Note: As this page gets pushed down by future posts, you can find it in the banner as "2010-11 Season Preview."
Cross-posted on our new partner site Spanishfootball.info. There you will find information on La Liga teams other than Real Madrid and Barcelona. Welcome, new readers!
What happened last year?
In a sentence: Ernesto Valverde, Nilmar, the economic downturn, Juan Carlos Garrido, 7th place in La Liga.
Manuel Pellegrini’s replacement was Ernesto Valverde, who came off a Greek league and cup double with Olympiakos and reached the UEFA Cup final with Espanyol, in addition to a long playing career at Athletic Bilbao. But things went awry from the start: no wins and just 3 points in the opening 7 rounds, including a loss to cellar-dwellers Xerez. Management remained defiant, but the best squad in Villarreal history never gelled. Valverde was fired after a lifeless 0-2 home loss to Osasuna at the end of January.
Honorato da Silva Nilmar was the most expensive signing in Villarreal history, coming over from Brazil’s Internacional for a reported €11 million. It took him a few games to get going, but his class and smile always shone through. A club-leading 11 goals in 33 appearances was a solid debut campaign, but much more is expected of the canarinha.
The economic downturn hit small-town Villarreal CF hard. Sebastián Eguren, Fabricio Fuentes, and Jony Pereira left in the winter transfer window, presaging a further player exodus, and attendance at El Madrigal, sponsorship, and owner Fernando Roig’s ceramics business all suffered. As a goodwill gesture, Roig opened the gates for free to all recently laid-off season ticketholders (and has extended the offer for 2010-11). Most recently, the club has learned that it may need to replace longtime sponsor Aeroport Castelló.
Juan Carlos Garrido replaced Valverde as manager on the heels of Villarreal B’s flying start to life in the Segunda. Critics questioned if Garrido could shake a veteran squad out of its doldrums; despite a few bumps along the way, particularly the club’s away form, Villarreal finished with 56 points, good for 7th place in La Liga. Not a bad result, which earned Garrido the right to select his squad in 2010-11.
What changes have been made- management, players, etc.?
In addition to the search for a new sponsor, B team caretaker Paco Herrera left for Celta de Vigo, so former Cádiz boss Javi Gracia returns to his old playing grounds as manager.
Players In: Carlos Marchena (from Valencia), Borja Valero (West Bromwich Albion). Quality over quantity. Marchena provides steel and experience, and another world champion in the dressing room could not hurt. On loan for 2010-11, Borja Valero was last season’s revelation in La Liga with Mallorca. A €6 million fee is not a bad price, and stealing him from under Sevilla’s nose is sweet. Borja is a Real Madrid youth team product and wanted to stay in Spain after his loan spell. A long-term fill-in for Marcos Senna, expect Borja to play in central midfield with Bruno Soriano for years.
Players Out: Sebastián Eguren (to Sporting de Gijón), Damián Escudero (50% of rights to Boca Juniors), Diego Godín (50% of rights to Atlético Madrid), Ariel Ibagaza (Olympiakos), Joseba Llorente (Real Sociedad), Iván Marcano (on loan to Getafe), Robert Pirès, Javi Venta. The common thread, excluding misfits Escudero and Marcano and cash cow Godín? Older players with high wages who don’t fit into Garrido’s new system. Makes Sr. Roig’s pocketbook happy, but the squad’s youth may be exposed.
Who could break through and make a name for himself?
Safe bets: Jefferson Montero, Mateo Musacchio. A dynamic Ecuadorean striker/winger, Montero has debuted in the Europa League but not in La Liga due to the foreign player limit (a maximum of 3 per team who lack a European passport). With the Argentine Escudero’s departure, Montero is set to unleash his pace and technical ability on Spanish football. Expect some highlight-reel goals and many drawn yellow cards. And Argentine central defender Musacchio will spend his first full year with the A team, but his performances to close out last season made him known to supporters.
Wild card: Cristóbal. The oldest of the 9 promoted from the B team, Cristóbal provides cover at winger, perhaps the team’s shallowest position. A constant threat in the Segunda, Cristóbal could provide a spark with a few assists (in Escudero's absence) and a stern challenge to Cani’s starting spot. A very important season in his career.
What are realistic expectations for the season?
A top-six finish in La Liga, a serious run at the Copa del Rey, and the Europa League quarterfinals. What do you think the club's goals should be?