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How did Villarreal get to this point? Some fans’ thoughts

Two of our former coaches.
Villarreal CF

Some interesting points got made (somewhat off-topic) elsewhere on here, so I wanted to gather some of them here and let people comment/add to them.

(1) Stability/Continuity

One of the best ones comes from Jiwonsi, the Valencia fan who participates here; sometimes he winds us up, to be sure, but sometimes he has really good insights, and this I feel is one of them:

Firing the manager every time the club is in danger of mission out on European qualification has created this situation. Selling the best players every season without replacing them adequately has created this mentality that the only thing that matters is that Villarreal qualify for Europe even without the players that got them there. Would it really have mattered so much if Escribà had finished the season in 11th or 12th place, if in return the squad had some stability for 2 seasons?”

(2) “Yes men” as coaches

The only coach who has coached Villarreal for more than one complete season since we were relegated in 2011-12 was Marcelino, from 2012-16. And his tenure ended with a sudden firing right before the season began. Since then we have had Escriba (one season plus one month), Calleja (remainder of that season, plus this one less two months), and Garcia Plaza (fifty days).

Here are comments about Calleja, which could equally apply to Escribá:

“But there’s an inescapable fact: He completely fumbled the planning season, by either aloffness, lack of squad understanding, or lack of assertiveness.

A better coach like Marcelino, Pellegrini or Prandelli would have noticed the gaps in the quad, and pressed the board for the right signings . Calleja acted like the board is his best friend, and it is not – the board is the copilot. And if the copilot is inept, you better have a take-charge pilot , or else the plane will autopilot itself into the ground.”

(3) Transfer policy—some big mistakes since since Antonio Cordon left in 2016

“I don’t know who’s been responsible of transfers since then (definitely not Calleja or Escriba, maybe Roig Jr?) but they have been a pile of.... since then.

2017 – sign Unal and Semedo for 25 million, don’t start negotiating with Rodri early enough

2018 – Rodri leaves, spend 40 million on two bad strikers

That’s 65 million wasted on pretty much nothing, and one of the most promising midfielders in Spain sold in bargain price. Don’t think Cordon would’ve let that happen.”

This one I will take some issue with because I think in some ways Rodri just got too good too soon. And I’m just as surprised as anyone that Gerard Moreno has been such a bust (Toko Ekambi I think could be fine with time, just as Bakambu took time to settle).

But speaking of Bakambu: When a Chinese side came in with an offer for him in January, we rolled over and took the money—a lot of it. Yes, it was his release clause, but at least in public, the team seemed resigned to losing him to China. (And we seemed to have no plan B; buying Roger Martinez for €15m???) Maybe there was nothing to be done, maybe all of this is modern football, but the optics look bad.

(4) Contracts that essentially ‘rent a player’ prior to a cheap departure. Two examples:

(1) Roberto Soldado. We bought him from Spurs for €16m in 2015; he played a season for us, then had a knee injury in the preseason, recovered to play the last three months of the 2016-17 season. Then he departed for Fenerbahce for €5m, which apparently was a clause in his contract. So we paid €11m plus his salary to rent him for two years, effectively.

(2) Denis Cheryshev. Even more astonishing. Remember Cheryshev came to us on loan, wasn’t reloaned, then we bought him for €7m in the summer of 2016. He struggled with various injuries, but came good at the World Cup, being one of the stars of the tournament. And yet, it was apparently in his contract that he could force a move to another club (in this case Valencia) for the same price we paid for him

In both cases, it appears that in order to get a player to take a reduction in salary from what they were getting, we had to agree to a low recission clause. I go back to Jiwonsi’s point—shouldn’t we value stability?

Of course, none of us are privy to anything going on inside the club. And there have certainly been plenty of shrewd signings: Fornals, Castillejo, Bakambu, Rodri, Samu Chukwueze. But it’s a sign of our problems that three of those five have already departed, while the other two were rumored to be in January and almost certainly will this summer.

(5) Are we trying to do too much in this day and age?

Villarreal is a small-market team and as such is always going to have players pass through it for a few seasons, but two things have happened in recent years (largely due to the effect of huge EPL money): one is that finding the diamond in the rough is much, much harder now. Teams are poaching 16 year-olds, South American players are being flogged to clubs round the world by agents. It’s never easy to come up with a Marcos Senna, but it’s even harder now.

The second is that we’re priced out from buying talent in the €20m+ range; we have to look lower. There is a lot of mediocre talent available in the €5-15m range, and our investment record is pretty spotty. And if you’re constantly having to invest €50-60m in the summer in players, you’re going to make a bunch of mistakes just due to the sheer numbers of signings. A big EPL club like Chelsea or Man City, or a Madrid or Barcelona, can afford to sign oodles of players and cycle out the ones that don’t make the grade. We don’t have that luxury. Losses on signings like Ruben Semedo (€14m), Roger Martinez (€15m) and Cristian Espinosa (€7m) would be pocket change at those clubs, but at Villarreal, that’s money we can’t afford to throw away.

Maybe that’s just a sign of the money in football these days, but maybe the lesson to be learned is indeed, rather than make European qualification the be-all and end-all every year, try to develop a core squad from your cantera and players you want to retain, with a key signing or two every summer.

What if we had decided to build for the future this summer—invested in maybe one €15m centerback and one of the Ekambi/Bacca/Gerard group (I’ll say Ekambi). Pau Torres, Alfred N’Diaye, Manu Morlanes, Miguelon—they all get first-team chances.

Strikers; Unal, Raba, Ekambi; Santi, Fornals, Pedraza, Trigueros as attacking midfielders; Morlanes, N’Diaye, Javi Fuego (!) in the middle; Torres, Bonera, new CB, Ruiz, Alvaro, Miguelon, Mario, Jaume Costa as defenders. That with the three keepers is a squad of 21. Is that a team likely to qualify for Europe? No, but is it a team likely to produce some excitement, develop some young players for the future, and stay up? I’d think so. And it certainly would have resulted in a big profit that could also provide support in future years.

Sr. Roig always says the #1 goal is ‘la permanencia’—survival in the Primera. it seems as though in the last few years we may have lost sight of that.