Leonardo Koutris. | R.D.

After a week when Lionel Richie re-released his No. 1 song from 1984 with a new title – “Huawei, is it me you’re looking for?!” – Real Mallorca face a vital month of games in their efforts to stay in La Liga, starting with a home fixture against solid, hard-working Valladolid tonight in Son Moix at 18:30. The visitors are four points ahead in 18th place, meaning three points for us would cut their lead to just one, so it’s vital we take full advantage. After today, we face two more sides, Espanyol (A) and Alaves (H), who are also down at the wrong end of the table.

Needless to say, the local footballing media went to town in criticising Mallorca’s poor second half showing last Sunday when we lost 3-0 at Real Sociedad. The general synopsis coming from the newspapers and social media said that Mallorca have to learn that a game lasts for 90 minutes not 45!

I don’t reckon there’ll be many changes to last Sunday’s losing side and I doubt there’ll be room for our second on-loan signing, 24-year-old left back Leonardo Koutris, who arrived on Wednesday from Greek champions league outfit Olympiakos. I’ve been looking at YouTube clips on Koutris and he’s like greased lightning. Born in Brazil to a Greek father and Brazilian mother, the family returned to live in Greece when Koutris was seven. He’s played for Greece five times and played in the Hellenic super league and the Champions League. He was also on the radar of Everton, Leicester City, Newcastle United and West Ham, and was recommended to come here by a true Real Mallorca legend, Ariel Ibagaza, who’s on the Olympiakos coaching staff. On arrival Koutris (who speaks Spanish – which helps our coaching staff no end) said he was happy to be here and was keen to get started. Some of you may remember Koutris was involved in one of the best footballing slapstick incidents in recent times. In October 2015, when he was playing for lower league Greek club Ergotelis, he went down injured after a hefty challenge. Unable to stand up, the referee called for the stretcher, onto which he was roughly loaded by a couple of burly guys who looked like they’d pushed the ouzo boat out too far !! They proceeded to drop him twice while carrying him off, before unceremoniously dumping him on the side of the pitch. A video of the incident went viral worldwide and received blanket coverage on social media, it even made the Ellen DeGeneres show – check it out on YouTube as “worst stretcher bearers ever” – it’s hilarious.

Koutris becomes the third Greek-born player after Lampros Choutos (2006) and Angelos Basinas (2005/08), to play for Real Mallorca and provides competition for Kumor. Baba Rahman was left back earlier in the season but is leaving the Son Moix to return to his parent club Chelsea, where he’s expected to have an operation on a cruciate ligament.

Tonight’s visitors Valladolid are owned by Ronaldo Luis Nazario de Lima, or just “the other Ronaldo” to you and me. The 43-year-old Brazilian played for Barcelona, Inter Milan, Real Madrid and AC Milan in the mid ‘90s to 2008 and bought 51% of Los Pucelanos (violet and white, Valladolid’s colours) in Septemer 2018. Another player expected to sign is a South African international (24 times) box-to-box midfielder, 27-year-old Bogani Zungu, who’s been playing in Ligue 1 in France with Amiens. His signing came completely out of left field and has a lot of local journalists questioning his ability in La Liga – only time will tell.

27-year-old Bogani Zungu

I’m always interested in past players and coaches of Real Mallroca and what they are doing now. An ex coach (twice) at Son Moix was Fernando Vazquez, now 65 years of age. He is remembered by local fans for the fact that he looked more like a school headmaster than a football coach. But he was in charge of us in 2000 when we did the impossible, beating Ajax 0-1 in the Dutch capital in the then UEFA cup. Fernando is now at Deportivo La Coruña where he’s turned their fortunes around. After six weeks in charge, Depor, who were rock bottom of La Segunda and couldn’t buy a win, are now six games unbeaten as they rapidly climb back up the table. Vazquez will also be remembered as running up and down the touchline every time his teams score a goal.