Jose Manuel Llaneza: “The door is open, and we are in. Nobody is kicking us out now”

[Villarreal News] And, last but not least, here is the third interview Mediterraneo produced post-Europa League final: The Vice-president of Villarreal and a man who has been at the club even longer than Fernando Roig–Jose Manuel Llaneza. Credit goes to Mediterraneo, and Ismael Mateu, for the actual interview. Curated translation from yours truly.

Ismael Mateu: So many years of suffering and working hard, and at last, the reward.

Jose Manuel Llaneza: The reward came 23 years ago, when we got promoted for the first time, back when nobody counted on us. We have made it all the way here. That is impressive–in the way we have done it, the style, and for having beaten two English teams that seemed to be running away with it. We crashed their party and did it on the pitch; and outside too–our fans were louder than Manchester’s.

IM: And beyond that, beating the champions of Croatia, the champions of the Ukraine, two teams from two countries’ capitals, all of them against a village…

JML: And Salzburg, with the entire Red Bull team behind them. I mean, it has not been easy. Perhaps the group stage was a bit weaker but we always ended up having to travel 6,000, 7,000 kilometers. 

IM: This speaks of the growth of Villarreal, as an entity and as a project. 

JML: Check this out–I think in the final we had eight or nine youth players, between those who played, and those who didn’t. I don’t know what other teams can say this; very few can–on top of that, having lifted the trophy.  

IM: People are not realizing that along with Villarreal, there are only four other Spanish Europa/UEFA champions, ever. Barcelona doesn’t have it, even though they have a “Fairs Cup.”

JML: And there isn’t a single city of 50,000 people that has a European title, because the two smaller than Vila-real who made it, Monaco and Bastia, did not win the final. KV Mechelen is the closest, but that’s a population of 70,000. 

IM: I heard you on TV and you were speaking about Roig Negueroles, about the work of everyone as a group, the collective effort, and that you all have inherited the club in this stage.

JML: I think Villarreal is an idea, and that idea is the one we are carrying out; evidently we need to improve it, polish it, and change a few things sometimes. The father is the one who has created this idea, and the son is the one who is carrying it out in an extraordinary way. 

IM: Is the secret to care for the youth system and to make the right decisions when you strengthen the team?

JML: On top of all that, the secret is daily work. Here, for instance, we’ve had veteran players come this season, and they all feel like home, like family. That is impressive. 

IM: And what about Pay Francisco Torres?

JML: Pau being from here, arriving when he was four or five, and where he is right now…it’s an amazing thing. 

IM: And there is also a player who was here, who had to leave and go to Mallorca and Espanyol, and who now is a world star…

JML: For me, I think Gerard was the best player in La Liga this season. I don’t give a crap who they give that award, I don’t care. I have been in this sport too many years and I know what this player has done; on top of that, he is a phenomenal person, as is his family, his father, his wife, everyone. As a person he is a 10, but in terms of his leadership, he is a 10 and a half. 

IM: I think about it and he has the leadership of Totti, Messi; those players who were not just strikers and goalscorers, but those who’d drop back, receive the ball, get involved. It’s insane how much he has grown. 

JML: It cost us a lot of money to bring him back from Espanyol, but I think he is one of the biggest successes in the history of this club. 

IM: And it was a choice of betting for someone who was already from here…

JML: Yes, well–circumstances were that he left, and thankfully we kept 50% of his transfer; otherwise, it would have been even harder. 

IM: You were talking about 23 years of work. That is the most beautiful thing, I suppose. What was the hardest part?

JML: The last relegation. It was just unbelievable to be relegated in the last minute of the season, after not having been in relegation spots at all. But that happens, it happens. 

IM: Above all, because the project was one to compete in the Champions League.

JML: Yes, but Giuseppe Rossi got injured in October, and the year before, he had scored over 30 goals in all competitions. From then on we didn’t know what to do, we did not make the right decisions, we did not think about that replacement long and hard, and we trusted some players who did not perform. But those things happen, we learned very fast from all that, we gave chances to the youth players, and that decision rewarded us back. 

IM: Tou were saying that Villarreal will continue to be up there…

JML: First, we have an amazing thing, which is the European Supercup in August. After that, we get to be in the Champions League, in group 1. Let’s see if we have a bit more luck than last time, but we will be there. 

IM: And you have also said that Villarreal has not made a final as a matter of anecdote, and that it will keep growing to remain in this elite status. 

