Phil Neville, ex-Manchester United and Everton has lately come here to Spain to live with his family to take up a coaching role with La Liga team Valencia, and this week he continues to share his thoughts on the move.  Phil: ‘I always wanted to play abroad but it didn’t happen so this is the next best thing… experience a new culture, learn a new language, see how football works in Spain… take myself out of my comfort zone in Manchester. I’ve spoken to the glass half-full and half-empty people. They stress the negatives and the positives, but I’m doing what is right for my family and I don’t think it’s a bad thing for a young British coach to try working outside Britain’.



Hmm… pardon me for being a bit cynical but Neville the younger has NEVER lived outside the Manchester area. Sure, he knows his UK football and understands Liverpool/Manchester hatred, but as those of us who live here permanently know, living a Spanish lifestyle here is not just about 90 minutes of football passion, now is it? In addition to speaking Castillian Spanish that we all (should) learn if we live here but the Valencian dialect can be difficult, and the tedious administration we experience in everyday Spanish life when compared to the straightforward English rules can be savage. Who will befriend Phil’s wife Jill on her massive learning curve, and what help will the kids get to help them cope with Spanish schools and life? What if she/they/he hate it – and wanna go home? The three will all be massively out of their ‘comfort zones’, far more than Phil will, because he will still happily doing the only thing he knows: football.

Most of us have experienced similar job/life crossroads in our lives, but in the pressure cooker world of top soccer today life can be an unenviable goldfish bowl existence. The 64,000 dollar question – the given answer which I am not convinced about is – has Phil Neville himself really thought the thing through and taken his family’s true feelings to heart? And football Gods forbidding, what if Valencia hit the skids (like Man Utd did in ultra-tough La Liga – and hire/fire management pressures mount? Kept your house on in Lancashire, Phil? Mortgage all paid off? Now what…

Has Phil sought advice? Sort of… David Moyes, with whom Neville worked at Everton and Manchester United, now Real Sociedad’s manager offered encouragement. ‘He said that La Liga is a top league with the best teams in the world and that it would be a huge challenge for me and that communication was very important’, said Phil. Perhaps a good person to seek advice from would have been Valencia’s most successful manager ever – one Rafa Benitez, ex-Liverpool manager who has conveniently just arrived back in Spain to take his place on the Real Madrid spit at the Bernabeu, following Carlos Ancelotti’s mandatory departure after finishing second. If anyone understands Valencia and the set up there it’s RAFA…

Neville started taking his coaching badges while still a player.’I did my UEFA B licence when I was 28 and I spent two years doing my A licence between 33-35. I’ve got a year left to go on my pro-licence; that’s the one which best prepares you for management. It’s hard doing all your badges when you play, it’s a process which takes seven years, but I did my best and I’m nearly there’.

Just where is that, Phil? You may not be far away physically, here in Spain’s friendly Costa Blanca. But in reality you, and your family are a long way from the home you have always known – has the centimo dropped yet?   Buena suerte, amigo – or good luck, pal – you’ll need it either way.

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