By Paul Macdonald | Deputy Editor
Addressing the media last week, Villarreal president Fernando Roig's crestfallen expression portrayed his words before they escaped from his mouth.
Post-relegation, the financial restructuring at El Madrigal will be a significant undertaking. Staring blankly past the microphones, contemplating what comes next for his club, he looked defeated, a man emerging from the most tumultuous of seasons blackened and bruised.
"You learn from your biggest failures - it makes you stronger. It's going to be a very difficult year but we must fight to return," he remarked, adding: "We have reduced our budget in previous years and we have to do it drastically this time. It is a restructuring that we had to look at and now we will have to enforce."
|THE SUBMARINE SINKS
15. Rayo Vallecano
19. Sporting Gijon
20. Racing Santander
Unfortunate, but not unsurprising; the demise of a team that confounded modern assumptions about how success can be generated had begun to manifest itself before the season had even commenced.
Villarreal are not a rich club, far from it, and the population of the town would only fill the bottom tier of Camp Nou. President Roig, wealth shrewdly generated from property and the regions' ceramics industry, invested money, but never in excess, and always incorporated the expenditure into his prudent business model.
Their ability to unearth modestly-priced transfer targets and extrapolate maximum impact proved impossible to maintain over time, however. Juan Roman Riquelme and Diego Forlan (who led Villarreal to the semi-finals of the Champions League in 2006, where they were a missed penalty away from forcing extra time against Arsenal), Giuseppe Rossi, Borja Valero - budget-retaining captures, all of which were fantastic acquisitions. Across the previous decade, there are countless other examples of Roig and his board remaining thoroughly aware of their limitations, but that particular conveyor belt not only slowed during the 2010-11 close season, but begun to regress.
Santi Cazorla was sold to Malaga (ships that passed in the night, so it proved, as the Andalusian side reached the Champions League), and the revenue was, in truth, squandered. Jonathan De Guzman excelled at Mallorca the season prior, but ended the campaign usurped by B team promotees. Cristian Zapata was highly-rated at Udinese, but was shifted across the defence and managed to appear thoroughly uncomfortable in every position.
A shambling two-legged performance against Denmark's Odense did nothing to allay concerns, and although Champions League football was theirs, their less than stellar start in an albeit difficult group led Goal.com to predict in September that tough times lay ahead. The campaign ultimately ended pointless, and from then on, their continued fall from grace has been almost impossible to comprehend.
Roig attempted to express hope despite his contrition at what had befallen his club, stating: "Relegation can help us to reorganise and gain strength. We have to make it a positive thing."
Numbers often prove infinitely more ruthless than the ideals of an organisation that opted to conduct business in a certain manner. Unlike the decidedly shady operations at some of their counterparts, Villarreal pay their taxes. They pay, in full, for players they have purchased. Wages are paid on time. Their outgoings have always been calculated within reasonable means; it's one of the aspects that makes their success over the past decade all the more endearing. As a result, they are debt-free.
On-field highs to financial lows
|€0||Despite the devastation of relegation, Villarreal are currently a debt-free club. Zaragoza, by comparison, owe €80m|
|€5m||Amount still owed to Villarreal by Malaga for the purchase of Santi Cazorla|
|€7m||Amount received by Deportivo La Coruna as a parachute payment upon their relegation in 2011. Villarreal opted out of the arrangement, and so will not receive a similar amount|
|€25m||Villarreal's current wage bill per annum|
|€33m||TV money received for participation in the Primera Division in 2011-12. The corresponding Segunda deal will earn just a tenth of this amount|
|€76m||Villarreal's budget for 2011-12. This is likely to be slashed by up to 80% for next season|
Earlier this week, it emerged that Tottenham winger Giovani dos Santos was set to join up with the team this summer, but their subsequent relegation has obliterated the notion that such a player would compete for a Segunda Division side, and, what's more, that Villarreal could possibly meet his wage demands.
Lotina, suffering a second successive relegation as a coach, has exited, while Cesar and Angel, the veteran duo, have been allowed to leave. Gonzalo and Carlos Marchena will follow suit. High earners such as Zapata, Cani, and De Guzman cannot be retained under the restructuring of the club's finances, and so offers will be encouraged and inevitably accepted.
Then there is the hugely unfortunate loss of Giuseppe Rossi through injury, not once, but twice. A player touted with a €35m move to Barcelona just a year ago, will have missed 14 months of football by the time he returns from his second cruciate ligament operation. His agent inevitably added: "We will have to see how the situation develops there because he can't stay in the Segunda Division."
He will depart, for markedly less than his previous market value. The fire sale is well and truly under way, and there may be little left of the once-vibrant Amarillos at its culmination.
In many ways, Villarreal have been a victim of their own frugality. Conservative investment and meticulous arrangement of expenditure should, in theory, be virtuous qualities. But in the world of football, a dimension that tends not to be bound be the same degree of regulation as conventional business, the nice guy, unfortunately, finishes last. The aforementioned sale of Cazorla to Malaga sees the Madrigal side still owed €5m from the transfer fee, despite the supposed innumerable wealth of the Andalusians' Qatari ownership.
The parachute payments, a deal struck to compensate those relegated to the Segunda, was endorsed mercifully by Deportivo La Coruna, 2011's high-profile victim of the drop. Villarreal felt that the agreement struck at the time was not allocated fairly, and so opted out of the arrangement. As a result, they will not receive an additional €7m. Their TV earnings will drop from €33m per season to just €3m, at maximum, in 2012-13. In the midst of his lowest ebb, Roig alluded to the activities of others, claiming: "We compete with teams who do not pay the IRS, or social security, or do not pay the players. It is an unfair competition."
He can be bitter, but he will also know that, all along, he has done the right thing. When the initial knee-jerk response has passed, he and his board can attempt to reassemble the wreckage and build again. He will do so with one of the club's most iconic players by his side. Marcos Senna will be 36 in July, but the Euro 2008 winner with Spain has vowed to re-establish Villarreal as a top-flight team. His words may serve to inspire.
"My objective was always to save the team, so as I haven't been able to do so, I will stay. I have achieved many things with this club and now we are in a bad moment, I will stay here and return this team to the Primera Division."
This has been Senna's 10th season at El Madrigal, and above the entrance-way of gate 19 - his squad number of choice - a huge mural depicting the captain, with hands aloft in celebration, has been created. It serves both as a nod to a decade of entertainment with the cultured midfielder in tow, but one of hope that what was achieved once, can be achieved again.
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