Koeman still proud of time at Valencia

April 22, 2008

MADRID, April 22 (Reuters) - Ronald Koeman said he was proud of what he achieved at Valencia, after being sacked by the Primera Liga club six months into a two-and-a-half-year contract.

The former Dutch international was given his notice late on Monday night, 24 hours after the side suffered a 5-1 mauling against Athletic Bilbao at San Mames.

'I am going, proud of having won a title as important as the King's Cup and want to point out I have gained an experience but have lost something I was very enthusiastic about,' Koeman said in a statement.

The side won their seventh King's Cup last Wednesday beating Getafe 3-1 in the final, but that was a rare highlight in a turbulent tenure at the east coast club.

He arrived at the beginning of November to replace Quique Sanchez Flores, who was sacked with the side struggling in the Champions League but only four points behind leaders Real Madrid in the standings.

The team went into freefall, finishing bottom of their Champions League group, and slipped out of the title race with four wins and six draws from 22 matches. They are now 33 points adrift of Real.

With the support of majority shareholder Juan Soler, Koeman controversially sidelined captain David Albelda, goalkeeper Santiago Canizares and winger Miguel Angel Angulo, making clear none of them would play in the first team again this season.

The club went on to splash 20 million euros ($31.7 million) on two new midfielders Ever Banega and Hedwiges Maduro in the January transfer window but the side's form did not improve.

Disgruntled fans had been calling for Koeman to go, and chants against him could be heard as the team paraded the trophy at the end of last week's final.

After Monday's board meeting, president Agustin Morera made the costly decision to sack not only Koeman, but also his two assistants, sports director Miguel Angel Ruiz, and technical secretary Antonio Fernandez.

Former player Juan Sanchez was appointed with a brief to start planning for next season, while another former player Salvador Gonzalez 'Voro' was put in charge of the team until the end of the current campaign.

Voro has a huge task in front of him. He has to lift a divided squad's morale and decide whether to bring back Albelda, Canizares and Angulo. The club said he had 'total freedom to do what he thinks needs to be done...with the 25 first team players'.

Valencia are only two points above the relegation zone, with five games left to play, and have a particularly tough run in.

They have three home games against direct rivals for the drop Osasuna and Real Zaragoza, and Champions League-chasing Atletico Madrid.

Away from the Mestalla they have a city derby against Levante and a trip to face Champions League semi-finalists Barcelona.

As far as a long-term occupant for the dugout is concerned, Spanish media have linked Racing Santander coach Marcelino with the post.