Well, we won’t have Ramiro Funes Mori as a member of Villarreal’s 2021-22 squad. The Argentine defender, signed from Everton three summers ago, has left to join....Al-Nassr FC in Saudi Arabia.
We apparently transferred him for the amount of his transfer fee left to be amortized (€2.2m). Funes Mori was a controversial signing to begin with—his time at Everton didn’t exactly indicate he was a calm presence in the back line. We hoped for more, we didn’t get it.
Funes Mori featured a lot in his first season with Villarreal—31 matches in the league plus 10 in the Europa League—but of course, that was the 2018-19 season when we flirted with relegation. Funes Mori was given the chance to succeed, and he didn’t really take it—not only did he have 15 (!) yellow cards in 2018-19, but even though Javi Calleja relied on him that season, the next year, the emergence of Pau Torres, plus an Achilles tendon problem once the pandemic-suspended season resumed, meant that he played in only 7 league matches.
Unai Emery evidently wasn’t impressed with him either; he saw only 700 minutes of La Liga action in 2020-21. It was pretty much an open secret he was leaving, and the wording of the official club comminiqué sort of reflects that—terse, brief thanks, but see ya.
I can’t imagine any Villarreal fans are going to miss him; he wasn’t awful, in fact sometimes (especially under Emery late last season) was decent, but you always had the feeling that a misstep or a blunder might be only a second or two away. I’ll mostly remember him for the blunders and clumsy jumps, but he did put in some decent shifts—just nothing any better than that. And decent was the least we were hoping for, spending almost €9m on him.
He leaves with a Europa League medal (he looked like he was trying slightly too hard to celebrate, didn’t he? And wearing his shirt back-to-front? Awkward).
In an odd twist of fate, news comes today that Alavés have today signed Florian Lejeune from Newcastle. Don’t remember him? He was the young French center-back that Villarreal developed in the 2011-14 seasons but let him leave on a free transfer. Still only 30, he has had a pretty good career with Eibar, Newcastle and Alavés. One we let get away.
Does Funes Mori’s departure mean we’re more confident about keeping Pau Torres? Not really. Yes, Funes leaving means one less CB but if Pau left he was never going to start anyhow—that much was clear. So the math is still the same—right now, we have Pau, Albiol, Mandi and Cuenca; if Pau were to leave for big bucks, we’d be looking to invest in a new central defender.
Farewell Funes, good luck, don’t call us, we won’t call you.