The World Cup begins June 14; here are the players to keep an eye on that have Villarreal connections, past or present.
Group A: Egypt, not so much; Russia has our winger Denis Cheryshev in their squad. Uruguay have some ex-amarillos in defense, Martín Caceres and Diego Godin. (And a La Liga strike force of Luis Suarez, Cristhian Stuani and Maxi Gomez, who combined for 63 goals in the league this season.) And Saudi Arabia have our loanee Salem Al Dawsari, who not only got to celebrate as we came back to draw with Real Madrid, but the “No Salem=No Party” line has become quite popular on twitter, at least. And don’t forget (if you ever knew) that Saudi coach Juan Antonio Pizzi finished up his career with Villarreal in 2002, joining us from Rosario Central after Martin Palermo had broken his leg celebrating a goal in Levante’s ground. You can look it up. So, let’s go Saudis!
Group B: Iran, Morocco, Portugal and Spain. Sadly, no Yellows on the Spanish roster, and only Pepe Reina has Villarreal experience. I’m hangin’ out my Spain flag with the bull on it anyway.
Group C: Australia (OMG, I didn’t know Tim Cahill was still ALIVE, much less playing), Denmark, France, Peru. Denmark have Daniel Wass and Pione Sisto from Celta; France have our ex-loanee Alphonse Areola, though I doubt he’ll play; Peru have our ex-Villarreal B man Edison “Ears” Flores. Should be a fun group.
Group D: Argentina, Croatia, Iceland and Nigeria. A strange and difficult group, but with Mateo Musacchio not making the Argentine squad, no Villarreal connections at all.
Group E: Brazil, Costa Rica, Serbia and Switzerland. Costa Rica has our ex-loanee Joel Campbell, but Serbia has Antonio Rukavina, who is quite a versatile guy and seems willing to continue in yellow. Switzerland has Fabian Schär, whom I’ve argued we should sign from Depor, but that’s a stretch. Go Serbia!
Group F: Germany, Mexico, South Korea, Sweden. Mexico all the way: the dos Dos Santos—Gio but more importantly Jonathan, who was the real star of the two for us. And Javier Aquino, too. Sweden—I think we should sign someone from Sweden. Remember Olaf Mellberg? A great part of our Segunda season, and I will never forget the looks he could give referees.....oh well. John Guidetti (Alaves) is the only La Liga player in the side; their 25 players play in 11 different leagues! Mexico for me in this one.
Group G: A fascinating group—Belgium, England, Panama and Tunisia—but with, alas, no Villarreal connections AT ALL. However, did you know that Panama have a player—Ismael Diáz—who plays for Deportivo Fabril, Depor’s B team?
Group H: Ah, Colombia. Carlos Bacca, who may or may not return to Villarreal, and Cristian Zapata, who spent the 2011-12 season with us. Japan, Poland, and Senegal—and that last contains Alfred N’Diaye, still our property and a decent defensive midfielder, in my opinion, just not a center back.
So, there it is. Chery, Ruka and N’Diaye are the only players we currently own; Bacca played for us this year. I believe Villarreal get paid something—it’s €2500 a day or something like that? for each day one of our players is playing in the World Cup. Not negligible, but not very much at the end of the day either.
And before the WC even starts, Spain are playing a tune-up match at The Ceramica against Switzerland on June 3rd, and they have called up Rodri for that one. I know Spain played San Marino in Vila-real many years ago, but I don’t know if they have played at our ground since then. And a quick trivia question—anyone know who scored a hat-trick in that San Marino match? Yes, you can look it up on the internet but that’s no fun. Have at it. Hint: he coached a La Liga team to a league title!