After the euphoria of winning their first game back in La Liga after a 6 year absence, Real Mallorca are finding the top league in Spain very tough. On 17th August fans celebrated wildly after beating Eibar 2-1 at home. That is now a distant memory already with the club gaining only one more point in six games in a highly credible 0-0 draw against Athletic Bilbao. Four points from seven games equals Mallorca’s worst start to a season this century and they are second bottom of La Liga. There is some comfort in that the only team to have outclassed the islanders was Atletico Madrid for the first half only of a two-nil win in Palma by the team known as Los Colcheneros.
So what has happened and what can be done to put it right? First of all veteran goalkeeper Manolo Reina has stepped up to the plate admirably and has pulled off a number of fine saves. Left back Ghanaian Lumor looked out of his depth in the first couple of games and Baba Rehman, also Ghanaian, was signed on loan from Chelsea. He appeared to be a class act in a couple of appearances but sadly was injured and will be out of action for at least two months. Lumor had to be recalled without success and he was left out of the starting eleven against Alaves with his place being taken by Fran Gamez a natural right back. Clearly head coach Vicente Moreno has lost faith in Lumor. Last year’a central defensive partnership of Raillo and Valjent made the step up in class quite comfortably until Raillo was injured in a training ground collision with, ironically, his natural replacement Sedlar and both are out of action for a number of weeks. This meant club captain Xisco Campos has had to be pressed into service. At 37 years of age he was expected to be a squad member at best and is instead finding himself pitched against the likes of Atletico’s Diego Costa and Morata.
One interesting statistic is that Mallorca have conceded five penalties in seven games, more than any other club in La Liga. Without putting too fine a point on it maybe forwards in the top division are more adept at convincing referees to award a spot kick and Moreno’s men are somewhat naïve in committing themselves to challenges in less than dangerous areas inside the box. Striker Lago Junior has given away two spot kicks and the suggestion is he should stay upfield when the team are defending corners.
There was a group of new players signed in the summer break but no less than seven are yet to start a league game namely Fabricio, Sedlar, Señe, Chavarria, Salibur, Trajkovski and Alex Alegria. There are rumours that their signings were negotiated several months before Mallorca’s run in to the play offs and they are basically second division standard.
The only one appearing regularly is Alex Febas who was signed from Real Madrid. The dimunitive midfielder has undoubted class and able to play the killer pass but he is woefully inconsistent.
The signing that brought worldwide news is that of Take Kubo, known as Kubo, from Real Madrid on loan for the season. The 18 year old has been dubbed as the Japanese Messi and is the youngest player ever to play for and score for his native country. He was away on international duty at the start of the season but is now appearing regularly. Japanese journalists are reporting on his every move and Real Mallorca’s games are the most watched in East Asia. He is expected to provide more ammunition for Croatian striker Ante Budimir who has toiled away manfully on his own in the vanguard of the islanders offence.
Veteran midfielder Salva Sevilla, “the Silver Fox” has called upon his colleagues to pull together along with the fans to put together a run of results and move away from the relegation zone. The return of Raillo would certainly help in that cause.
This Sunday 6th October the visitors to the Son Moix are fellow strugglers Espanyol and it is a definite must win game for the hosts. After the international break there is a mouth watering prospect of league leaders Real Madrid appearing in Palma on the 19th of October. In years gone by Mallorca had a number of famous victories against Los Blancos. Can history repeat itself ? The clamour for tickets is enormous and only four thousand seats will be available as the rest of the stadium is sold out to season ticket holders.