Valencia football fraternity upbeat about Peter Lim taking over club

Valencia football fraternity upbeat about Peter Lim taking over club
Valencia fans refer to Singapore billionaire Peter Lim as their club’s knight in shining armour.

In Valencia, Spain, the sense of excitement is palpable. Long-suffering Valencia fans speak of the dawn of a new era.

They see Mr Peter Lim as the knight in shining armour.

Unlike most foreign football owners who are viewed with suspicion, Mr Lim got almost a free pass to the throne. The media, too, have been swept off their feet by the Singaporean billionaire's credentials.

Valencia-based football writer Conrado Valle, who works for Spanish daily sports newspaper AS, said that credit must be given to Valencia president Amadeo Salvo, who "did the hard work to convince people to believe in him".

He said: "There are too many reasons for Peter Lim's popularity. Basically, Valencia needed someone like him to lift them out of the gloom and put the bad times behind them. And Peter Lim is a football man, not just a company who wants to buy over a business.

"But the No. 1 thing is that the people can feel that he loves Valencia."

The timing was crucial, too, according to journalist Pascual Calabuig of Valencian newspaper Superdeporte. When main creditor Bankia decided not to refinance the club last December, Valencia had to find a buyer urgently.

That was when Mr Lim stepped into the picture.

Said Mr Calabuig: "He came in like the light in the darkness. Valencia were embroiled in financial problems. With his fortune, he will give Valencia the resources to fight on a higher level. A huge majority of the reports on him have been absolutely positive. When you compare his merits to the others on the table, Peter Lim was a clear winner."

But there were moments of uncertainty, too. But that was simply because the sale process took so long. Almost nine months have passed since Mr Lim made his offer to buy the cash-strapped La Liga outfit, and the deal is still not officially stamped.

Mr Eduardo Esteve, a journalist with Onda Cero radio station, said: "Because negotiations took so long, there were some brief flashes of doubts in the media.

"The journalists were thinking 'really?', and started wondering about his intentions.

"But I assure you this didn't last long. The reports on Peter Lim have been really positive."

It's not a one-way street though. Mr Fernando Alvarez, the Valencia head of Spanish national daily sport newspaper Marca, pointed out that Mr Lim could have got himself a good deal at the same time. After all, Mr Lim's fortune is a result of his business acumen.

Mr Alvarez said: "Of course, it is a shrewd investment. Valencia is the third city in Spain, Valencia the football club are the third or fourth team in La Liga.

CAUTION

"But thanks to Peter Lim, Valencia may become one of the best teams in La Liga, as it used to be, and they will eventually go back to the Champions League."

Cautionary tales are littered all over the financially stricken La Liga though.

For instance, Malaga, the team Valencia beat 3-0 at the Mestalla Stadium last Friday, were also expecting great things when they were bought over by Qatari Sheikh Abdullah Nasser Al Thani in 2010.

They ended up selling their prized assets, including star players Isco and Santi Cazorla, in the last two seasons just to stay afloat.

But Mr Valle doesn't think Valencia will go down the same road. He said: "You can make examples of Malaga, but you can also make examples of Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain. It depends on the will of the owner.

"Peter Lim's a respected man in the football business. He will want to leave a good name for himself."

Mr Alvarez said: "Stabilty is the key to making Valencia a big team again in La Liga, and I think Peter Lim can bring it."

garylim@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on Sep 2, 2014.
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