Gary Neville claims “negative undertones” and “xenophobia” are fuelling criticism of Maheta Molango, the Swiss national who is set to replace Gordon Taylor as chief executive of the Professional Footballers’ Association.
The 38-year-old Molango, who retrained as a lawyer following his playing career, was announced on Tuesday as the choice of an independent advisory panel.
However, questions have been raised about the suitability of the former Brighton striker, with the Daily Mail outlining several key concerns.
They highlight negative endorsements and a lack of experience of dealing with English football’s key stakeholders. Money-laundering links and connections to Ebru Koksal, a member of the selection panel, are also seen to be reasons for unease.
Neville was involved in selecting the four independent non-executive directors who oversaw the recruitment process. Speaking by video on social media, he was in no doubt as to what was behind the smear campaign.
“Let’s be clear, it’s disparaging,” Neville said. “There’s an element of xenophobia about it. There are negative undertones.
“It’s clear that football is resisting this appointment through feeding journalists with negative information about the candidate – what he can’t do, why he shouldn’t be there, the process is wrong.
“It’s actually the first time there’s been probably a truly independent process within English football around the appointment of a CEO, from four independent non-executives.
“Because it’s not someone they know, because it’s not someone they thought they could manipulate, that they could get to, they don’t like it. It’s really clear for me.
“This candidate has the skill set, he’s representative of the membership, and before he even gets in the seat it’s almost as if it’s been determined whether he’s good enough or not.”
Molango began his playing career with Atletico Madrid, though never made a senior appearance for the Spanish giants. He signed for Brighton in 2004 and enjoyed loan spells at Lincoln City, Oldham and Wrexham.
However, after making just six appearances for the Seagulls, he left to join Grays Athletic.
He was released after a month and returned to Spain to join the employment law department of Baker & McKenzie in Madrid.
Molango was appointed chief executive of Real Mallorca in January 2016, holding the role with the Spanish club until February 2020.
He stands to replace Taylor, who has been head of the PFA since 1981.