Some time before Fernando Roig was interviewed by Las Provincias, Llaneza also shared the same fate. José Manuel Llaneza has had a life dedicated to football, as before being part of the Villarreal family general director, he had been president of UD Puzol, club founded in 1951 and highest achievement being to have played in Tercera, and he also had been involved in the football of Argentina. He retired recently, but he’s still the vice president of the club.
Of course, with his recent retirement (this past June), the first question is obviously about life without football. He mentions his support for both Villarreal and Puchol (pilotari from the region and part of Villarreal program Endavant Pilota), and lives “Villarreal 24/7, now maybe a bit less because I’m retired.” He shares his opinion that now young people are the ones that have to step up, although he’s always up for helping them in the capacity he can. He has had four major surgeries (heart, cancer and stomach) and Fernando’s son was for some time the one calling the shots, as his father is busier with his industries. Sr. Roig only gets a say in important things.
From there, the interview starts with a reminiscence from his youth. He played football at the beach and with the Veteranos of UD Puzol when he was president of the club (Veteranos are 30 or older teams with their own league). His love for football started with the first communion, as his father was involved in football being a partner of Valencia, Levante and Puzol. During that year, you also had Sporting Gijón that got promoted having a Valencian footballer in their lines (Ricardo Alós from Moncada). His father also got him to watch the European final between Real Madrid and Fiorentina (played in 1957), so all helped to reaffirm his passion for football, which was already inherent.
As his father arrived to Puzol during the war from Asturias, he feels Valencian but his team is Sporting Gijón. He was also a big fan of Valencia during two periods, when Pep Claramunt was there (1966 to 1978) and when his father was in the board of directors.
Chance had it that he arrived at Villarreal. One day having lunch at Vila-Real and saw the president of the club, Pascual Font de Mora. He knew of him because the family of Font de Mora’s wife are friends with his father. He was offered the job of general director to help them avoid relegation and he took it.
He already was experienced in football. As president of UD Puzol he “was younger that some of the players and we gained the promotion to Tercera. That’s akin to Villarreal playing against Madrid and Barcelona.” They won the Spanish amateur championship in a team that also featured Enrique Claramunt, brother of Pep, and who has also played for Valencia scoring 6 goals in Primera. In Llaneza’s opinion, both Pep Claramunt and Kempes are the best players to ever be in Valencia.
#VillarrealUSA ⚽ | #Villarreal vice-president José Manuel Llaneza explains the importance of the club's international expansion through #VillarrealAcademy. The Submarine are sharing their methodology in Miami at the moment. #VillarrealTV pic.twitter.com/GHuQ1jwxVx— Villarreal CF English (@Eng_Villarreal) November 6, 2019
He felt like hitting jackpot when Fernando Roig got into the club. Villarreal had been a Regional team, Tercera, Segunda B and Fernando got it farther than ever that “I couldn’t imagine”. Loyal worker to the club, during his early career in El Madrigal, they would get inside the field “around 3,000 spectators of which a bit more than 1,000 where senior citizens that got the season ticket paid by the town hall. Now there are 22,000 inside it. It’s an unique club in the world and should be studied at large in universities”.
This is all for Part 1 of his interview. Part 2 will cover his work around Argentinian football, Godín, the best match of Villarreal for him and the rise of the club.