Things have been busy for me over the last week, as I make last-minute preparations to head over to Vila-Real on Friday. One development is that after the match Sunday against Valladolid, I am meeting with some members from the Belgian penya, Els Flamencs Grocs, with the blessing of the other international penyas, to further the development of our international union of penyas. It will be an exciting few days in Vila-Real, and I look forward to updating the site with stories about the club, my experience over there, and the town itself.
Not too much has been happening at Villarreal over the last few days as the players were given a break, and a number of internationals have joined up with their national teams.
Diego Godin and Sebastian Eguren both played the full 90 against Costa Rica on Saturday in the 0-1 that seems almost assured to send them into the World Cup next summer. The return leg in Montevideo will be Wednesday night. And speaking of Diego Godin, the paperwork has been filed for his new EU passport, and Villarreal expects to extend his contract sometime within the next month. Negotiations will start next week.
Speaking of internationals, hopefully you got a chance to watch Rossi and Nilmar in action on Saturday. Rossi didn't score, but brought flare and danger to an Italian side that had been quiet against the Netherlands. He is worried that his lack of recent goalscoring may have dented his chances for the World Cup, but I think everyone else can clearly see he has worked himself out of his rut. Nilmar continued his ridiculous run of Brazilian form with another goal (and earning a penalty), virtually locking in his place with the national side for the World Cup. His goal was a beautiful header off a long pass, driven just past the outstretched arms of the keeper. If you haven't seen it, you need to:
In sad news, former Villarreal striker Antonio de Nigris died today in Greece at the age of 31, apparently of cardiac arrest. He played at Villarreal in 2003 (and Poli Ejido from 2003-2004), and was currently with Greek side Larissa.
Valverde has reconvened the team after giving them a little rest, and today will be the squad's first practice in a few days. Other than Cazorla, who is still sidelined with injury, and the internationals (Capdevila, Lopez, Rossi, Nilmar, Godin, Eguren), Valverde has a full squad. That means that after more than six long weeks out, Ariel Ibagaza has returned to fitness and will be a full participant in practice.
And, no matter how crazy they may sound, some rumors turn out to be true. No word on the truth behind these rumors, but Villarreal have been linked to Ibagaza's former teammate, Dani Guiza, who is tired of his Turkish experiment. They have also been rumored to be looking at Olympique Marseille winger Ben Arfa. I have to admit that while I have heard of him, I have never seen him play, and no virtually nothing about him.