Valencia have sold midfielders Francis Coquelin and Dani Parejo to local rivals Villarreal in a move that has increased criticism of the club’s owner, Peter Lim.
Parejo, the Valencia captain, leaves the Mestalla after nine years for an undisclosed fee with Coquelin departing for €8m (£7.2m). The Frenchman has signed a four-year deal with Villarreal, who finished fifth last season to qualify for the Europa League and last month named former Arsenal manager Unai Emery as coach.
Supporters’ group Salvem Nostre Valencia (Let’s Save Our Valencia) has called for a protest outside the club’s Mestalla stadium in the wake of the two shock sales. The club’s former goalkeeper, Santiago Cañizares, has previously criticised Lim on social media, asking why the club are selling “our two best midfielders”.
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Lim has been under increasing pressure since sacking Marcelino in September, despite the manager sealing Champions League qualification and Copa Del Rey glory last season. The sale of promising winger Ferran Torres to Manchester City for just €27m (£24.5m) this summer has also angered supporters.
Lim, who also owns a 40% stake in English League Two side Salford City, sacked Albert Celades in July as the club limped to a ninth-place finish. The former Watford coach, Javi Gracía, will take charge for the start of the upcoming campaign.
The owner has also received criticism from the city’s vice mayor for failing to fund the construction of the club’s unfinished Nou Mestalla stadium. Work began on the new ground in 2007 but was halted in 2009 due to Spain’s economic crisis, and never resumed.
Lim’s daughter, Kim, caused controversy in July by hitting back at the club’s fanbase on Instagram. “Some Valencia CF fans are scolding and cursing at my family and I,” she wrote in a since-deleted post. “Don’t they get it? The club is ours and we can do anything we want with it … no one can say anything.”