Mallorca training in Son Bibiloni. | Majorca Daily Bulletin reporter


After a week when I was told “Human beings get rich as they grow old – silver in the hair, gold in teeth, sugar in blood, precious stones in kidney and a never-ending supply of gas !” – Real Mallorca, after their cup exit away in San Sebastian on Tuesday night, get back to the nitty gritty of La Liga tonight (Friday) at 9pm when they play Celta Vigo in the Son Moix.

The Cantabrian side lie 16th in La Liga, five points behind us and in their rank is 35-year-old predatory striker Iago Aspas. Born in Vigo, he’s scored 184 goals in 13 seasons and is regularly the highest Spanish-born player in the goal scoring statistics. He needs to be watched very closely tonight. Missing for Mallorca is south Korean Kang In Lee who’s suspended.

Just before the Qatar World Cup kicked off, I commented that the six week mid-season break could not have come at a worst time for the Palma side. We were playing good football, beating teams like Valencia and Villareal away from home, also winning 1-0 at home to Atletico Madrid.

Since the league restarted there’s no doubt our form has dipped with several key players not at the same playing level they were back in November. The form of Pedro Maffeo and Vedat Muriqi, two players Mallorca rely heavily on, is one of the reasons we haven’t been hitting the net with regularity.

But thanks to our solid defence (only 16 goals conceded) we lie mid-table on 22 points after 17 games. Up front goals are scarce – 14 scored, only exceeded by bottom club Elche (13), Cadiz (11) and Valladolid (also 13). Eight of our 14 have come from Muriqi who hasn’t scored in a league game since the World Cup. As the team concedes little in defence but at the same time generates less in attack, it means if we go a goal down early doors it’s always an uphill struggle to get back on level terms.

There is of course no cause for alarm bells to start ringing but players like Kang In Lee, Abdon, Angel and Kadewere need to step up so we don’t have to rely too much on Muriqi’s contribution. Mallorca haven’t played a game at home where we’ve scored more than one goal but curiously in our away victories (Rayo, Valencia and Villareal) we scored two goals in each.

Maffeo has been injured for a month and a half after breaking three vertebrae in our 1-1 draw against Espanyol on October 28. He’s a specialist in getting down the wing and behind opposing defences but since he made a comeback two weeks ago he hasn’t caused the same danger as he did before his injury.

Muriqi draws more attention because he’s the absolute star of the team. He’s scored eight of our 14 goals but his form of late hasn’t reached the heights of pre-World Cup. However, his ability to put in a shift on the pitch is, as always, unquestionable. He combines well with his team mates and fights for every ball, but something at the moment isn’t right.

Muriqi’s problems aren’t helped by the fact that he’s not receiving that killer pass he so much enjoys. Against Osasuna he looked anxious and frustrated and that’s not ideal when the team’s main protagonist is out of sorts.

It’s vitally important that “El Pirata” regains his goalscoring prowess, starting tonight against Celta. He had one of Spanish football’s top accolades last week when he had a two-page-centre-spread interview in Spain’s top sports paper Marca. In it he underlined his happiness at Real Mallorca amid various transfer rumours. After a rough time in Italy with Lazio, the 28-year-old Kosovan has found a new lease of life on the island. He said “I’ve never thought about leaving Mallorca".

However, it’s something that doesn’t depend on me because a team could come along and agree a deal and the club could tell me they’re selling me and I can’t say anything. I have a five-year contract and I never want to leave Mallorca. I am happy here, my family are happy living in Portals Nous and the kids are doing well at school.

“We were the last team that wanted a break for the World Cup. We scored ten points in four very difficult games and we had lots of confidence and desire. After the break we have had to regain confidence on a physical and mental level.”

Talking about his early days in Kosovo, Muriqi said “In the ’90s the Balkan war broke out and as a nine-year-old I started working in my Uncle’s restaurant. Then we were told to leave and go to Albania. I quit school at 16 to support my mother and sister. No human being should see the things I saw during those years. Several soldiers came and told us they were about to plant bombs and we had to run for our lives. Living those horror times makes me appreciate.”

The interview was done in Spanish and Muriqi is speaking “street” Spanish in a relatively short time. Asked at the end what his favourite Mallorcan dish was he answered “Arroz brut” !

PS Real Mallorca/Real Madrid, Sunday February 5 at 14:00 hrs.

AND FINALLY, three of the UK’s rock star living legends are talking about the best gifts they’ve ever received from royalty and looking for bragging rights. They’re in Roger Daltrey’s house and he’s showing off this amazing silver pinball machine. Daltrey says “Guys, this custom made silver Tommy pinball machine was given to me by the King of Sweden. He was a huge fans of The Who and Pinball Wizard so he gave me this. Look, even the balls are solid silver.” Not to be outdone, Paul McCartney pulls out a jewellery box and shows off an exquisite 24 carat gold beetle encrusted with diamonds. “This was given tome by the Emperor of Japan who was a huge Beatles fan. What do you have Mick ?” Jagger reaches into his pocket and pulls out an old paper napkin, opens it up and shows what looks like a very stale bread roll and a says “This was a gift from the King of Morocco, it’s fabulous.” Daltry and McCartney burst out laughing “What’s that Mick ?” they sneer, “A stupid bit of old bread ?!” Mick smiles and says “I know it’s only Moroccan roll but I like it !!!”