Rafa Benitez approached to replace Gary Neville at Valencia, says Guillem Balague
Last Updated: 05/02/16 11:47pm
Valencia have approached Rafael Benitez about replacing Gary Neville at the Mestalla, according to Sky Sports Spanish football expert Guillem Balague.
Neville has come in for intense scrutiny this week after his Valencia side suffered a 7-0 defeat in their Copa del Rey semi-final first leg against Barcelona.
The pressure on Neville, though, was beginning to mount before Wednesday's humbling at the Camp Nou, with the former Manchester United defender still without a league win after eight attempts.
Benitez, who won two La Liga titles and the UEFA Cup during a successful three-year spell with Valencia, has been out of work since he was replaced by Zinedine Zidane at Real Madrid in January.
Having already managed in La Liga this season, Benitez would have to wait until the summer under league rules that prevent a manager taking charge of two clubs in the same campaign.
Speaking in his weekly Q&A session, Balague confirmed Los Che had made contact with Benitez about replacing Neville, although, at this stage, the Spaniard has not made a decision.
"Valencia's new director of football, Garcia Pitarch, has contacted Rafa," Balague said. "He did not commit, though.
"But the story was leaked to appease fans who think Rafa would be ideal.
"One problem with that possibility is that Valencia owner Peter Lim is friends with Jorge Mendes, the super-agent who built the side. Mendes is also Jose Mourinho's agent, and we all know the relationship Jose and Rafa had."
Valencia find themselves in a precarious position in the Primera Division, languishing in 12th place, just five points clear of the relegation zone.
Neville has been consistently backed by the club's owners who assure he will be allowed to see the job through to the end of the season.
However, with the club on the brink of being sucked into a fight for survival, Balague believes Neville is facing a potentially defining period of tenure.
"Avoiding relegation is now the target, which is a world away from the original one of becoming top four," Balague added.
"The club is now looking over its shoulder, five points away bottom three and with Real Betis next.
"Gary has got the backing of the owner at the moment but a defeat against Betis would mean that fans and media will demand, or continue to demand, his head."
Watch Real Betis v Valencia live on Sunday, 2.55pm, Sky Sports 2 HD