After a week when I was told by a friend “During our divorce the wife and I agreed to split the house – I got the outside!” – Real Mallorca remain just above the bottom three “shake up” after 12 games in the 2019/20 La Liga Santander, and face a tough game in the Son Moix today at midday when Villareal (“The Yellow Submarine”) are the visiors. Missing will be our talismanic midfielder Salva Seville who’s suspended. His name is normally the first on the team sheet and there’s no doubt we’ll miss the 35 year old’s quality and experience in the team’s engine room. Dani Rodriguez is expected to move into midfield with Kubo expected to start. Slightly worrying on the fitness front is a niggling injury to Lago Junior who’s been on the periphery in training all week and was “wrapped in cotton wool.” His input, like Salva’s, is vital to the team and we have to hope he came through a late fitness test.
All the talk in the local media this past week has been about another abysmal defeat on the road, this time 3-0 away at Valladolid last weekend. Our normally laid back coach Vicente Moreno was visibly angry with some journalists when questions were asked about the quality of our “bench.” The past two years have been “La Dolce Vita” for the club and its loyal supporters which made the coach and indeed everyone else lull into a false sense of security. Most of the players who arrived in the Summer (with the exception of Kubo and Febas) have been found wanting. Someone (no names mentioned) erroneously thought that the same players who had brought us back to back promotion would be good enough to keep us in the top flight of Spanish football. Some of the dead wood signed haven’t kicked a ball in La Liga yet.
However, it looks like help is on its way in the shape of 19-year-old Colombian international striker “Cucho” Hernandez, a player tipped to “make the difference.” Belonging to premier league strugglers Watford, he spent the last two seasons on loan at Huesca where he scored 16 goals in La Segunda and four in La Liga, plus four assists, scoring in the Bernabeu, Nou Camp and the Mestalla. He then badly injured his hamstring in the Copa America in July which required surgery. He’s hardly been seen on the island, preferring to recuperate in Madrid where a Halloween picture of him dressed up as Pennywise the clown from the horror flick “IT” was seen on his Instagram account. It’s now been reported that he’s almost back to full fitness and is expected here very shortly.
Villareal came to Palma as the second highest scoring side (25) after Real Madrid (29) although their defence isn’t exactly watertight. Up front ex Mallorca striker Gerard Moreno is the league’s leading scorer on eight. Last season saw the arrival of Santi Cazorla on a free transfer from Arsenal where he spent six great years. He was injured for a very long time with a complicated Achilles problem which nearly saw the end of his career. His comeback from adversity (when a foot amputation was at one time a real possibility) is one of football’s feel-good stories. Santi is now back to his best and is a regular in the Spanish national side, where he has once again displayed his tireless energy and precise passing. Villareal also have a player who tore us apart when he played for Malaga last season, Javi Ontiveros.
The “Yellow Submarine” (in 8th place) are looking to rise again from the depths (see what I just did there ?) and have four players in the latest national squad. What kind to reception will Villareal get today when they come on the pitch ? In the eyes of many Mallorquinistas with long memory they are persona non grata. In 2010 we were booted out of the Europa League after UEFA deemed us not to have met the necessary criteria to satisfy entry into the competition. We’d earned our European place by coming fifth with four more points than Villareal. However the club announced debts of 70 million euros, causing us to enter voluntarily administration. What soured relations was when Villareal (who stood to gain by our expulsion) denounced us to UEFA, making Real Mallorca the first ever side to be excluded from a European competition because of financial discrepancies. Villareal took our place causing major ructions. I joined over 2,000 protesting fans who marched on the Balearic football HQ near IKEA where we handed over a petition – to no avail. Our then coach Michael Laudrup said “If it’s a question of economics there would be no European competition because every other team is in the same boat.” The next time we played away at Villareal all our club officials boycotted El Madrigal. Since then relations have mellowed somewhat but there’s still a hard core of Mallorca fans with long memories who are sure to boo and whistle today’s visitors.
PS Levante risk losing their No. 1 goalkeeper Aitor Fernandez for this afternoon’s game away at Bilbao, after he was called up to work at a polling station ahead of today’s general election. His fee 65€.