Valencia president quits amid financial turmoil
BARCELONA, Spain (AP) -Valencia president Manuel Llorente quit Friday amid ongoing financial turmoil for the Spanish football club.
In an emotional news conference, the 61-year-old Llorente announced he will be leaving Valencia after four seasons in charge, saying the club is "entering another era.''
"This is a very hard day because the last four years have been very intense, Sunday after Sunday,'' Llorente said. "I get all worked up every time I think about my family's sacrifice. It's been very hard to be here with you and ?550 million of debt.''
Llorente's resignation follows the appointment Wednesday of Federico Varona as the head of the club's foundation, its controlling shareholder. It remains to be seen if Varona will take over the club presidency as well.
"It looked like I was going to be an obstacle and I took this decision,'' Llorente said. "If my resignation helps Valencia to start building its new future, I prefer it to be that way. The important thing is the club, so I am taking a step back and exiting the stage to leave room for the next (president).''
Llorente took charge in 2009 of a club facing a mountain of debt, which he tried to tackle by selling its most talented players year after year.
But he failed to find a buyer for the club's aging Mestalla Stadium and a proposed loan deal that would have allowed construction to advance on a new stadium fell through last December.
The club's financial problems are entwined with its major creditor, troubled Madrid-based bank Bankia, which the Spanish government has had to bail out following the country's recession and collapse of its real estate market.
The equally indebted regional government has also been dragged into the club's economic mess after it signed a guarantee that made it responsible to Bankia for the collateral on millions of euros worth in loans issued to the club.
Last month, a court revoked the loan guarantee but not before the already strained publics coffers had given ?4.8 million ($6.5 million) to Bankia to pay a loan installment the club had owed since last August.
To further complicate matters, Spanish media reports said Friday that Bankia had appealed the court's decision to free the regional government from its guarantee.
This tumult leaves the future ownership of the club in doubt if Bankia decides to foreclose on the loan.
Despite losing a string of players, including Spanish internationals David Villa, Juan Mata, and Jordi Alba, Valencia has finished the Spanish league in third place the past three seasons. The team has rebounded after a rough start this season under replacement coach Ernesto Valverde to sit in sixth place, only two points out of the Champions League positions with nine rounds to play.
"Valencia is never boring,'' Valverde said. "Something happens every week.''
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