JML: No doubt about it. I think the door has opened, and we are in. Nobody is kicking us out now. 

Fernando Roig Negueroles: “We are going to be competitive in all four competitions”

[Villarreal News]: Even though Fernando Roig is the President and face of Villarreal, his son, Fernando Roig Negueroles, is the Managing Director, and the person in charge of the day-to-day, planning, and execution of the strategic plan the President puts forth. Mediterraneo sat down with Negueroles a couple of days ago to chat about the days after the final, and here at Villarrealnews.com, we provide a curated translation of this interview so you can know what Villarreal’s boss had to say. Credit for the actual interview: Ismael Mateu, Periodico Mediterraneo

Ismael Mateu: It was time. This sport owed Villarreal a trophy. Satisfied?

Fernando Roig Negueroles: Yes, for sure. Very happy. A lot of years of work and effort. In the end, winning a title is very hard. I think we are actually the seventh team in Spain who has managed to win a European competition. Since the now extinct UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup Zaragoza won, there has not been a new Spanish team who has won a European competition. It is to be proud of, and satisfied with.

IM: And what a tournament, especially with the level of the opposition.

FRN: It is a competition that demands a lot out of each team. We have played against clubs at the top level this season. For instance, Barcelona does not have this title, even if it is because for the most part they play the Champions League. What is true is that winning a European competition of this caliber has a lot of merit. 

IM: Everything is so recent that you probably haven’t digested it yet, but as the days go by, you probably will start to realize what you’ve achieved. 

FRN: It’s still hard to come to terms with it, but I assume in a few days we will start to truly value all this. To do what we did is huge and not everyone can do it. We are very happy.

IM: The road wasn’t easy: Salzburg, Dinamo Kiev, Dinamo Zagreb, Arsenal, and the final against Manchester…

FRN: Yes, the road was a spectacular one. Maybe the group stage wasn’t as hard, but we still had to win the matches; in other seasons we didn’t and went through as the second team in the group.

This year, we got five matches and a draw out of it. The opposition afterwards was top quality, though. I think Salzburg, Dinamo Kiev and Dinamo Zagreb are not as well known as others, but they made things very hard for us. 

Afterwards came the two big ones: Arsenal and Manchester United. Two big teams from the Premier League. Arsenal is not in its best moment, but they have a great team; and Manchester United, as second placed in the Premier League, and a top-level team. Chelsea, Manchester City and Manchester United are perhaps the three best teams in the world. 

IM: Unai Emery orchestrated this triumph. How important was his arrival?

FRN: The arrival of the manager was important, but I think we need to look at success as a whole, not just the coach. A win like this one should not be given to one person or another. What is true is that Unai has frankly done very well, and not just because he has gotten us a trophy. 

It’s true that in any competition like the Europa League there are difficult moments where someone like him has the experience to overcome them, as it’s been the case on this occasion. He has experienced similar situations in teams like Valencia, Sevilla, PSG or Arsenal, and now has helped us with this great achievement. 

IM: In terms of the project, did you think this was the season where you could win a title?

FRN: The club has demonstrated being able to react to specific moments throughout the season. We always try to put together a good team, and we have been able to adapt to adversity, like Alberto Moreno and Vicente Iborra’s injuries, both long term, and other players who have been mildly injured.

In global terms, the season has been a very good one, even though the seventh La Liga spot is unfair I believe; we think we deserved to have finished higher up. For different reasons, in the end we had to be satisfied with that, but winning the Europa League trophy and qualifying for the Champions League makes up for everything. 

IM: After this success, it’s time to think about the future. This never stops. Which Villarreal will we see next year?

FRN: It is time to rest and enjoy. And of course, after that, start to plan next season to improve the team as much as possible, at the very least to be as competitive of a team as this one is, so we can face all competitions and challenges we have ahead. 

Next year we will play in La Liga, Spanish Cup, Champions League, and European Supercup.  We are going to be competitive in all four competitions, no doubt.

Translated Interview with Fernando Roig: “We want more, and better.”

Villarreal News: Mediterraneo ran a series of interviews post-Europa League final, and at Villarrealnews.com, and giving all the credit to the local newspaper from Castellon, we curate this one-on-one with Fernando Roig as he describes the finals, moments after, and what’s coming next for Villarreal. 

Ismael Mateu: After so many years the title is here. On top of that, the first title is the Europa League. Who is it dedicated to, and who are you remembering right now? 

