Sky Sports has lost its star pundit Gary Neville as the former Manchester United star takes up the manager job at Valencia.
Neville has accepted the role of head coach with Spanish side Valencia, where his brother Phil is currently a coach.
Barney Francis, Sky Sports’ managing director, has wished his former employee well – but added that “the door will always be open” if Neville ever wants to return.
“We wish Gary all the very best as he returns to football with our blessing and begins his managerial career with Valencia,” said Francis, following Neville’s surprise move into club football management.
“He will always be a friend of Sky Sports and we look forward to following the next chapter of his career closely, not least during our weekly La Liga coverage. And of course, the door will always be open should he wish to return.”
Neville will take charge of the Spanish side this Sunday until the end of the season, but will also continue his role as England coach under Roy Hodgson.
“I am absolutely thrilled to be given this opportunity with Valencia,” Neville said of his appointment. “Valencia are a huge football club of immense standing – and I know from my time as a player the passion and dedication of the Valencia fans.”
Neville told on Sky Sports News that his role as Sky Sports pundit since 2011 had made him “love football more”.
“Sky has probably been one of the best decisions I have ever made, simply an incredible job that I have loved doing,” he said. “The team that I have worked with on match days and MNF [Monday Night Football] have been simply unbelievable, their knowledge of the game, their passion, their work ethos has made me love football more.”
He added that Sky “fully supported and understood the decision that I have made to go to Valencia for the next five months,” while his former Sky colleagues wished him well on Twitter.
— Thierry Henry (@ThierryHenry) December 2, 2015
Gutted! This reminds me of when Pegguy Arphexad left for Coventry.
— Jamie Carragher (@Carra23) December 2, 2015
Valencia is owned by Singaporian billionaire Peter Lim, who also has a 50 per cent stake in Salford City FC, the club Neville co-owns with Phil, Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes and Nicky Butt.
The FA released a statement from England manager Roy Hodgson in which he lent his full support to Neville: “I’m delighted that Gary has decided to take this excellent opportunity. It’s the right moment in time for him and I’m 100 per cent behind his decision to join Valencia as the new head coach.”
Hodgson said that, having been a manager abroad himself, he thought the experience would be invaluable for Neville. “As someone who has spent a large part of my coaching career working abroad, I salute his decision and hope he gains as much from his time in Spain as I have done from the various countries which I have worked.”