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On Valencia, Neville and 'Futbo-Lim'


'Futbo-Lim' is a rather wonderful term I've borrowed from AS's Juanma Trueba, who coined it on Monday's back page. It's not to be confused with 'futbolín', Spain's version of table football, an ingenious invention by a gentleman from A Coruña named Alejandro Campos, who under the pseudonym Alejandro Finisterre was a successful publisher in Guatemala and Mexico. He created futbolín during the Spanish Civil War, in which he himself was injured, so that children maimed in the conflict and unable to run might enjoy a simulated form of the beautiful game. Futbo-Lim? That's football according to Peter Lim, or any moneyed individual who pitches up like a bull in a china shop where poverty has bred strife.

It's something else altogether, something it's probably better we don't elaborate on in too much detail. In Valencia it's not to people's liking. A succession of administrators had seen Valencia fall on hard times, and the worst - but by no means the only bad one - was Juan Bautista Soler. When looking for a present for his son, Soler's father had not opted to follow the usual father-son formula and get him a bike; no, he gave him Valencia CF. Years of bad management ended up in a hole that Peter Lim and his wealth came in to fill, his arrival aided by Amadeo Salvo, who brought the project that touch of local legitimacy. But Salvo wanted more power than Lim was willing to allow him, and he had to leave.

With the connection between club and city lost, the situation became increasingly volatile and suspicions turned on Jorge Mendes, the project's factotum. And the Los Che coach, Nuno Espírito Santo, ended up on his bike. Lim then appointed Gary Neville, a figure without the slightest experience as a manager, simply because he liked him as a TV pundit and because they're partners in the odd business venture here or there. And now Valencia's sights are set not on Europe, but avoiding relegation. The club's president, Layhoon Chan, is currently in Singapore with Lim, while back in a city where he's familiar with neither the language nor the customs, a bewildered Neville awaits. Yes, that's Futbo-Lim.