'S'pore is my favourite Asian city'

'S'pore is my favourite Asian city'
UNITED: Valencia players celebrating their equaliser against Sevilla in a recent La Liga game.

With Wilson Raj Perumal claiming to have fixed up to 100 matches and Dan Tan said to be the alleged leader of what Interpol describes as "the world's most notorious match-fixing syndicate", would Singapore's reputation in the football world be tarnished?

No, said Valencia CF president Amadeo Salvo, who feels that the republic's reputation has not been affected.

When asked if the people of Valencia objected to a Singaporean owning the club, the 47-year-old said: "No, no. The image of Singapore here in Spain is that of a rich country which is very professional, well-organised and clean."

Singaporean billionaire Peter Lim is expected to officially take over ownership of Valencia later this month

GOOD REPUTATION

Salvo added: "And of course, there are companies here in Spain who do business with Singapore and its reputation is very good.

"There's no problem with the match-fixing issue... The case involves one individual and it isn't necessarily representative of Singapore."

He has been to Singapore many times and he described it as his "favourite Asian city".

He said: "My first time in Singapore was in 1996. I have some business there and I have a good client from there, too.

"I like the place very much. Whenever I visit New Zealand or Australia, I make it a point to stop over at Singapore."

It has been a hectic 14 months since Salvo became the club's president in June last year.

"The past year has been very busy and stressful - you can use whatever adjective you want to describe it," he said.

"It's very difficult when you arrive at a club with financial and social problems, a club facing problems with institutions and banks.

"It's tough because every day, you can't concentrate on important things such as commercial projects. You can only focus on putting out fires. Even the sale process of the club is difficult."

But Salvo's job is nowhere near done.

The next step for the tall and toned Valencian is to return the club to where they belong: at the top of the football hierarchy.

Watching Valencia almost sink into oblivion in recent years was a heartbreaking experience for the man who supported Valencia since he was a child.

Said Salvo: "I felt terrible. This is a great club, one of the best in the world, and the former management almost drove it to bankruptcy.

"It makes no sense. Only 10 years ago, we won the Uefa Cup and the Uefa Super Cup. Then, our budget was only 20 to 30 per cent lower than that of Real Madrid's and Barcelona's.

"About 10 years later, we were almost bankrupt, with five times less revenue than those two clubs. "

Mr Lim appeared in the nick of time, right after Valencia's main creditor, Bankia, decided it would no longer refinance the club.

His injection of cash, which wiped off debts of some 200 million euros (S$328 million) has given Valencia a new lease of life.

There have been notable additions to the squad recently, such as Shkodran Mustafi from club Sampdoria, Andre Gomes from Benfica and Rodrigo De Paul from Racing Club.

On Friday, following the club's 3-0 home win over Malaga in the Spanish La Liga, coach Nuno Espirito Santo announced that they are about to sign a star player.

PRUDENT

However, Salvo stressed that youth development remains Valencia's priority and that the club would not follow in the footsteps of free-spending Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain.

He said: "Developing our own talent must be the way to go.

"But now, with our financial situation different from what it used to be, we need to find new players on the market to make sure we have a good combination (of youth and established players.)

"We must also find ways to increase our revenue and push Valencia to become a global brand in order to compete with the best."

But Champions League football must be the bread and butter of the club, he maintained.

As recently as 2000 and 2001, Valencia reached the final of Europe's premier club competition.

Salvo said: "We want to get back into the Champions League next season. The long-term target is the same: participating in the competition and getting to the latter stages.

"On the domestic front, we need to be able to compete for the La Liga title with Barcelona and Real Madrid, if not always, then at least provide an alternative."

The potential for revenue at Valencia remains high despite their recent problems.

The club have an average attendance of about 40,000, behind only Real Madrid and Barcelona, while its 52,000-seat Mestalla Stadium makes it the fifth-largest football ground in La Liga.

SEASON TICKETS

The number of season-ticket holders stands at 35,000, up from 32,500 at the end of last term. According to Salvo, this is the first time since 2007 that the figure has increased.

Valencia also takes home the joint-third biggest slice of TV revenue along with Atletico Madrid, although it is far behind Real and Barca.

This is something which Salvo is striving to change.

He elaborated: "Our share in TV revenue needs to be increased. We earn three times less than Real Madrid and Barcelona.

"We need to look for a solution. If we want a more competitive league, we cannot have such (a big) difference (in incomes)."

While Salvo oozed optimism as he spoke about the future, he was also quick to caution against getting carried away.

He pointed out the mistakes made by the club previously as lessons that must be learnt, saying: "We must never again spend more than we earn."

garylim@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on September 01, 2014.
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