SINGAPORE — Former Valencia president Anil Murthy insisted that he had tendered his resignation to leave the Spanish LaLiga football club in May, contrary to reports that he had been sacked by the club owned by Singapore billionaire Peter Lim.
The 49-year-old told Yahoo News Singapore on Friday (25 June) that he had already decided to step down from his post in January, after a five-year tenure which saw the club win the Copa del Rey - Spain's premier domestic cup competition - in 2019 and qualify for the UEFA Champions League twice.
However, with Lim being an unpopular figure among parts of the fanatical Valencia fanbase, Murthy bore the brunt of abuse as the public face of the club's management, according to media reports. The final straw came when he received death threats directed at his youngest son earlier this year.
"I've been receiving death threats all the time, in social media and on the streets. But it had reached the point where they pasted photos of my kids, saying they're going to get them," he said over coffee at Coronation Plaza on Friday.
"I discussed with my wife and we agreed to get out. It was getting too toxic for the family."
Already, the former diplomat has had to send his second son, 15, to a boarding school in Scotland to complete his education, after he was harassed in his Valencia school due to Murthy's role with the club. His eldest son, 18, is about to do his national service in Singapore, leaving only his nine-year-old youngest son living with them in Spain.
Murthy is puzzled as to why Valencia made no mention of his tendering of resignation in the club's announcement of his departure. The statement, which was released on 30 May, had said, "With immediate effect, Anil Murthy will cease to be president and employee of Valencia."
However, he insists that he has no hard feelings with the club, and merely wants to clarify and then move on.
"It's a very odd statement, but I don't want to speculate on the reasons for this, and I just want to move on," he said.
"The only truth is that I resigned. If they had wanted to sack me, the board would have had to hold an EOGM (extraordinary general meeting) as I was the president of the club."
Valencia declined comment when contacted by Yahoo News Singapore.
Recent uproar over disparaging comments in audio recording
Murthy also insisted his decision to resign had nothing to do with a recent uproar over a leaked audio recording, in which he had allegedly made unsavoury remarks on Lim, Valencia players and the cities of Newcastle and Liverpool.
On 16 May, Spanish newspaper Superdeporte had published the recording, which was reportedly taken during a dinner attended by Murthy and a few businessmen to discuss fundraising opportunities for Valencia's charity organisations. In the clip, he apparently labelled Liverpool and Newcastle "s***" cities, called Lim an "amateur", and threatened to kill players Carlos Soler and Jose Gaya if they ever wanted to leave the club.
Dismissing the audio recording and subsequent news report as a "hack job", Murthy said that his words were edited and taken out of context.
"Everyone is used to this kind of smear operations in Spanish football, The practice of altering audio recordings is not new; even the Real Madrid president Florentino Perez was recently embroiled in a similar situation," he said.
"What I said to the businessmen was that, compared to Liverpool and Newcastle, Valencia has a natural advantage with sunshine, beaches and seafood all year round. Together with football, we can promote the city as a tourist destination, and will easily outshine Liverpool and Newcastle.
"The fact that the news didn't gain any traction in those two cities meant that it was a hack job."
Murthy added that the remarks about Lim were also misinterpreted amid his non-native Spanish. He had used the term "un aficionado" to say that Lim is a big football fan, but the phrase can be taken to mean "amateur".
He said that both he and Lim had been calm about the incident, and their relationship remains unchanged, even though they had not spoken since he left the club.
No regrets over taking up club presidency
Lim had become the owner of Valencia in 2014, after saving the club from bankruptcy with his €420 million purchase.
However, fervent support of his ownership quickly soured as results on the football pitch remained inconsistent throughout his tenure. The manner in which the club cycled through numerous managers and players also riled the fanbase, and numerous protests were held at the club's Mestalla stadium calling for Lim's ouster.
Despite the turbulent times he spent in Valencia, Murthy has no regrets accepting Lim's offer to take on the club presidency in 2017, saying with a smile, "I'd do it all over again."
"It was a mad job, especially after I had to absorb the responsibilities of (sporting director) Mateu Alemany after he left in 2019. But I learnt so much about players, agents and transfers, all the football stuff that you only read about before.
"I've always been a football fan, but to actually get to the inside of how a football club is run, how many Singaporeans get this opportunity? So yes, it was an awesome time, and to see the fans celebrating along the streets after we won the Copa del Rey was an unforgettable experience."
Nevertheless, now that he is back in the comforts of Singapore with most of his family, he is ready to move on to the next chapter of his life - preferably away from the public spotlight.
"Yeah, no more public exposure for now," he said with a laugh.
"But with all the football knowledge I've gained over in Valencia, I'm speaking with different people on how I can fit in and contribute with my experience. Hopefully, now that I have clarified how I left Valencia, there shouldn't be doubts over my credibility."
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