Fernando Roig, president of Villarreal: “We are not going to Gdansk to party. We are going to beat Manchester United.” 

(Today’s interview by local paper Mediterraneo, translated by me in its entirety with the blessing of the journalist who wrote it).

Villarreal News: President Fernando Roig spoke to local newspaper Mediterraneo from his home, where he is staying until he tests negative after contracting COVID earlier this month. We contacted the journalist to get the blessing on a curated translation for villarrealnews.com, and with that green light, we bring it over to you. Enjoy! 

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Jose Luis Lizarraga: Villarreal has experienced an accelerated growth in the 24 years you have been in charge of the club, and the only thing it had left to achieve was the recognition of this final in Gdansk. Did you think this day would ever come?

Fernando Roig: It is an important milestone for the club, a reward to all these years of work, and to all the people fighting to earn something to celebrate. This edition of the Europa League included several clubs with a lot of history, and big budgets. There are only two in the final; one is Villarreal. They all have to be extremely proud. 

Yes, I thought it would come, but it’s true that it has taken a while. I hope more finals come.

JL: The chance of a final has squirmed away from Villarreal in five semifinals: in four different occasions in Europe, and one in the Spanish Cup. Has the ceiling glass been broken?

FR: I am not changing my position on this, because I know where we come from and I always want us to remain a humble club, that is our essence: the biggest title we celebrate each year is to remain in the First Division. 

After that, there are other goals, like qualifying for Europe; and now, this final. We have a good team that knows how to compete, and an experienced manager; but even with all that, it is very complicated to reach a final, and even more so in a tournament with big clubs like Arsenal, Tottenham, Roma, Napoli, Benfica, PSV, etc.

JL: Did you know that a lot of people are concerned about you not being able to go to the final?

FR: I would like to go to Gdansk, and I hope, in the end, that I can travel. There is still time for the negative test to come through. I feel very good healthwise, but I have to abide by the protocols to travel, and that includes a negative test.

JL: The photo of Fernando Roig lifting the Europa League trophy would be the best memory you could have, and a gift to Villarreal fans.

FR: We are not going to Gdansk to party, we are going to win. I know in the locker room there is a lot of excitement to bring the cup home; but this is also a day to enjoy. Whatever happens, we all have to be very proud of this team, of the club, the city, the Castellon province…in a nutshell, proud of Villarreal. 

Don’t count us as already having lost, though! I repeat: We are going to come out to win it, I hope nobody has any doubt about it. 

JL: You have always said that your most satisfying moment is knowing that this team, in a city of 51,000 people, has managed to be a club that is financially self-sufficient. Do you think yours is a management model worthy of study?

FR: Yes, I am very proud of the club being self-sufficient. We don’t depend on any super-sponsorship, or an owner who finances everything. It all works through television revenue, the right management, and work at the youth system level.

In summary, we are a club that is self-financed, one that is in good financial health, and one that has huge equity. 

JL: The sport is going through a delicate moment due to the pandemic, which has left big clubs in very delicate financial situations. Is it the moment that LaLiga clubs adapt their budgets accordingly under this new landscape?

FR: It is very similar to the economy. Taxes cannot last forever, and not everything can be paid with them; you have to adapt to expenses. In soccer, it is similar: you have to think that television revenue could be insufficient, and you have to adjust and balance out all expenses.

Television revenue is not infinite, you have to restructure and think deep on how much you spend, so you don’t go into debt

JL: Did Villarreal have to reduce its budget as well?

FR: When we got relegated from the First Division, the Managing Director had to do a lot of adjustments already. We sold players and we adapted to the economy of the club. Everything was done reasonably, and well. 

Now, we are among the seven clubs with the biggest budget in the First Division, but we have to realize that Villarreal cannot get up to 200 million Euros in budget. Furthermore, I think we should remain around 100-and-something. 

I don’t want to bother anyone, but everyone needs to adjust their expenses in alignment with their revenue. 

JL: Is competing against the big clubs in Europe a success attributed to the brains behind the operation inside the club?

FR: The success is the Managing Director’s. Fernando is the one who works, plans, and is involved in the day-to-day of the club. His work is worthy of mention, even more so because, as you say, he is in the shadows; but Villarreal is what it is because of his management.

JL: Success not only financially, but also when it comes to results, even though the team has ended the season in seventh position, a very good squad has been created, with a great leader on the bench.

FR: Yes, we had a streak of draws, and the goal Raba wasn’t given against Betis which would have changed the final table, but Villarreal has completed a great season, one that could be rounded up in Gdansk. 

The Managing Director also made a difficult decision with Calleja, who has proven he is a good manager at Alaves, and took a chance with a man with experience and a tireless worker, who lives and breathes for Villarreal, and that is Emery.

Because of that,a great piece of the success is Fernando’s. Making decisions and getting them right is not easy. 

JL: And you keep working, and planning. You never stop working. Are you already thinking about the next project?

FR: You can’t ever stop, you always have to plan and prepare into the future. Of course, within the club this is being done constantly. I always say it, and I will repeat it: we will have a better team than last year.

JL: Within that planning process, you are always thinking about ways to improve the stadium. The latest initiative is a new restaurant that looks like it should have a Michelin Star.

FR: The restaurant is the cherry on the cake of a beautiful stadium. It will be a point of reunion for the people, with a big patio outside, and open to all guests; it will be a place to hang out and relax, very close to the center of Vila-real. We are also working on changing the pavement in the square. As I said before, Villarreal never stops working. 

JL: Now that we are talking about the stadium–you have had in mind for a while a complete remodeling of the venue, putting a roof over the Priority seats, and finalizing the closing of the stadium on all sides. Where are you in this initiative?

FR: It depends on the four or five houses surrounding the stadium, the ones we have not been able to purchase yet. They were evaluated, and we offered twice that valuation, but we will not pay more than that. 

Whenever we purchase those properties, we will start the comprehensive project in the stadium. It is really more a matter up to the City Council to finish up a stadium that could be a reference point for the city of Vila-real. The project entails putting a roof over the entirety of the Priority stands, and finishing the surrounding arch around the stadium. 

JL: They tell me that you are very excited to see the stadium full of fans again. Soon maybe?

FR: This sport, like society, needs to go back to normal. People are really looking forward to it, and we are all hoping that, at this vaccination pace, we will be able to start the next season very close to that normalcy, or in it. Of course, it is not a matter of wishful thinking, but rather of whatever the health authorities say. 

JL: By the way, what do you say about the magical atmosphere we all lived at La Ceramica against Sevilla? What a party! Smiling faces, people so emotional they were crying–you couldn’t be there, but I know they told you about that. 

FR: Oh, yes, it’s true; I had to watch it from home, but it was beautiful to see everyone so happy, people living it like it was a reunion party, very exciting. We have a very special group of supporters in the way that they are, and I am tremendously proud of them. 

JL: In London I saw you from the stands, and you never stopped getting calls left and right. From the hundreds of messages you have received, which one do you remember fondly?

FR: Yes, it is true that I had a lot of messages conveying happiness. It is hard to highlight one and I don’t like doing it, but, for instance, Cazorla comes to mind. 

I do have to say that I was the one who was receiving them, but they were directed to all our fans, to all whom, as I always say, think in yellow. I am fully expecting to receive even more in Gdansk when we win the Europa League. I’ll keep you posted.

JL: And it will be a journey that will include over two thousand fans of the team in the stadium. It’s a shame there can’t be more, 

FR: Yes, the truth is that we are overwhelmed with the requests to join, and it is very painful to not be able to address every single one of them. Now, we hope everything goes well, and to come back home happy.

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