Former Manchester United defender and television football pundit Gary Neville was appointed manager at La Liga outfit Valencia earlier this week, and though he won’t take the helm until next week’s Champions League encounter with Lyon, Barcelona boss Luis Enrique was wary of the threat Neville’s appointment posed ahead of the Catalan club’s trip to the Mestalla on Saturday.
“We are facing a team that has just changed its manager, and that complicates things for us,” Enrique said at his pre-match press conference. “We’ve studied our opponent, but the change of manager could mean a change to their style too. So it’s a difficult match to plan.”
Neville, who served as an assistant manager for England at the 2014 World Cup, admitted he’d turned down other management opportunities, but suggested that Valencia was simply too good to pass up. “I’ve been offered jobs in football over the last four, five years, but the timing was never right,” Neville told Sport. “I wanted to learn about different things first.”
“But when I got the call on Sunday evening, I though: What a football club, what an opportunity, what a challenge. Sitting on television talking about coaches for a few years… the time has come for me to stand up.”
Neville does not yet speak Spanish, but says he plans to immerse himself and to learn it as quickly as possible.
“I can’t find someone to teach me at six in the morning yet – so if anyone’s out there, let me know!” said Neville.
The 40-year-old will be joining his younger brother Phillip at the club. The younger Neville -– also a former Manchester United player -– has been an assistant coach at Valencia since July, serving under former manager Nuno Espirito Santo, who resigned earlier this week.
Neville, whose appointment at Valencia is set to last through the end of the season, will continue on in his role as assistant England manager, but will forego his duties as a television pundit for Sky Sports.
Valencia, currently sitting in ninth place in the La Liga table, takes on the league leaders Barcelona this Saturday. Interim manager Voro will take charge for that clash. Neville’s first La Liga outing at the helm for Valencia will be next weekend against Eibar.