On a cool night in January in 2016, amid a terrible four-month spell where Gary Neville coached Valencia to a forgettable run, Real Madrid travelled to the Mestalla to play Neville’s out-of-form team.
That night, Neville asked the groundsmen to leave the grass extra long, so as to stifle Real Madrid’s attack. Neville recalled this story on Thursday, while on the Off The Pitch Podcast:
“What I remember most about that game was our tactic of leaving the grass really long and we didn’t water the pitch so the ball wouldn’t travel as quick in the hope of slowing down Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale,” Neville said.
”It was like a farmer’s field.
“Cristiano came over to me before the game and said; ‘It’s a disgrace, cut the pitch’ - I said; ‘Absolutely no chance’.
”There was no way he was dribbling that night.”
Real Madrid — managed by Rafa Benitez at the time — ended up drawing that game 2-2, with Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale scoring Real’s two goals on the night.