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Mallorca—Villarreal: The history behind the hatred

Some of you may not know the backstory, so here it is

Villarreal’s Italian forward Giuseppe Ro Photo credit should read JOSE JORDAN/AFP via Getty Images

In case you’ve started following Villarreal in the last 5-6 years or so, you’re going to be surprised when you see the reception the Yellow Submarine gets at the San Moix tomorrow. And if you’re on social media, you’ll see a lot more angry posts and tweets directed at Villarreal than usual, coming from fans of Mallorca. Clearly, a number of supporters of the island club hate our guts. Why? What’s going on?

Well, you have to go back to the closing day of the 2009-10 season. Mallorca had been in the Primera since 1997, finishing as high as third twice in their first four years (they had a young Samuel Eto’o then). It had been a while since Mallorca had threatened the Chamions League places, but they entered the final matchday of 2009-10 knowing if they won at home against Espanyol, Sevilla had to win away to Almeria to finish fourth.

As it happened, the Mallorca match finished first. They won their match, 2-0, and now players sat down on the pitch to watch the broadcast on the big screen of the end of the Almeria-Sevilla game. It was going well—the score was 2-2, Sevilla were a player down—but in the fourth minute of injury time, Sevilla scored and won the match to finish fourth and get the last Champions League place:

Villarreal had finished seventh, and at that time seventh got you nothing. Mallorca and Getafe were going to the Europa league—or so it seemed. Now it gets interesting. You see, this was just when all the financial problems were hitting Spanish soccer. Teams had been playing fast and loose with owing taxes to the government, they had been behind in paying players, etc. but as long as the economy was going well enough, everyone seemed OK with it. But now, things were getting tight, even at the top clubs.

Mallorca filed voluntary bankruptcy (sort of an equivalent of a Chapter 11 in the US). There was no formal “Financial Fair Play” at the time, but UEFA withdrew the team’s European license because of the bankruptcy. Nowadays, this would not be so controversial, but there were no firm rules at the time, just guidelines.

And the beneficiary of Mallorca’s expulsion was Villarreal, who were having financial problems of its own—the ceramics industry in Castellón had been hit hard—and so the Europa League money would be very valuable. Many Mallorca fans are convinced that UEFA only acted because Villarreal asked them to; we’ll never know.

To add insult to injury, one of Mallorca’s key players, Borja Valero (who was on loan from West Brom at the time, Mallorca wanted to make his move permanent but couldn’t) promptly joined.....Villarreal. And the Europa league place turned out to be worth quite a bit of European lolly, as Villarreal stormed into the semifinals, with Borja playing a key role.

Mallorca fans got some satisfaction when they defeated us 4-0 the following year in a match that was as poor as the score indicates, and even more when Villarreal were relegated at the end of that season (there is still, I believe, a banner in their stadium that says “Thank You, Falcao”, a reference to his goal that sent us down).

The clubs themselves “made up” years ago, and Mallorca have completely new owners now anyway. Villarreal have bought a number of players from Els Barrelets—Jonathan de Guzmán, Gio dos Santos, Tomas Pina—and loaned Gerard Moreno and Leo Suárez to them. But the fanbase has not forgotten.

Mallorca had gone all the way down to the Segunda B in 2017-18 (they’ve returned thanks to two successive promotions) and when money was tight, Villarreal offered to pay its own way to play in Mallorca’s summertime trophy friendly—I forget what it’s called. The Mallorca front office had to call that plan off in the face of fan opposition.

A survey a couple of years ago (I can’t find the reference now) quantified this: most fans of other La Liga sides—even Valencia—don’t have a strong opinion of Villarreal or list them as among their most hated or liked teams, but in Mallorca? We’re the #1 enemy. Now you know why.