A PLANNED DEPARTURE
One of the richest people in Singapore, Mr Lim bought Valencia in 2014. Mr Murthy, a former Singapore diplomat, was appointed club president in 2017, taking over from Singaporean Chan Lay Hoon.
Lim’s ownership of the club has come under heavy criticism from Spanish fans over the past few years, with protests being held on a number of occasions.
Over the years, Valencia fans have questioned a number of decisions made by the club, including the sale of star players, the sacking of coaches and the plans to build a new stadium.
“In the streets, people in cars shout at you all kinds of insults. Crossing the road, they shout at you,” said Mr Murthy.
“In restaurants, people come up to you (and say): ‘Eh, go home, what are you doing here?’ It’s daily harassment. “
There have been death threats, with his wife and sons targeted too, he said. Mr Murthy added that he had nightmares about what could have happened to his young son.
“My other one is now 15 … Others tell him: ‘It’s your fault, you all come to Valencia’ … He tries to keep calm but after a while he too gets angry,” he said.
The abuse escalated this year, said Mr Murthy, and he described it as a “nightmare”.
“It got exponentially worse this year … It was unlivable,” he added.
“If it was not on the streets, it was on social media,” he explained, adding that he had to change his mobile phone number every year because of the abuse.
He said he did not leave the club earlier because he had hoped to see the Valencia project through.
“When I start a project … I really like to finish (it). We went through COVID-19, bringing down the debt and were close to settling things to start building again. And we were getting there,” he explained.
“It’s not an easy decision for me because for me it’s unfinished business. But then you ask yourself, can I be effective? Or am I doing worse?”
After a discussion with his wife, Mr Murthy made the decision to move on at the end of the season.
“We already discussed that it was time for me to step down and move on because it’s not a life,” he said.
“We can not go out to eat anywhere. We go to a restaurant, people harass you, even reputable restaurants, you hide in a private room somewhere.
“You can not walk around the streets. I’m afraid to go to the supermarket because people come … it’s not that I’m afraid for my life. It’s just that you feel animosity – it’s not a life to lead.
“So many years of living this life – it was enough.”
But the leaked recordings “sealed the deal” for him to leave the club, he added.
At the same time, Mr Murthy said he left on good terms with the team.
“Most of them sent me messages to thank me for my friendship, how I was close to them when the league was difficult,” he said.
“I was there every day. I was very close to the agents, the players and the captains. I had a good relationship with all of them.”
A “MINORITY” GROUP
Looking back on his stint at the club, Mr Murthy said that the Valencia fans were in two camps, a “minority” group that was actively campaigning for Mr Lim’s removal and the rest who wanted to see the club win.
“The majority are just tired of these constant battles. Between the ownership, the management, this group, lawsuits, new stadium … I think the majority of the fans just want to see football and want to win,” he said.
Communication with this group of fans could have been better, he added.
“Communication works best when you’re winning. When you are not winning … nobody wants to know your logic behind why you’re selling players (if it is) because the revenue dropped, (or if) you need to balance the books. They look at you and say: ‘Do you think I’m really interested? So who are you signing next?’ “Mr Murthy said.