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15

May, 2020

It's not MasterChef, but it's not far from it! The young players from Villarreal's U16s to U13s sid

https://medium.com/off-the-pitch-by-villarreal/from-a-small-town-to-the-european-stage-8ff630cf8419

Villarreal CF made their LaLiga debut in 1998 after years climbing Spain’s football ladder. New owner Fernando Roig said he aimed to take Villarreal to the top flight when he took over, and he did it in just one season.
The Yellows did go down the following season, but they bounced straight back up and the Yellow Submarine began a long and established period of success in La Liga alongside the traditional Spanish footballing royalty.
Home to around 50,000 people, Vila-real Villarreal is not even in Spain’s top 100 most populated municipalities but in the last 10 LaLiga seasons Villarreal have the sixth most points. This town in the province of Castellón has formed a football club that has not only reached unimaginable heights, but also managed to stay there and punch above their weight year after year.
In 2007/08 Villarreal finished second in LaLiga, only trailing champions Real Madrid. The most exemplary season for a modest community club turned international community club. Despite competing against many bigger clubs in Spain, Villarreal have managed to beat many of them to those coveted top four positions in La Liga in recent years. Villarreal have joined Europe’s elite, playing continental football 15 times since Roig took over.
Despite special and impressive domestic performances, nothing beats those European nights. Villarreal have normalised LaLiga success, but by competing in Europe they have done what many clubs their size will only dream of, and they have brought the eyes of the world on to the Yellow Submarine.
UEFA’s coefficient ranking system grades every team in Europe on their Champions and Europa League performance in the previous seasons. Villarreal currently sit at 24th in that list, ahead of the likes of neighbours Valencia CF and ahead of the likes of the Italian giants Inter and AC Milan, the two Milan clubs are amongst the most rich and famous in football history and they share ten European Cups between them. Yet, Villarreal have outperformed this class of team in recent years.
Villarreal first tasted European football in the 2002 Intertoto Cup. The Yellows would beat the likes of Torino, Spartak Moscow and Hamburg in the competition and play in three Intertoto Cup finals between 2002 and 2005.
In the 2003/04 season Villarreal made their bow in the UEFA Cup, now known as the Europa League. Big clubs like Galatasaray, Roma and Celtic were all defeated at El Madrigal and Villarreal made the semi-finals of their first major European competition. More was to come. That would be one of three runs to the Europa League semi-finals that Villarreal CF would have in recent years, as well as two defeats in the quarter-finals.
The biggest stage of them all is the Champions League, usually associated with the likes of Liverpool, Milan, Munich and Madrid. The Yellow Submarine famously reached the semi finals of the competition in the 2005/06 season, after beating Inter Milan in the quarter finals the Yellows were painfully denied a trip to the final in Paris, losing by a goal to Arsenal. Juan Román Riquelme’s missed penalty in the semi-final may have been a painful moment, but it was the best ever performance by a team making their debut in the season, and all Yellows are phenomenally proud of the team’s performance on the European stage that season.
In 2008/09 it was Arsenal again that stopped Villarreal in their tracks, this time in the quarter finals. Just as in 2005/06 Villarreal shared a group with another English giant and one of the highest spending clubs in world football; Manchester United, who were the current Champions the second time they played in Villarreal, but in all four meetings between the sides the final score was 0–0 and on both occasions Villarreal advanced past the group stage.
It is beyond impressive that such European campaigns and special nights have become so regular for Villarreal, who not long ago were just trying to reach LaLiga. Since then the Yellows have established themselves in Europe and made it to the last 4 of the World’s top club competition. Superstars like Juan Román Riquelme, Diego Forlan and Giuseppe Rossi all called Villarreal their hope as their goals helped the club stay at the highest level.
Villarreal could be likened to a small fish in a very big pond, but the yellow scales have caught the eyes of everyone. The club will continue to try and make history at La Cerámica in the coming years and perhaps the finest European chapter is yet to be written, fans from this little club from the east coast of Spain can hope for the best and maybe even dream of silverware one day. Why wouldn’t you?

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