Vila-real is a town of the province of Castelló, in the North of the Valencian region, 8 Km. far from the capital of the province, Castelló, and 64 Km. far from València, the capital of the region. Vila-real has always been an agricultural town, famous for their oranges and other citric fruits. In the last part of the 20th century, the glaze ceramic industry and other complementary activities developed and, nowadays, the town, with nearly 50,000 inhabitants, is the most important center of this industry in Spain and one of the most powerful in Europe.
The club, which was officially founded in the year 1923, has historically been in humble regional non-professional divisions, except for a short period of 2 years in the early 70s, when they earned a place in Segunda Divisón. Villarreal was just a town club for the inhabitants of the city, with a space suffocated by much more classic and traditional teams of their zone of influence, like Castellón, Valencia or Levante. In the 1990s, Villarreal CF, who had been playing in regional divisions during 2 more decades, returned to the Silver cathegory, until the club was bought by a prominent businessman called Fernando Roig.
Their first years in the division had up and downs. The main goal of the club was to grow on solid grounds, going step by step in the growth, improving year by year, but keeping the economy healthy, unlike other clubs, who started a race of signings and big expenses that nowadays are paid. During the first years in Primera División, the humble club was managed by Victor Muñoz and Benito Floro, managers with experience in the cathegory, which achieved their goal: the permanence in the division.
The turning point was the 2003/2004 season. During the last couple of years, Fernando Roig had been building his squad slowly. Some players were rejections from other clubs, like Pepe Reina, signed from Barcelona; or José Mari, signed from AC Milan. Some others showed that the club had started to build a good net of scouting in South America, and players like Belletti, Battaglia or Palermo (very unlucky with a terrible injury) had joined the club. In the summer of 2003, Villarreal added the last important pieces with the signings of a veteran but efficient Sonny Anderson, the AC Milan rejection Fabricio Coloccini and, especially, the main player of the project that was about to start, Juan Román Riquelme, for only 5M from Barcelona.
|Juan Román Riquelme|
In the first time Villarreal CF played the European competition, they reached the semifinals, where they meet the future Liga champion, Benitez's Valencia CF. Sadly for the Yellow Submarine, their historical season ended up there and the Valencian derby in Europe was decided by a goal of Mista in Mestalla, in a very tight game. Valencia CF ended up winning the UEFA Cup that season.
With the arrival of Manuel Pellegrini in the following season, the project got more solid. The Chilean coach had a prestigious career in South America, mainly in Chile and Argentina, but was very unknown in Europe. Along with Pellegrini, and following the same policy in the market, the club signed a Manchester United rejection, Diego Forlán. On paper an irrelevant signing, given the bad statistics (and even reputation) of the Uruguayan player, but the striker was the Pichichi (top scorer) of the competition and his duo with Riquelme was legendary, taking the club to the 3rd position of La Liga, an unbelievable achievement for this club, reaching the quarter finals in the UEFA Cup again.
The next season (2006/2007) was marked by the problems with Juan Román Riquelme, who was forcing his transfer to Boca Juniors. The club had a really bad first half of the season, flirting with relegation spots, but Fernando Roig gave all the support to the coach Pellegrini. The exit of Riquelme in Winter and the adaption of good players like Gonzalo Rodriguez, Nihat and Pires, and the usual goals of Forlán allowed the team to finish in the 5th position, getting an UEFA Cup spot.
Another historical season was the 2007/2008. Good team players like Joan Capdevila and Cani were signed and a veteran John Dahl Tomasson and a young Giuseppe Rossi were signed for a low price to replace Forlán, who had been sold to Atlético Madrid. The team made a fantastic season, being the runner-up in La Liga over FC Barcelona, being the main threat for the champion Real Madrid during a long part of the season. In the UEFA Cup, the initially surprising elimination against Zenit was not that surprising when the Russians ended up winning the competition.
All these achievements have its roots in two main blocks: the intelligent investment made in the market by Fernando Roig and the scouting work in South America. Fernando Roig's obsession has always been the economic and financial health of the club. He always knew it was useless to overspend, since the price to pay some time later is even worse. In that sense, Villarreal always had a good eye to catch talent at a very low price, either signing veteran but commited players or rejections from big clubs who still wanted to prove their value. Aside some exceptional cases, the results are there and players like Anderson, Riquelme, Forlan, Sorin, Tomasson, Pires or Reina had a great influence in the achievements of this club. At the same time, the scouting work of the club in South America, which allowed them to bring players like Belletti, Gonzalo Rodriguez, Cáceres, Arruabarrena, Guille Franco or Valencia, has also been a key of the success of the club. In both cases, most of these players triumphed in the club and most who left have allowed the club to recover their investment multiplied by higher amounts. In this sense, Villarreal CF has been one of the most intelligent clubs in Europe in recent years.
|Ciudad Deportiva del Villarreal CF|
Villarreal's building have an extremely solid base. Fernando Roig and his right hand Llaneza assure calm and good management, offering the public one of the most attractive and powerful teams of the continent. Villarreal CF is an example of business, an example of how things must be done. Seriousness, hard work, solid investments, long-term strategy and short-term good decisions, calm to deal with problems. Most of the players who have played in Villarreal admit that the club does not have the pressure of the big teams, but they also highlight how beautiful is to work in this kind of club. What once was the small team of a small town nowadays fight face to face with the most important and legendary Valencian team, Valencia CF, and definitely is one of the references in the World of football among the humble clubs. This week they face Odense in the second leg of the previous round of the UEFA Champions League and they have to overcome the painful 1-0 of the first leg. But, at this point, nothing would be a miracle in that small town of Castelló: Vila-real. I can only wish them the best, because this club definitely deserves more beautiful nights of football.