x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

That sinking feeling for Villarreal

From Champions League to relegation in the space of a year for the Yellow Submarines, writes Andy Mitten.

Villarreal's President Fernando Roig reacts after the Spanish league football match Villareal CF vs Atletico Madrid on May 13, 2012 at El Madrigal stadium in Villareal. AFP PHOTO/ JOSE JORDAN
Villarreal's President Fernando Roig reacts after the Spanish league football match Villareal CF vs Atletico Madrid on May 13, 2012 at El Madrigal stadium in Villareal. AFP PHOTO/ JOSE JORDAN

The man who had built Villarreal could not stand any more. As his team conceded an 87th-minute goal at home to Atletico Madrid, Fernando Roig left the directors' box.

The club he built up from playing regional football for crowds of 1,500 to playing in the Champions League semi-finals were still safe from relegation, but then dreadful news arrived. In Madrid, Rayo Vallecano had scored a 92nd-minute winner.

The Yellow Submarines, who played Champions League football this season, were down.

Tears streamed down Roig's face as his side joined Sporting Gijon and Racing Santander in the segunda division.

Instead of hosting Barcelona or Bayern Munich, they will visit Sabadell and Alcorcon.

Villarreal already know about those clubs because along with Barcelonaa, they are the only top-flight team with a reserve side in the second level.

With two teams from the same club not allowed to play each other, the reserves will be automatically relegated to make way for the first team, despite them sitting in mid-table. It was a double blow.

It is the first time since 2000 that Villarreal have played below the top tier.

They have blamed a horrific injury list which saw their best player, the luckless Giuseppe Rossi, rupture his cruciate ligament twice in a season.

They have blamed the sale of their previous best player, Santi Cazorla to Malaga, but that was financially motivated by a president who, not unreasonably, wants the club to come close to balancing their books, especially with his ceramics business cutting back.

Despite the excuses, Villarreal started this season with the seventh-biggest budget in the league. They also had money from the Cazorla sale, which was spent unwisely.

In Francisco Molina, they appointed a poor coach to replace Juan Carlos Garrido. Molina lasted a few months before being replaced by Miguel-Angel Lotina and his brand of turgid football.

Three coaches in a season brought just six home wins.

Villarreal have top players like the Brazilian Nilmar, Marcos Senna and Borja Valero. Badly coached, they played poorly. Villarreal were once an example of how a club should be run, albeit one with a benefactor. This season, despite the excuses, they were an example of exactly how not to do it.

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