Mallorca striker Vedat Muriqi. | Majorca Daily Bulletin reporter


After a week when India landed a spacecraft on the dark side of the moon, REM issued a new version of their 1992 hit – “If you believe they put a NAAN on the moon !” – Real Mallorca play an in-form Athletic Bilbao in the Son Moix on Sunday (September 3) kick off 4:15pm.

It’s match day four in the newly named La Liga EA Sports and Mallorca haven’t had a great start to the new campaign. One draw and two defeats show, early doors, that we’re nothing like the team that finished in an admirable ninth place last season. There are, however, mitigating circumstances, the backbone of that team have either moved on, received an injury or are unable to score goals. Kang In Lee is now at PSG, club captain Antonio Raillo has a long-term ankle ligament problem, and Vedat Muriqi has what all quality strikers have at times, hit a barren patch in front of goal.

The new signings we’ve made throughout the Summer will take time to get used to coach Javier Aguirre’s ultra defensive style of play. Sergi Darder is our new midfield dynamo but he’s playing a different role than he did so successfully at Espanyol. He’s more of an orthodox midfielder, whereas Kang In Lee could play up front with Muriqi and could generate attacks on his own. The South Korean was our main ammunition provider, which means the crucial build-up play between defence and attack just isn’t happening at the moment.

At the heart of the defence against Granada last Saturday (without our inspirational captain Raillo) we were fragile and stand-in centre back Gio Gonzalez is not a central defender.

Sporting director Pablo Ortells should, by the time this article is published, have signed a replacement centre half to fill Raillo’s position. Several names have been short-listed including Arsenal fringe player Rob Holding and Sevilla’s Argentinian defender Federico Gattoni.

Mallorca coach Javier Aguirre has been asking for fellow Mexican Cesar Montes from Espanyol. A deal to bring him here, although complicated, could be completed before tonight’s (Friday’s) transfer window closes.

During the Summer, Ortells signed 25-year-old Belgian international central defender Siebe van der Hayden on a five-year deal from Jupiler Pro League side Union SG. He’s played in Holland for FC Eindhoven and in the Champions League and Europa League with Union SG. For whatever reason, this guy hasn’t kicked a ball yet in La Liga. He’s obviously got pedigree but why isn’t he picked ?

At half time in our opening games, Aguirre scrapped his tried and tested five at the back and changed to a more attacking format with two up front. New signing Cyle Larin is clearly not match fit and Abdon Prats does what he does best, come off the bench and make an impact. But the one who’s causing most concern amongst Mallorquinistas is their favourite Vedat Muriqi.

He dazzled last season scoring 15 goals and to make matters worse, he’s missed two penalties so far this season. Last term he scored from six spot kicks. Even the best strikers can miss from 12 yards, including Man. City’s Erling “Robot” Haaland last Sunday.

Like Raillo and Kang In Lee, Muriqi is essential for Mallorca and now, more than ever, with him going through his worst moments, we need our fans to get behind him. Two seasons ago, Muriqi opted to come here rejecting other better offers and since his arrival has shown total commitment in attack (and defence !), towards the fans, the team and the club. However, it’s not all “El Pirata’s” fault, we’re not creating enough chances for the big Kosovan to bulge the net, especially with headed goals from crosses.

To the surprise of many, Mallorca signed a 39-year-old goalkeeper this week. The vastly experienced Ivan “Pichu” Cuellar, who’s played 440 games for Leganes, Eibar, Atletico Madrid and Sporting Gijon, arrived on a free transfer until the end of the season. Aguirre wanted an experienced “third” goalkeeper as the present incumbent Pere Joan Garcia from the youth squad will go out on loan to third division side Sestao.

Sunday afternoon’s visitors Athletic will be a tough nut to crack. They were mighty impressive in beating Betis 4-2 last weekend. In their line up is our ex player Ruiz de Galarreta (who I’m sure will get a warm welcome). Up front they have the lightning quick Williams brothers. The younger sibling Nico could give Usain Bolt a run for his money.

PS The biggest name in sport at the moment, for all the wrong reasons, is Luis Rubiales. There have been hundreds of column inches written regarding his history both on and off the pitch. However, nobody’s mentioned the fact that he played for Real Mallorca’s B team in 2000 in the Inter Toto cup. I was at the Son Moix (alongside one man and his dog) when we played a Romanian outfit called Ceahlaul Piatra (no, neither had I !). We won 2-1 but went out on aggregate losing 3-1 at their place in the first round.

AND FINALLY, I’ll leave you with a quote from US socialite Paris Hilton : “Every woman should have four pets in her life : a mink in her closet, a Jaguar in her garage, a tiger in her bed and a jackass who pays for everything !”