Mallorca gained a point from a creditable draw at Bilbao. | Miguel Toña


During a week when chilling stats revealed that weapons including meat cleavers, machetes and knuckle dusters have been removed from Scottish schools - one teacher, who asked to be nameless, said “To be fair, we only ever use them in self defence !” - Real Mallorca play their first La Liga home game of season 2022/23 in the Son Moix tomorrow (Saturday 20th) kick off 19:30 against Seville side Real Betis.

We started the season last Monday with a highly creditable (if a wee bit fortunate) 0-0 draw away at Athletic Club Bilbao.

At times the game looked to be a mixture of the Battle of Rourke’s Drift (from the movie “Zuku”) and the Alamo as our five-man defence held out for a great away point in a ground (San Mames) that was recently voted the second most intimidating stadium in La Liga for visiting teams after Real Madrid’s Santiago Bernabeu.

Our goal led a charmed life. “Los Leones” hit the post twice and came up against our new signing, Serbian international ’keeper Pedrag Rajkovic, who was simply outstanding, so much so that the prestigious Spanish sports paper Marca had him down as their goalkeeper of Matchday one. He cleared crosses, punched away shots and deflected goal-bound certainties, completely frustrating the Bilbao team and the 50,000 watching “Vascos.”

Mallorca survived in San Mames thanks to Rajkovic’s brilliance, he was a man inspired. He barely played half an hour in pre-season against Napoli and UD Ibiza and he made six outstanding saves in the game. The 26-year-old Rajkovic was signed on July 22 from French side Stade de Reims and according to reports has adopted the island, his team-mates and the demands of the goalkeeping coach in a very short time.

I watched Monday’s game in my usual venue the Mallorcafe and a packed bar and terrace were shouting “Rajko, Rajko” on several occasions. He follows previous Mallorcan goalkeeepers who’ve had an impressive baptism in their Mallorca careers. Zaki Badou, Carlos Roa, Dudu Aouate and the recently departed Manolo Reina come to mind. There are questions being asked locally about what happens now to our other goalkeeper, Ibizan-born Leo Roman, will he put up with spending long periods of the season sitting on the bench as our back-up “stopper” or will he push for a loan move elsewhere ?

As expected, our performance against Bilbao was backs to the wall defending and precious little else. Our passing accuracy was a concern, with only 67% of them reaching their target. Our forays forward, especially the first half, were few and far between and Muriqi spent most of the game chasing lost causes and looking for the ball. With only a few days left in the Summer transfer window, our sporting director Pablo Ortells has precious little time to bring in some much-needed reinforcements.

This weekend Real Betis, last season’s Copa del Rey winners, are the visitors. The last time we played them in Palma was ironically a year ago in the first game of the season which finished 1-1.

Betis will be minus seven players for the game as they cannot be registered because of the club exceeding their salary limit.

The financial fairplay ruling (which doesn’t seem to cover the English premier league where clubs are spending ridiculous sums of money on players nobody’s ever heard of, mostly from the French league) means their team will be made up of those who were already in the squad last season. Betis boss Manuel Pellegrini may have to sell his prime asset William Carvalho or, in the worst case scenario, their best player Nabil Fekir, in order for those registrations to be accepted.

Angel Rodriguez has been declared fit and could start alongside Muriqi in a game I think Mallorca will win. Without doubt one of the happiest players for RCD Mallorca so far this Summer is Ivorian international Lago Junior. Alongside club captain Antonio Raillo and Abdon Prats, they are the last survivors of the team that tumbled into Segunda B five seasons ago.

After an indifferent couple of seasons (last campaign on loan at Huesca) Lago shone in pre-season scoring two goals and reliving old times. He’s the longest serving footballer in the squad, arriving in January 2016, one of our new American owners’ first signings. With a reserved, shy nature, he matured very quickly but now is trying to assure coach Aguirre that he can see out the remaining year of his contract at the Son Moix. However there is still an element of uncertainty of knowing what exactly Lago’s future will be. Personally as he’s one of the best wing players in the squad, I would certainly keep him.

PS Although the roof remains to be put on which will take a few more weeks (there are still eight “cerchas” or roof beams left to be fitted over the new “Sun stand”) the half-refurbished Son Moix will open in style on Saturday with a capacity of 10,000. Work is being done around the clock to fine tune the last details in terms of accessories and turnstiles.

AND FINALLY, levels of stress. You pick up a hitch-hiker, a beautiful girl, very hot. Suddenly she faints inside your car and you take her to hospital – now that’s stressful. At the hospital they say she’s pregnant and congratulate you on the fact that you’re going to be a dad. You say you are not the father but the girl says you are – very stressful. You request a DNA test to prove that you are not the father. After the tests are completed the doctor says that you are infertile and probably have been since birth. You are extremely stressed but relieved. On your way home you think about your three kids – now that’s STRESS !