Joseba Llorente is excited about his move to a "big club". A lot of people might ask whether Villarreal really qualifies as a big club in Europe. But the way things are going, is their any other acceptable conclusion? I think Villarreal have to be considered one of the top clubs, right up there with the Chelseas, Internazionales, Man Uniteds, Barcelonas, Madrids, and Munichs in the major European leagues.
This is a post I have been mulling for quite a while now. Not sure the best way to approach it. But the other day, I read a post on a Soccerpulse message board about Villarreal, which read:
seriously I am a life long Real fan..but they way your club is run..is simply amazing I love how Villareal is being run..Your progression is like the "how-to" of building up clubs..no big billionaries with their massive amounts of cash..U have produced the results on the field and now you are making extrememly intelligent transfers..so you will reap the benefits off the field.. I even love the small town aspect....especially at considering due to the city of Villareal's minature size..every home game half the city is in the stadium..this is what football i all about. --Becks-2307
And that post really caught a lot of the thoughts that I had been considering, but not all of them. Continue . . .
Villarreal have built up their European resume since they gained promotion into La Liga. They took home the UEFA Intertoto Cup in 2003 and 2004. They reached the semi-finals of the Champions League in 2005-06, and are now headed back into the Champions League again. Also, they are one of the top-ranked teams in Europe: Villarreal are now 13th in UEFA.
The club-level success has had a great influence for Villarreal players at the international level. Currently there are 11 players plying their trade for their national teams (including Jozy Altidore, but not including Rossi on the Italian U-21 team and outgoing Jon Dahl Tomasson with Denmark). Four of these are playing in Euro 2008. In a recent interview with Goal.com, Santi Cazorla commented on Villarreal's influence on the Spain national squad:
Goal.com: [Your call-up is] your prize for a great season with Villarreal...
SC: I think it's a bonus, especially for Villarreal. They have finished second and, as we can see, they've provided three players to the national team. It's my fate to be among them and I think that this was influenced by playing a lot for the club last season and having a great end to the campaign. This helped the selector pick.
Goal.com: [Villarreal] is the Spanish team with the second-most players in the selección.
SC: Yes, that's why I think it's also an award for Villarreal to their great work. Luis brings the best: he watches the games and calls those that he rates the most. I think it's very significant for Villarreal to have three players in the squad.
Also, Pellegrini is sticking around until he finishes the job he came to start - not something many managers would do if Villarreal were just a "small club." He said "Villarreal does not have a large media presence, but has reason to envy other clubs."
Villarreal have turned down over €100m in offers for various players so far this summer, and have pledged to not sell - "we are not a selling club," as Llaneza put it - unless buyout clauses are met (see, Caceres). The club is intent on protecting its core of players to make a serious challenge in the Champions League.
And the best part about all of this? Villarreal plays some of the most beautiful football in Europe. Combining the South American influence with Spanish, Italian and even Turkish style, Villarreal truly plays the beautiful game. Every team wants to win. But when you can do it with Pellegrini's style, that is really top of the barrel stuff.
So, what do I think all this means? For right now, it is just something to think about over the summer. And something to be proud of. But over the next year, I really believe it is going to translate into huge club-level success. Villarreal are now in the position that all three competitions - Liga, CL, Copa - are reasonable goals. After the last 5 years, other clubs in La Liga have to look at Villarreal as favorites to bring home the league crown. And who is going to want to face Villarreal in the CL group stage? Not many. So, in closing, Villarreal is a big club. And it will be a big club for good now. With the leadership of Roig, Llaneza, Pellegrini, and whoever fills in Pellegrini's boots when it is time to change, Villarreal will be able to count themselves at the top of Europe.