Fernando Roig: There are so many who are part of the Villarreal family whom we want to share this title with: players, board, all kinds of staff. From the first one to the last one, all those who have come and gone through this club, they all have set the groundwork for achieving this Europa League title.

IM: What portion of this success is Unai Emery’s and the players? 

FR: All of it. We have been lucky to have a great manager and squad to bring this success home. We wanted a winning manager, and Unai Emery is one of them. He has been surrounded by competitive, engaged, winning players. They are something to be proud of. 

IM: What do you think was the key to win this title? 

FR: Honestly, the concept of the group. The team and staff are all one. They are very professional, and have met the expectations perfectly. I have seen a locker that was extremely bought into this project. Now, after this success, it is time to enjoy and celebrate. Everyone who is part of this family has earned that. 

IM: Did you expect to go all the way this season? 

FR: We have always said that we are an ambitious entity, but with our feet on the ground. In this club, the philosophy is always the same one. 

We started with the objective of staying in the First Division; we did that. After that, we needed to qualify to play in Europe next year, and we did that also. Through the European competition we participated in, we wanted to get as far as possible. 

This season, the stars have aligned to achieve an amazing objective: winning the Europa League, and playing in the Champions League; in Group 1 of the drawing as well. On top of that, we will play the Supercup.

IM: The money the club is going to receive for winning the Europa League is important, along with many other benefits. What a reward for this win!

FR: It’s funny, the Europa League has more of a prize than finishing fourth in La Liga, but it’s true that it is very complicated to win it. Beyond the revenue for winning the final, there is also the prize of playing the Champions League next year, and the money for playing in the Supercup and fighting that final, our second final ever. 

IM: That’s right, to the Champions League we go!

FR: For the fourth time in our history we will be in this tournament, and that is a source of pride for the club, the fans, the city of Vila-real, and for the entire province of Castellon.

IM: Do you think that lifting this trophy is the last push needed to transformationally increase our social mass?

FR: The feeling people have in Vila-real and the province of Castellon for Villarreal is real. I’ll repeat–there is a feeling. Villarreal is a feeling, and the owners of the club are all those people who think and feel in yellow. The only thing we try to do is to lead well, to work hard, and through that effort, achieve success, like it has happened this year. 

IM: You are now the sport’s top representative in the Valencian Community. The Yellow Submarine is the flagship of Valencian sport. Are you proud? 

FR: Of course. This is a global success, for the entire province, and for all valencianos. The people from the Valencian Community need to believe in what they have. We believed in ourselves, and we got a trophy as important as the Europa League. But to grow, and to believe is for all of us to do. 

We have to be a common front between valencianos. It is convenient for all of us that Elche stays in La Liga, that Castellon comes back to the Second Division, that Hercules builds back up, and for all of us together to make the Valencian Community bigger.

IM: Looking back to a few days ago…how hard was it to miss the final? Did you suffer a lot throughout the match?

FR: Yes, it was very hard. I had to come back from Poland. I went there and in order not to make it a thing with UEFA, we decided that the best thing was to go back to Spain. What would I have done there anyway? I went back home and I suffered, watching the match with my wife. Getting through the penalties…but all that suffering was worth it. We are champions. 

IM: Which was the moment of the match in which you suffered the most?

FR: For me, it was Rulli’s save. The moment he stopped the penalty we were able to rest and enjoy, because we had scored our penalty beforehand, and the match was over. We suffered a lot. 

IM: You’ve played a final, you are going to play another one, and you have a trophy on the shelves. Would you say that Villarreal is here to stay?

FR: We’re always arriving at places to stay.We have always worked hard to build competitive projects, being clear that the first thing is to stay in the First Division, and after that, whatever else we can achieve. 

IM: Is this the result of so many years of work and sacrifice? 

FR: No doubt. After more than 23 years, a lot of happy moments, some sad ones, like Roman’s penalty, the last relegation…it was time we experienced something as wonderful as this. We have worked hard to have a great youth system, an ambitious project and a magnificent stadium to play in the Champions League next season. 

IM: The project of the club is to be envious of. Do you agree?

FR: It is a privilege to have this squad and to have won the Europa League with so many youth players, and with most of them being Spaniards. It is a reflection of doing things right. And all that is thanks to the work of the Managing Director, Fernando Roig Negueroles, who has created a winning project. 

IM: What do you foresee for the future?

FR: For the future? Same as always, we want more, and better. The team needs to be more, and better than this year. Villarreal does not settle, and never will.