Lim hits back at Zorio

Mr Peter Lim, Singaporean billionaire and owner of football club Valencia.
PHOTO: The Straits Times

Three days after being accused of mismanaging Valencia, owner Peter Lim has fired back against the Spanish football club's former vice-president Miguel Zorio.

The Singaporean billionaire, who paid €420 million (S$605 million) to rescue the debt-ridden side last October, has dismissed the accusations as "entertaining but absurd".

The club are also considering legal action against Zorio.

The Straits Times understands that Lim has instructed his lawyers to look into the allegations to take Zorio to task.

When asked by The Straits Times yesterday on the allegations, Lim replied: "Not so long ago, Valencia were on the brink of bankruptcy and selling players to help cover recurring losses.

"There are good reasons why the club are now in good financial health and currently playing in the Champions League." Valencia's former president, Amadeo Salvo, was also critical of Zorio, saying: "Allegations by Zorio are completely false. This man has lost all credibility after his many earlier lies were exposed.

"Peter Lim was selected as the owner because his proposal was the best we received. Peter is an honourable man of great prestige."

The club have also rubbished Zorio's claims as "completely false" and "attempting to attract publicity through baseless accusations".

It added in a statement: "The club reserve the right to take the appropriate legal action in court against Mr Zorio, so as to ensure that such conduct does not go unpunished."

In a legal complaint filed in Spain last Friday, Zorio said Valencia had signed a host of players managed by super agent Jorge Mendes, who is a close associate of Lim's.

He alleged that players like right-back Joao Cancelo (bought for a reported €15 million or S$24 million) and midfielder Andre Gomes (€15 million) were signed from Portuguese club Benfica at inflated fees.

Zorio told the Spanish media last Friday: "Jorge Mendes managed to transfer to the club (players) with above-market prices, and with unknown commissions. Peter Lim should explain why the players are so expensive and always part of Jorge Mendes' portfolio.

"Our aim is to defend Valencia football club to ensure their future viability within football's elite, to monitor compliance of commitments made, to prevent the looting of the club and to see the departure of Peter Lim by repurchasing shares to democratise the club."

But Lim countered by saying: "Zorio has selective memories of the club, and of himself. His story that I stole my own money is entertaining but absurd. He must be held accountable for what he said."

Zorio heads the Marea Valencianista (Valencian Tide) supporters' group, comprising two shareholders holding 33 shares, that aims to speak out against Lim's management of the club. He was vice-president at the Mestalla Stadium from July 2008 to March 2009.

During his tenure, players went unpaid. In February 2009, he announced that construction of the new 73,000-capacity Nou Mestalla Stadium costing €300 million was halted after the club had chalked up crippling debts of €596 million.

In a shareholders' meeting in December 2008, he claimed to have sold plots of land at the Mestalla to raise funds for the club.

These claims turned out to be false and Valencia went into bankruptcy after that.

Under Lim's ownership, Valencia achieved financial stability, improving from an eighth-placed finish in 2013-14 to claiming fourth position last season and returning to the elite Champions League.

Apart from the players in Mendes' stable, star striker Alvaro Negredo was also signed for €27 million from Manchester City.

Coached by Nuno Espirito Santo, the club had Spanish Primera Liga's youngest squad last season, with an average age of 23.3 years.

The team's attacking style also won them admirers as they beat Real Madrid 2-1 in January at the Mestalla, ending the visitors' club record 22-game winning streak.

However, a section of supporters are now targeting Nuno, as Valencia lie eighth this season with nine points from six games after a slow start. They are seven points behind league leaders Villarreal.

But on the back of Saturday's 1-0 win over Granada, that pressure will ease further if Valencia can deliver a result at French outfit Lyon tonight in the Champions League.

This article was first published on September 29, 2015.
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