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Villarreal and Mallorca: a difficult recent history isn't yet forgotten

Villarreal has signed two players from RCD Mallorca this summer and agreed to loan them one of our most promising youngsters for this season. And we were invited to play in their summer trophy game, the Trofeo Ciudad de Palma, but shortly after the invitation was extended, it was withdrawn after severe criticism from fans on the island.

David Ramos

In case you missed it, Mallorca president Ferrer announced on Tuesday that Villarreal would visit the island to play in their end-of-preseason match, the Trofeo Ciudad de Palma. Apparently we had agreed to come for free as part of the negotiations for Pina. And since we have provided a good deal of money to Mallorca over the last few seasons, having bought Jonathan de Guzman two summers ago, Pina and Gio dos Santos this summer, you can see why having the two clubs play each other might be a nice matchup.

However, Mallorca supporters still blame Villarreal for somehow "persuading" UEFA to exclude them from the 2010-11 Europa League, especially bitter since had it not been for a last-minute Sevilla goal Mallorca would have qualified for the Champions League that season. (And made even more bitter by the Submarine buying one of the stars of that team, Borja Valero, who went on to play a key role in our run to the Europa League semifinals).

You might have thought that after defeating us in the 2011-12 season in the Iberostar (actually, 'defeating' is not the right word; that was one of the most pitiful performances I've seen a Villarreal club give in the past few years, so maybe "humiliating" would be better) the fans on the island would be willing to bury the hatchet. But you would be wrong.

You might have thought UEFA's punishment of Malaga this year would have shown, once and for all, that it's not just Mallorca Monsieur Platini is after, but all Spanish clubs who qualify for Europe but don't pay their players. But you would, again, be wrong.

You might have thought that our relegation in 2012 would have ended things--after all, it was certainly celebrated on the island--but you would, of course, be wrong.

So, less than two hours after Mallorca's kind invitation to Villarreal was made public, it was withdrawn in the face of united opposition from Mallorca supporters. Which is too bad, because Mallorca fans could have seen Gio one last time, and Villarreal supporters could have seen Gerard Moreno, newly loaned to the Balearic side. And we would have been good opponents for Mallorca financially, since we had agreed to come for free. But, it would not have made sense for the match to be held if Submarine supporters would not have been welcome in the Mallorca stadium, and given the level of invective that greeted the invitation, it was hard to argue with the decision to rescind the invitation. So, now Mallorca are looking for another opponent for their final end-of-season friendly--one they'll have to pay to travel to the island.

It's noteworthy that although Mallorca President Serra Ferrer was clearly doing his best to negotiate for the best deal he could, Villarreal was the most attractive bidder for Pina and Gio because Mallorca needed money. Which is not to say the clubs have totally put aside the past, but businessmen are usually pragmatic.

As for the fans? Football fans have notoriously long memories, but I can't help feeling Villarreal and Mallorca have had some similar trajectories that probably have contributed to the animosity coming from the Mallorca supporters. Els Barralets had some amazingly successful seasons in the late 1990's-early 2000's, finishing third in La Liga twice, winning the Copa del Rey in 2002-03, and losing in the Cup Winners' Cup final in 1998-99.

And, their relegation last season was eerily similar to Villarreal's the season before--the team was "too good to go down" but somehow did so, just as we had the season before.

A major difference between the two clubs, though, has been off the pitch. Villarreal has benefited from the consistent direction of Sr. Roig, financial stability, and investment in an excellent academy--all this in a town with a small catchment area.

Mallorca have had a tumultuous last few years financially, culminating in bankruptcy proceedings in 2010, and has generally struggled to make ends meet even when their play has been good. Which is surprising, really, given that Palma is a city of over 400,000 inhabitants and the island welcomes millions of holidaymakers each year, many of whom are English-speaking football fans. It would seem a reasonable base for a football club to build on, even with a modern, rather soulless stadium.

Perhaps, as we were able to do last year, RCD Mallorca can use its time in the Segunda to reconnect with its fan base, make some astute signings, and get back to La Liga. At least they now have some money to spend, and in Gerard Moreno they have a player, on loan from Villarreal, who could be one of the stars of a successful promotion season. But, even so, it might be a good while yet before Mallorca fans are ready to forget and forgive.