Villarreal CF Profile
|Major Honours||UEFA Intertoto Cup (2)|
Having started off in regional leagues, Villarreal are an example of a club that has grown and grown in their history, moving from the fifth tier of Spanish football to being European regulars.
Villarreal is a Spanish football club which competes in La Liga, the top tier of football in the country. They play their home matches at the Estadio de la Ceramica, which has a capacity of 23,500, which is half the size of the population of the city of Villarreal.
Villarreal are nicknamed the "Yellow Submarine" due to the colours of their home kit. They have spent most of their history since being founded in 1923 in the lower tiers of Spanish football, but since their La Liga debut in 1998, they have become familiar to all who watch La Liga.
The early years in the lower divisions
Villarreal CF was founded on 10 March 1923 as CD Villarreal to "promote all sports, especially football." Ticket prices were half a peseta for men and a quarter of a peseta for children - a matter of pennies - while women were allowed free entry into the stadium.
Villarreal are known for their yellow kits today, but initially, they played in white shirts and black shorts.
Villarreal played regional football in their early years and won their regional First Division shortly before the Spanish Civil War.
After the end of the war in 1939, Villarreal were once again placed in the Second Division of their region. In 1950/51, they won promotion to the first.
In 1942, Villarreal changed their name to CAF Villarreal, with a new badge to match their new yellow shirts.
The club became Villarreal CF in 1954 and won promotion to the Tercera Liga (Spain's national third division) in 1956 by winning their regional first division. Villarreal were relegated again in 1960/61, but promoted once more in 1966/67, having adopted their current badge in 1966.
In 1970, Villarreal reached the Segunda Division for the first time, but they were relegated in their second season. In 1975/76, they were relegated out of the Tercera Division, back into the regional leagues. However, they were promoted again the following season.
In 1986/87, Villarreal were promoted to the Segunda Liga B. However, they were relegated back to the Tercera Division in 1990 after finishing 18th. Back-to-back promotions followed and the club reached the Segunda A for the first time.
In 1997/98, Villarreal were promoted to La Liga for the first time via the playoffs, beating Compostela on away goals to earn their spot.
Promotion to La Liga and European competitions
Villarreal's first La Liga match was away to reigning European champions Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium on 31 August 1998. They were relegated to the Segunda Division at the end of 1998/99, but won immediate promotion back up to the top flight.
A shock seventh-place finish in 2000/01 was a sign of what was to come for Villarreal, but they finished 15th in each of the next two seasons. They lost 2-1 on aggregate to Malaga in the finals of the 2002 UEFA Intertoto Cup. However, in 2003, they beat Heerenveen in the final of that competition to qualify for the UEFA Cup.
In 2003/04, Villarreal reached the semifinals of the UEFA Cup, losing to eventual winners and local rivals Valencia. However, they retained the UEFA Intertoto Cup in 2004, beating Atletico Madrid on penalties in the final.
Although they lost 3-2 on aggregate to AZ in the quarterfinals of the 2004/05 UEFA Cup, Villarreal had an astounding season domestically, finishing third in La Liga and qualifying for the UEFA Champions League. Having signed for the Yellow Submarine off the back of an unsuccessful spell at Manchester United, Diego Forlan was the top La Liga goalscorer with 25 goals.
After beating Everton in a playoff to qualify for the 2005/06 UEFA Champions League group stages, Villarreal went undefeated in a group which contained Benfica, Lille and Manchester United, topping the group to qualify for the knockout stages.
Villarreal eliminated Rangers in the last 16 and Inter Milan in the quarterfinals, both on away goals. They thus reached the semifinals, where they lost 1-0 to Arsenal on aggregate. Juan Roman Riquelme's penalty kick, which was saved by Jens Lehmann, ultimately proved costly.
In 2007/08, Villarreal enjoyed their best ever La Liga campaign, finishing second to Real Madrid.
Their next heroic European run came in the 2008/09 UEFA Champions League, when they reached the quarterfinals before once again being eliminated by Arsenal.
In the 2010/11 UEFA Europa League, Villarreal were eliminated in the semifinals by eventual champions FC Porto. Villarreal's Giuseppe Rossi finished second to Porto's Radamel Falcao in the tournament's goalscoring standings.
Relegation and a quick return to the top flight
Villarreal were relegated from La Liga in 2011/12 after defeat to Atletico Madrid. Manolo Preciado was appointed as Villarreal's new manager on 6 June 2012, but shockingly died of a heart attack later that day.
Star players such as Borja Valero, Diego Lopez, Rossi and Nilmar left Villarreal and it was left to a new generation of players to rebuild the club.
Villarreal were promoted on the final day of the 2012/13 Segunda Division season, finishing second in the league behind Elche to secure an immediate return to La Liga.
Their first season back in the top flight was successful as Villarreal finished sixth, qualifying once again for the UEFA Europa League. Another sixth-place finish followed in 2014/15. Then, in 2015/16, Villarreal finished fourth in La Liga and earned a spot in the following season's UEFA Champions League playoff rounds. There, Villarreal were eliminated by Monaco, who went on to reach the semifinals.
Villarreal did manage to reach the semifinals of the 2016/17 UEFA Europa League after dropping down to that competition, but they were beaten there by Liverpool.
After humble beginnings and a steady climb through the divisions in their history, the rate of Villarreal's progress will have delighted their supporters - after their latest promotion, the club were back playing UEFA Europa League matches within two seasons.
Since their first promotion to La Liga in the late-1990s, the Yellow Submarine have had just two seasons outside of Spain's top flight and have established themselves as contenders in the top end of the table.
Villarreal's rivals, old and new
Historically, Villarreal have had a rivalry with CD Castellon, their provincial rivals. They also have a fierce rivalry with Valencia, who are the other major successful team from the Valencian area in the modern era. The fixture between the two is known as the "Derbi de la Comunitat."
While this is a relatively new rivalry that has emerged in the last two decades, Villarreal have enjoyed strong success in the fixture - leading Valencia in their head-to-head by 14 wins to 12 as of January 2021, with six draws.
The rivalry with CD Castellon is still played in a different format though, as Villarreal's B team play in the same division as their most historic rivals in the Spanish Segunda Division B.
A fanbase rooted in the local community
Villarreal's loyal community-based support has been credited by These Football Times with helping the team avoid going under during its most troubled times.
Even today, the club tries to engage with their local community in a number of ways. One of which is the group of 'Villarreal CF Runners' who are a set of supporters who engage in the soccer side of the club while also indulging their love of athletics. Villarreal season ticket holders who run enjoy discounts on entry fees to take part in local running races.
Villarreal also recognise 29 official fan clubs on their website. Estadio de la Ceramica, the stadium where Villarreal plays its home matches in the modern era, sits on the same ground as its 1923 home.
Villarreal and finances
A recent report on the financial well-being of 128 clubs in Europe by Off the Pitch showed that Villarreal are one of the best-run clubs. They came 12th in the Off the Pitch rankings.
Billionaire Spanish businessman Fernando Roig is the owner of the club and its president.