the new Noi Mestalla stadium in the north-west of the city of Valencia. Finishing the stadium will solve their problems to a large extent.
Llorente, who took over as president of the club in 2009, had entered into a business agreement with Spanish banking group Bankia to solve their problems — but the agreement has failed to take off, with severe recession gripping the Spanish economy.
“We require an investment to the tune of €150 million to complete the stadium, which will have a larger accommodation and other add-on features. This will enable us to sell the existing stadium as an asset and reduce our liability,” explained Llorente.
Asked about the choice of Dubai in a pursuit of Gulf investors, Llorente said: “The emirate is a shining example of what human endeavour can do. The other day we visited the tallest tower in the world [Burj Khalifa] and were amazed at its architecture. The people here are also passionate about football and it would be a privilege to set up a base here.”
Ever since taking over Los Che, Llorente has taken a pragmatic approach, selling off three of their star players to offset some of the debt burden — David Villa to Barcelona, David Silva to Manchester City and finally Juan Mata to Chelsea. “We have been able to reduce the burden of debt by at least €200 million, but still more cash injection is required,” said Llorente.
Dismissing a speculative report that a Costa Rican investor is interested in taking over the Spanish giants, Llorente said: “We are aware of the media reports but nobody has come to us with a serious proposal. While I would like to maintain that we are not for sale, we would like to associate ourselves with parties who will value the history and stature of the club.”
The club has six La Liga titles and seven Copa del Rey trophies in their kitty, while they made the final of the Uefa Champions League in 2000, when they were beaten 3-0 by Spanish rivals Real Madrid.