x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Mallorca spring a surprise

Despite departures of key players the island club are second in the Primera Liga table, writes Andy Mitten.

Mallorca are surprisingly unbeaten in the Spanish Primera Liga after five games. Jaime Reina / AFP
Mallorca are surprisingly unbeaten in the Spanish Primera Liga after five games. Jaime Reina / AFP

Mallorca fans never know what to expect. The island's principal club – its second club Atletico Baleares won one of the regional third divisions last year – did not have two established central defenders a week before the season started.

Ramis and Chico, last season's centre-halves, departed for English Premier League clubs Wigan Athletic and Swansea City, the latter joining up with Michael Laudrup, his former Mallorca manager.

The Dane is one of many former Mallorca managers and his former club also had more transfers than any other in the last close season alone.

Laudrup's replacement last November was Joaquin Caparros, an experienced coach with 13 former clubs including notable spells at his hometown team Sevilla and Athletic Bilbao.

Mallorca were 16th when he arrived and while he has a reputation for playing direct football, he led the islanders to an impressive eighth-place finish.

Caparros then lost several key players to richer clubs, but he has recruited exceptionally well despite a limited budget.

After five league games, Mallorca are unbeaten and sit second behind Barcelona, having held Malaga away and beaten Valencia at home.

Football tables are usually at their most unconventional at the start of the season, yet in the Spanish Primera Liga table Barcelona and Real Madrid are invariably quickest out of the traps, never to be caught.

Not this year.

Real are already eight points behind a Barca side who have won every game, but Valencia – who finished third in each of the past three seasons – have won just one game so far.

Mallorca are the surprise though and fans are returning, with average crowds 4,000 up on last season's disappointing 12,000 mark, 12,000 who rattled around their 23,000 capacity home.

The stadium is not popular because of its running track and its location on the fringes of the island's beautiful capital Palma.

New recruits like the experienced left-back Antonio Lopez, who played under Caparros at Atletico Madrid, and the midfielder Javi Marquez, who showed so much promise at Espanyol, have settled.

The defender Ximo Navarro, 22, is back after a season on loan in the second division and excelling in a solid looking side. So far so good for the islanders.


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