The former sporting director of the best Valencia in history, Javier Sopirates, spoke to AS in the week leading up to the match between Valencia and Celta de Vigo led by Rafa Benitez. It was the Madrid coach who led Valencia when they won, at the turn of the century, Two league titles and one UEFA Cup. It was Soperates who bet on the coach when in the second division he was running Tenerife.
As Javier admits“There were other coaches on the shortlist such as Javier Erorita or Mané, but it was clear to me that Benitez was the right person to lead the team and I wasn’t wrong.”. In the summer of 2001, Hector Cooper announced at the club that he was leaving for Inter after losing the Champions League final in Milan to Valencia. Soperatz, a footballer, was clear that Benitez would be the next coach. “I had to convince some managers, but in the end my standards prevailed.”Recognizes.
“It was clear to me that Benitez wanted him because we thought that with our idea of playing and our players it would be a perfect fit. I went to Tenerife where I was training with Paco Aystaran, before he was promoted to complete the deal. I followed all the matches of the Canary club because we have Coro Torres and Mista on loan. It was clear to me that after Cooper was gone, Rafa was the chosen one.”Superrats says.
What I didn’t know was that this option would change Valencia’s history because it would become the best team in the world in 2004, winning two trophies against Real Madrid and the UEFA Cup. “When you sign a coach you think he’ll be the best, but with Benitez everything went well. Winning two trophies and the UEFA Cup is very difficult and with it we achieved it.”. Says.
It was also Javier who signed, in his time as a player, the current coach of Valencia, Rubén Parraga. With Farinos leaving for Inter and Gerrard leaving for Barcelona, the midfield had to be strengthened. “It was a risky bet because Paraga had no experience in the first team. He was a great midfielder who formed a brutal midfield with David Albilda.”
Asked about the similarities Rubén Baraga may have as coach with Rafa Benitez, Soperats says that “He has things from Benitez because he was his reference in his time as a player. His style of play and, above all, his confidence in young players is what reminds me the most”.
The last time Rafa Benítez visited Mestalla was in January 2016 when he was Real Madrid coach. On that occasion, fans greeted him with a large banner that read: “You gave us the best years of our lives. Thanks”