Europa League: Villarreal, the triumph of peripheral football

And at the end of the night, after an interminable shooting session, the valiant people of the β€œyellow submarine” send the hopes of the β€œred devils” to the bottom. Yes, it was Villarreal who won the Europa League on Wednesday, May 26, beating Manchester United against all odds (1-1, 11-10). The Spaniards, novices at this level, have defeated the English winners of three Champions Leagues (1968, 1999 and 2008) and already rewarded in this competition (in 2017).

In other words: the club from a large town of 50,000 souls 60 km north of Valence has won against that of one of the largest metropolises of football, Manchester United featuring the best in terms of training for global audiences, trademark of global football. The fable of the renewed earthenware pot, which we would see very significant in this period when the leather mastodons came close to building their extremely rich closed residence, the Super League.

The flagship role of a local entrepreneur

Because Villarreal is indeed a singular attraction in the current football landscape. The club, founded in 1923, remained at the regional level for a long time, before slowly emerging at the turn of the century. Main responsible: Fernando Roig, local entrepreneur, fortune in ceramics, the region of Valencia being one of the largest centers of European production. It was he who bought nearly 60% of the club’s shares in 1997 for around € 400,000, he who launched the renovation of the stadium, the construction of a modern training center.

The ambition is real, and validated by a rise in the elite in 1998, for a season barely before coming back down, but a more stable return in 2000. Villarreal will first build its reputation thanks to the checkbook of its president , with, from 2004, striking and staggering recruitments, such as that of the Chilean coach Manuel Pellegrini (future coach of Manchester City) or the Uruguayan β€œserial scorer” striker Diego Forlan. Villarreal is on the podium in La Liga, then his nose in Europe (a semi-final in the Champions League lost against Arsenal in 2006).

Sound management and training

But this period ended in 2012 with a return to earth and a relegation to the second division. The stay was brief – barely a year – but above all it caused a reorientation of house policy. The club gives up the classic practice of indebtedness dug by recruitments to focus especially on training. It has been his trademark for ten years. The management wants to be balanced, and the accounts appear rather healthy. This year, Villarreal is the seventh budget in La Liga (117 million euros), after climbing to 144 million euros before the health crisis. By comparison, we are talking about a budget between that of Rennes and that of Marseille in France.

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With these means and without making any noise, Villarreal has always ranked between the 4e and the 7e place (this year), with the exception of a small gap in 2019 (14e). But this season, the Spanish team wanted to turn a corner, especially on the European scene. Coach Unai Emery, former playing master of PSG and Arsenal already three times titled in the Europa League with Sevilla (2014, 2015 and 2016), was recruited to give additional impetus and also more rigor on the pitch. The beautiful game and the willingness to attack usually displayed have given way to a more austere system. But effective.

In the offseason, Villarreal also took advantage of the crisis of the Valencian neighbor to do some good deals on the transfer market, attracting players like the Spanish international Dani Parejo or the French Francis Coquelin at a lower cost. Good pick: Wednesday night, the first was the author of the free kick bringing the goal of Villarreal, the second was elected best player of the final. At the end of the match, the Frenchman could be enthusiastic: β€œVillarreal is a village of 50,000 people. And bringing a trophy back to the village is incredible ”. Effectively.