Real Mallorca play their penultimate game before the halfway point in the season when they face Cordoba tomorrow at 7.15pm in the El Arcángel. Cordoba were league leaders for the past few months but have lost their last two games and have slipped down to second. Their home record is played ten, won seven, drawn one and lost two.
Coached by ex-Mallorca boss Jose Luis Oltra, their star player and captain is Santa Ponsa-born (ex-Newcastle flop) Xisco Jimenez, who was at Mallorca on loan this time last year and whose goals (nine) helped keep us in La Segunda. Coach Pepe Galvez has more or less a full squad to choose from and so sees the return of Italian striker Rolando Bianchi after a one-game suspension. It appears he’s being monitored by several Italian sides and there’s every chance it could be arrivederci to him during this month’s transfer window.
The club announced their first signing of 2016 when 21-year-old striker Pol Roigé will put pen to paper on Monday when he arrives from Barcelona third division side Sabadell. He’s been described as one for the future and one of the hottest young Spanish footballing prospects. Real Mallorca had to act quickly to sign him as several La Liga sides were on his case.
With the club in new hands, it will be an experience for us fans to see fresh ideas being put in place which hopefully will take Real Mallorca back to the glory days. Football has taken a back seat this past week as the American consortium get to work to radically change our fortunes. Things at the Son Moix have been moving at lightning pace since Tuesday’s introductory press conference, which I attended, and where Robert Sarver laid out his plans to the local media.
At the introduction was Mallorca’s new chief executive Moheta Molango who will be in charge of the everyday running of the club. Thirty-three-year-old Molango is Congolese/Italian, married with two children and was born in a small village in Switzerland called Saint Imier. He’s played professionally for several smaller clubs including Brighton where he once scored a goal in eleven seconds back in 2004. On his own admission Molango said he was “a striker who didn’t score many goals”.
Up until recently he worked in the legal department of Atletico Madrid as he is a fully qualified sports lawyer. One of his first major decisions could be to bring in a new director of football as it’s rumoured Miguel Angel Nadal could be leaving at the end of January and moving upstairs to the boardroom. The Bulletin reported on Friday that taking his place, allegedly, is Italian footballing legend 41-year-old Alessandro del Piero, who recently hung up his boots. He’s a personal friend of the former top basketball player and avid Tottenham fan, Steve Nash (one of our new owners), and the story also made the front page of Spain’s biggest selling sports paper Marca on Thursday. The new owner is keen to show how serious he is by associating his ownership with marquee names although the move for Del Piero was denied on Friday by Molango.
There's also a strong rumour doing the rounds that coach Pepe Galvez is on borrowed time and Sunday’s result, if it doesn’t go well, could seal his fate. Names already being mentioned to take over have all coached here before, Fernando Vazquez, Joaquin Caparros and Michael Laudrup, who still owns a property on the island and is at present without a club.
On Tuesday, mention was made about improving the Son Moix, including replacing the turf which Sarver described as worse than the lawn of his back yard in Tucson! There was also mention of building a new ground as the Son Moix was described as being “far from ideal.” He continued by saying not to expect miracles overnight, we will do everything necessary to get the team back where it belongs as soon as possible. His basketball team the Phoenix Suns have, like Real Mallorca, endured a turmoil-filled campaign in their attempts to halt a five-season play-off drought. The franchise, one of the most popular and successful sports teams in Phoenix, has struggled since Nash retired in 2012.
There’s no doubt Sarver has brought the Wow Factor with him and it’s all getting very interesting but there’s going to be plenty ifs, buts and maybes. The question I’ve been asked the most since the new regime moved in is: why Mallorca? To which I reply: why not? The potential for the club is enormous and its infrastructure with regard to air travel all over Europe etc. is second to none.
Sarver said:“Real Mallorca are in all senses a first division football team with first division amenities, the only thing that’s missing is first division football.” He also made reference to dwindling gates at the Son Moix. “I realise attendances could be a lot better. Indeed even when Mallorca were flying high in La Liga a few years ago the ground was still far from full. This is something we have to try and improve on.”
Asked if he’d heard that if things don’t go well, out come the white hankies and shouts of “fuera, fuera”, he said: “That’s sport, I’ve been through that situation at the Phoenix Sun games - you have to take it on the chin.” Sarver said he’d continue to live in the States but would make regular visits to watch games.
“I’ve always wanted to buy into a European soccer club with potential. Real Mallorca looked an ideal opportunity, it is, after all, at the heart of the Balearic islands’ sporting community.”
The ideal football club owner needs to have deep pockets, be mercurial and not faint-hearted - from what I’ve seen so far, Sarver ticks all these boxes.
I have to mention in closing Utz Claassen’s involvement in all this. He will go down in the annals of Real Mallorca’s history when, in their centennial year, he saved the club from bankruptcy, and also brokered a deal which could change the club’s direction for quite some time as we enter a new era.