Valencia great Baraja returns to embattled Los Che as Gattuso's replacement

By Sports Desk February 14, 2023

Valencia have hired club great Ruben Baraja as their new head coach following the dismissal of Gennaro Gattuso.

Former Milan and Napoli boss Gattuso was removed from his post on January 30 after presiding over just 18 LaLiga games with embattled Los Che.

Gattuso left with Valencia – who finished ninth last term – 14th in the table, and three successive defeats since under the guidance of regular caretaker coach Voro have seen them slide into the relegation zone.

Traditionally one of Spain's biggest clubs, Valencia are now potentially facing the prospect of dropping out of LaLiga for the first time since the 1980s – their single campaign in the Segunda during the 1986-87 season is the only year they have spent outside the top-flight since the early 1930s.

Valencia had briefly looked to be enjoying a resurgence under Marcelino Garcia Toral, who led them to Copa del Rey success and back-to-back fourth-place finishes between July 2017 and September 2019.

But he and sporting director Mateu Alemany, now in charge of transfers at Barcelona, were both sacked for criticising the club's deeply unpopular owner Peter Lim.

Baraja will be the fifth permanent head coach since Marcelino's exit three and a half years ago.

The former Spain international was a key part of the Valencia team during one of the most successful periods in their history.

He helped them to LaLiga success in 2001-02 and 2003-04, a UEFA Cup in 2003-04, the 2004 European Super Cup and the Copa del Rey in 2007-08. He retired in 2010 after a decade at the club.

Baraja returned to Valencia three years later as a youth coach and also worked with the reserves before setting out on his own, but he has had minimal success as a head coach.

All of his previous jobs have been in the Segunda, and with no team has he lasted more than a year.

He almost led Sporting Gijon to LaLiga during the 2017-18 campaign, only to fall during the play-offs – he left a few months later after presiding over only three wins in 14 games at the start of the 2018-19 season.

Baraja was most recently in charge of Real Zaragoza in 2020 but was sacked after less than three months at the helm.

He returns to Valencia amid the backdrop of fan protests against Lim, with thousands of supporters staging a demonstration prior to Saturday's home defeat to Athletic Bilbao.

Lim rescued Valencia from financial ruin and administration, but supporters feel he has mismanaged the club for much of his nearly nine years as steward.

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