Maheta Molango left his job at Real Mallorca in February 2020

Ex-England defender Gary Neville has defended the choice of Maheta Molango as the next chief executive of the Professional Footballers’ Association.

Neville was one of four independent non-executive directors to recommend Molango should succeed Gordon Taylor.

The players’ board has approved the appointment, but it is not yet formal.

Neville says criticism of the Swiss, 38, has been “disparaging” and claimed there were “elements of xenophobia” around some of the reporting.

Molango, who spent four years working as chief executive of Spanish club Real Mallorca, had spells at Brighton, Lincoln City, Oldham Athletic, Wrexham and Grays Athletic as a player in English football.

In a video post on social media,external-link

Neville said: “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 and the process is wrong.

“It’s actually the first time that there has probably been a truly independent process within English football around the appointment of a CEO from four independent non-executives.”

Taylor, 76, is to leave the role he has held since 1981 at the end of the season.

A statement from the players’ union has said that the PFA “will now look to finalise terms” with Molango, who qualified to be a lawyer in Spain after retiring from playing.

“This candidate has the skill set, he’s representative of the membership and, before he even gets in seat, it’s almost as if it’s been determined whether he’s good enough or not,” added Neville.

“It is critical that everyone is facing in the right direction. If not, there will be difficult times ahead. I wish the new candidate all the best. I hope the members validate and accept his appointment.”

Analysis – Who is Maheta Molango?

BBC Sport football reporter, Simon Stone

Brighton fans might remember Molango as the young striker – signed by Mark McGhee when the club was skint – who scored 12 seconds into his debut and not much more after that.

But those who got to know Molango more closely have not been surprised at how his career has developed.

He speaks five languages and had an eye on the future when he arrived in England as he took a law degree that eventually led to his relocation to Washington DC.

The impression Molango made when he moved to Spain was positive enough to get him head-hunted for the chief executive’s job at Real Mallorca by owner Robert Sarvar.

He spent just over four years in charge of Real Mallorca, guiding the club back to La Liga following successive promotions, before losing his job in early 2020.

Those who know Molango describe him as ‘amenable, friendly and sociable’, someone who doesn’t forget his friends but is also intelligent and articulate.

“If you look at his background, I would have thought he offers a unique set of credentials,” said one source.