2011-14 Crisis and Recovery
During this 2002-2011 period, Villarreal’s net transfer spend was somewhere between €35-45m, which taken over ten years, isn’t bad. However, world football had changed greatly over that period, becoming far more professional and big money dominated in every sense of the word.
The days when clubs like Villarreal could sign players ‘below the radar’ for low transfer fees and a relatively low salary disappeared somewhere along the way; this was most noticeable in the domination of Barcelona and Real Madrid in the top two positions of the league, but also the clubs competing for the next three or four places were increasingly becoming predictable and dominated by teams with much bigger fanbases, sponsorship income, and TV money. And to attract and keep players who could compete with those teams, Villarreal had to pay bigger and bigger salaries.
Villarreal, and for that matter most La Liga clubs, had been walking an increasingly precarious tightrope, and now it snapped.
In retrospect, it should not have been too surprising, given that Spain—and the world— was in the middle of a prolonged economic crisis. It was worse for Spain, though, because the early “noughties” (2000-05) had been full of all sorts of overly ambitious public investment projects. And many of these schemes, which made far more political than economic sense, had directly benefited clubs in La Liga, including Villarreal CF.
The upshot was that while the 2010-11 season was successful on the pitch, for the first time we had to ask players to accept being paid late. We had no money for January reinforcements, and no money for summer buys either.
Although we had qualified for the Champions League, it was decided one of our best players needed to be sold in order to pick up some players coach Garrido wanted to ‘strengthen our squad’ for the season ahead.
There was some idea that Giuseppe Rossi might be the man to go, but in the end it was Santi Cazorla, sold for €23m on July 26, 2011 to Malaga. That was disappointing enough, but the money was poorly invested (de Guzman, Zapata, Camuñas) and Giuseppe Rossi suffered a knee injury in October 2011. The club lurched from crisis to crisis on the pitch and off and were relegated the last day of the season.
Not surprisingly, then, the summer of 2012 saw a huge clearout. Even given the bargain-basement prices we had to sell our players for after being relegated, we still earned €65m from player sales (including the eventual sales of de Guzman and Zapata, who were initially loaned). Gone were all of the big money purchases of the year before, except for Ike Uche, who had been bought for €5m from Real Zaragoza and immediately loaned to Granada. Gone too were Nilmar, Marco Ruben, Borja Valero, Diego Lopez, Gonzalo....
January 2013 turns out to be one of the more important transfer windows in the club’s history. Jony Pereira arrives back on loan from Real Betis on January 1st; Giuseppe Rossi is sold to Fiorentina for €10m a week later, and Jeremy Perbet and Javier Aquino arrive toward the end of the month. But the biggest move of all was the hiring of a new coach, Marcelino Garcia Toral, on January 14th. Not only did he oversee the purchase of Perbet and Aquino, but he also began to use cantera players like Gerard Moreno, Jaume Costa, and Manu Trigueros far more effectively than his predecessor.
End result, promotion.
2013-14 Back in the Primera, Villarreal work the margins a bit, coming up with three players for a net spend of just under €15m: Gio dos Santos, Tomas Pina, and Gabriel Paulista. And we also get a goalkeeper on loan, Sergio Asenjo. The team does well, finishing in the Europa League places again; but now, it’s a different ballgame from ten or even five years ago.
Which brings us to Part 3, next time!