The first installment of a series on players who leave Villarreal in this summer of changes. I had originally entitled it "In Memoriam," but sometimes life gets in the way. With heavy hearts, let's talk about stalwart goalkeeper Diego López and highly-rated defender Iván Marcano.
López made 171 league appearances for the Submarino Amarillo after elbowing aside Uruguayan international Sebastián Viera (and his baseball cap). A leader on the pitch, López was never shy about expressing his frustrations to defenders. He became a fan-favorite for his play and unassuming attitude. And he was the not-so-secret crush of many young women (including the love interests of two of this blog's authors).
López also featured for La Roja in 2009, debuting against Macedonia in a friendly (his lone cap). A milestone for Iker Casillas' backup for two seasons. But sadly he missed Spain's successes at Euro 2008 and World Cup 2010.
My only complaint about López: a tendency to underperform in big matches (sound familiar, Rubén Cani?). Too many goleadas against Barcelona and Real Madrid for my liking, but I particularly recall two painful European exits.
First, the 2007-08 UEFA Cup round of 32 tie against FC Zenit St. Petersburg. López gifted the Russians a first-leg advantage with a goalkeeping gaffe. Villarreal ended up losing on away goals, even though the Russians finished with 9 men at El Madrigal. Second, the 2010-11 Europa League semifinal against FC Porto. After taking a halftime lead at the Dragão, López and company conceded five times in the second half to effectively end the tie.
Overall, Diego López was a wonderful ambassador for Villarreal CF. He will be sorely missed. Hope to see you in two years in the Primera.
Iván Marcano: 3 years with Villarreal (2 on loan); sold to FC Rubin Kazan (Russia) for €5-6 million.
Yellow Submarine fans know little of Iván Marcano. He came over from Racing Santander in 2009 for €6 million and started at center back under Ernesto Valverde. But then Juan Carlos Garrido and Mateo Musacchio were promoted from the 'B' team, and Joan Capdevila and Diego Godín could not be dislodged from the back four.
So Marcano went on loan for two seasons: first to Getafe, then Greek champions Olympiacos FC. In Greece, our former manager Valverde resuscitated Marcano's career and facilitated this transfer. Thanks, Ernesto.
Marcano shares José Manuel Catalá's ability to feature at left or center back. But there is no room for Marcano at the club, and his talents should not go to waste at age 24. So a transfer works for all parties. Best of luck, Iván.