Former Manchester United and Everton ace Phil Neville started work as the new assistant boss at La Liga giants Valencia yesterday.
To say it was a surprise move for Neville would be an understatement, but the move will definitely be a challenge for the former England international.
The 38-year-old is bucking the trend of Englishmen scared to move out of their comfort zone of the Premier League. Very few high-profile English coaches have moved abroad in recent years, with the exception of current Derby boss Paul Clement, who was assistant manager at both PSG and Real Madrid before joining the Rams earlier this summer.
However, Clement was the exception rather than the rule when it comes to English coaches taking a chance on moving to a foreign country. Neville has to be applauded for his sense of adventure and bravery.
Neville does have a link with Valencia, as Los Che owner Peter Lim also owns a 50 per cent share in Salford City, which Neville also has a stake in. The presence of the businessman from Singapore was surely the deciding factor in Neville being handed his new role in La Liga.
Lim probably knows Neville pretty well and will know that he is a born leader. At Everton, boss David Moyes made him captain almost as soon as he arrived through the Goodison entrance. He was a winner and hated losing as a player.
He never had the greatest football ability, but what he lacked in ability he made up for in hard work, professionalism and his organisation skills, which will now be getting put to good use in La Liga.
Neville will need all the experience gained from playing for Everton and Manchester United to be successful in La Liga with the Spanish giants.
Valencia boss Nuno Espirito Santo is accustomed to having British company on the bench, as until recently his assistant boss was highly-rated young Scottish coach Ian Cathro, who he met in 2009 on a coaching course in Cathro’s homeland.
Santo has been full of praise for the Scot and at one point even labelled Cathro a ‘genius’. Cathro has now moved on to pastures new with a move back to Britain to become assistant boss at Newcastle at the age of just 28-years-old.
Cathro is a very highly-regarded coach and Phil Neville has got big boots to fill at the Mestalla in the next couple of seasons, even if he is a full decade older than Cathro.
Santo seems to be impressed with Neville telling the clubs official website: “He has knowledge and values that fit perfectly with our team and our club,”
“He has always been a team player, and our philosophy is based on teamwork. We are – and want to continue to be – a group. I am convinced that he is going to help us a lot.”
This looks like a very good and exciting career move for Phil Neville. He is far more suited to a coaching role than he is a pundit role, as many BBC watchers will testify.
Valencia is a big club that will be in the Champions League next season and despite murmuring about behind-the-scenes misdemeanours looks like a club aiming to regain its place amongst the elite.
Neville’s time spent with Los Che could be invaluable to the rest of his coaching and maybe managerial career. Former boss at Everton David Moyes seems to be enjoying his time in Spain with Real Sociedad, albeit in the rather less Spanish Basque region.
His former Everton captain must now do the same and gain everything he can from his time in the Spanish top-flight and Champions League.
There is currently a dearth of truly top-class English managers in the Premier League. Experiences in different countries and cultures can only help a coach broaden their football horizons.
Phil Neville is the sort of person who seems like a natural leader. They say that great players don’t always make great managers. Well Neville never has to worry about that as he was never a great player, decent but never great.
However he seems to have the right temperament to become a decent manager and his time spent in Spain will only help him become a better coach in the future.
Will Phil Neville be successful at Valencia?