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Villarreal’s transfers over 20 years: Part 1, 1998-2011

Martin Palermo

This summer has seen a dizzying number of movements into and out of the club, of both players and money. It’s part of modern football, I’m afraid.

If you go back to the early years of Villarreal in the Primera, things were somewhat different. Sporting director Cordón was justly renowned for finding gems in South America, especially, but one has to remember transfer fees (and salaries) were much lower.

Opening period: 1998-2002

The first “big money” player Villarreal bought was not, in fact, Martin Palermo, but Walter Gaitan, whom we bought on New Year’s Day, 1999 for €4.5m from Rosario. (We sold him to Boca Juniors in summer 2000 for an undisclosed fee; he played only eight league matches with us, so don’t feel surprised you don’t remember him). Diego Cagna arrived January 1, 2000 from Boca Juniors for €5.5m; he at least played two seasons for us before we let him go on a free.

An inauspicious beginning, but the arrival of Palermo (€7.5m) and Rodolfo Arruabarrena (€4.2m) in the summer of 2000 marked an upturn in the club’s fortunes as well as in their transfer success. Antonio Guayre, who played for us for five years, arrived the following season for €6m. During all of this time, our transfers out had mostly been for no money or very little. That was about to change.

The glory days: 2002-2011

July 1, 2002 ought to be forever remembered by Villarreal fans as one of our greatest days ever. On that day, three players signed for the Yellow Submarine: one, Marcos Senna, was to become a club legend, playing in yellow for 11 years; the other two, Pepe Reina and Juliano Belletti, became our first two transfers we actually turned a big profit on when they left. Total outlay for the three? €1.35m. Those were the days!!

August 1, 2003 Juan Román Riquelme arrives, our biggest spend to date (€10m).

August 21, 2004 Diego Forlán (€3.2m). And we picked up a young man named Gonzalo Rodriguez that same summer for very little.

It wasn’t all fun and games—we still had misses like Luciano Figueroa (€6.2m, January 1 2005) but now we were beginning to turn profits on sales of players like Reina, Belletti, Sonny Anderson. The 2005-06 season was actually the first one where our sales (€13m+) outpaced our spend (€12m). We picked up Nihat on a free transfer, which was to prove profitable down the road, and a young man named Bruno Soriano was promoted from our cantera to the first team.

2007-08 looks like the beginning of a new era, as our overall buy and spend moved up, but it turned out to be a one-off. The 2007 season brought us Giuseppe Rossi, Rio Mavuba, Diego Lopez, Angel Lopez, Marco Ruben, Santi Cazorla (back from Recre), Martin Caceres, Diego Godin, Joan Capdevila.....net cost €40m, while Diego Forlán provided the club’s biggest transfer fee received to date (€21m), and sales of Riquelme, Antonio Valencia and Jose Enriqué left us with a profit for the year.

2008-09: Caceres and Mavuba bring in €23.5m; reinvested in Escudero, Jozy Altidore, Joseba Llorente.

2009-10: Nilmar (€16.5m) arrives, becoming our biggest purchase; Nihat, Matias Fernandez and Jony Pereira are sold.

2010-11: Not much spend, actually: Borja Valero, Carlos Marchena, Nicki Bille Nielsen (!!) for about €10m total, Diego Godin, Escudero, Llorente sold. At this point the cantera begins to produce results: Mario Gaspar and Mateo Musacchio most notably, but also a host of other players who didn’t stick around. Yes, the cantera had had a few ‘hits’ before, most notably with Santi Cazorla and Bruno Soriano, but this is the first year we have a lot of players making the first team directly from the B team. And it worked well, as the 2010-11 team finished fourth in the league and made it to the semifinals of the Europa League.

But behind the scenes.......well, that’s a story for part 2!!!