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Calleja returns as Villarreal coach seven weeks after being sacked

17:48 GMT 29/01/2019
calleja-cropped
The former defender has followed in the footsteps of Leonardo Jardim by leaving and rejoining the same club in the space of the same season

Javi Calleja has returned as Villarreal coach less than two months after being sacked, the club have confirmed.

Calleja was shown the exit on December 10 with Villarreal 17th in LaLiga, and Luis Garcia Plaza was chosen to replace him.

But Garcia Plaza suffered the same fate as Calleja on Tuesday, having won just once in nine matches across all competitions since taking the reins.

Calleja, a former Villarreal player, led the club to a commendable fifth-place finish last season, before a poor start to the 2018-19 campaign cost him.

He returns with the Yellow Submarine even more embroiled in a relegation battle than when he left, as they sit 19th and five points adrift of safety.

The club did not confirm how long Calleja's contract is, however president Fernando Roig suggested he will be in place initially until the end of the season.

"Villarreal and I distinguish ourselves by doing the opposite of what many people expect and I assume all the responsibility of the decision," Roig told reporters at a news conference.

"It is my decision and I assume the decision until the end of the season."

Villarreal have won just three matches in 21 games so far in La Liga, with a chronic lack of goals - just 21 to date - keeping them rooted near the bottom of the table above last-placed Huesca.

Paradoxically, the Castellon side have given a good account of themselves against La Liga's big-hitters.

Real Madrid were held to a 2-2 draw when the two sides met at the start of January, with Santi Cazorla's double ensuring a point for the hosts; while second-placed Atletico were also frustrated and had to settle for a tie.