Gary Neville has been sacked by Valencia with eight games left of the season.
Rafa Benitez’s former assistant at Liverpool Pako Ayestaran, who Neville appointed as his No 2 in January, has been named as his successor until the end of the campaign with Phil Neville expected to stay at the club as part of Ayesteran’s coaching team.
Neville had expected to depart at the end of the season but owner Peter Lim has been put under pressure to make the change amid fears the team – currently six points above the drop zone – could be dragged into a relegation battle with eight games left to play this season.
The 41-year-old coach has only picked up 14 points from 16 La Liga games but Sportsmail understands that having stepped into to help his friend and business partner Lim last December he feels let down to have not been given to the end of the season to finish the contract he signed when he took over.
Neville said of his sacking: ‘I would like to thank Valencia Football Club, the fans, staff and the players.
‘I would have liked to have continued the work I started but understand that we are in a results business and in the 28 games (W10, D7, L11) they have not been to my standards or to those which are required by this club.’
A club statement read: ‘Valencia Football Club has today terminated its contractual relationship with Gary Neville as first team coach.
‘After carefully analysing the sporting situation, the Club has decided to make this change in the best interest for the Valencia Football Club overlooking the end of this season.
‘The Club thanks to Gary Neville his work and wishes him the best of luck in the future.
Consequently, the Club today named Pako Ayestaran as head coach until the end of the season.
‘Ayestaran was assistant coach of Valencia CF between 2001 and 2004 and helped the club to two league titles and the UEFA Cup. From 2004 to 2007 in Liverpool worked as an assistant to get a Champions League in 2005 and FA Cup in 2006.
‘He subsequently served as head coach at Maccabi Tel Aviv and Mexico has coached Santos Laguna and Estudiantes Tecos, with which was champion of Torneo Clausura.’
He becomes the 16th managerial change at Valencia in the last 16 years and the end to his short reign confirms the fears first expressed when he first took over that he could not have picked a more difficult job in European football.
He will now give his full attention to taking England into the Euros this summer with Roy Hodgson, and making a decision over his longer term future at the end of the tournament.
Neville had to wait 10 games to see his team win their first game in the league and has never seen his team keep a clean sheet in the domestic competition. The terrible run has left Valencia just six points from the bottom three and the potentially catastrophic consequences of dropping into the second division for the first time since 1986 became to much for the owner to bear.
Neville has largely enjoyed the support of Valencia fans since his appointment and even as results failed to pick up they tended to blame players and directors rather than the rookie English coach. But the ‘Gary go now’ chants could be heard in the last defeat before the break for internationals.
Neville delayed joining up with England to take charge of training the following three days in a gesture of respect towards the club but he returned on Wednesday to be told that he had already taken charge of his last game at Mestalla.