Villarreal's terrible start to the 2011-12 season is well-known to everyone on this site. But that just further magnifies our remarkable 2010-11 Europa League run. From entering the competition under controversial circumstances (thanks, Mallorca) to an intriguing group stage to mouthwatering knockout ties, the UEFA Europa League had it all. Except for a big payday, of course.
At the time, we knew that many of our opponents were good enough for Europe's top club competition--but a year away in terms of league form. Here's a look at how our rivals have done in European competition to start 2011-12.
FC Dnepr Mogilev: Not in Europe. What's worse, the club from the Transmash region was relegated from the Belarusian Premier League in 2011. Tough times.
Club Brugge KV: Returned to Europa League group stage (after two preliminary rounds). Won Group H. Drawn with Hannover 96 (Germany) in round of 32. An all-Belgian round of 16 tie awaits (with Standard Liege)?
GNK Dinamo Zagreb: Qualified for Champions League group stage. Last in Group D. Zero points, one merited bribery investigation for its spectacular "collapse" on matchday 6 at home to Lyon. Stay out of Europe, please.
PAOK FC: Returned to Europa League group stage. Won Group A, knocking out Tottenham Hotspur in the process. Drawn with Udinese (Italy) in round of 32. Need a big win in the Greek inferno.
SSC Napoli: Qualified for Champions League group stage. Second in Group A, knocking out Manchester City in the process. Defeated Villarreal 2-0 home and away. Drawn with Chelsea (England) in round of 16. Why not?
Bayer 04 Leverkusen: Qualified for Champions League group stage. Second in Group E, knocking out Valencia in the process (well done). Drawn with Barcelona (Spain) in round of 16. Good luck, gentlemen.
FC Twente: Returned to Europa League group stage. Won Group K, knocking out Fulham and Odense in the process. Drawn with Steaua Bucuresti (Romania) in round of 32. Another deep run in store?
FC Porto: Qualified for Champions League group stage. A shocking third-place finish in Group G. Their reward? An attempted defense of their Europa League title. Drawn with Manchester City (England) in round of 32. Full circle.