Villarreal celebrates its centenary this Friday in the best sporting moment in its history, settled in the upper middle zone of the First Division and with very recent successes at the continental level, such as its first Europa League in the 2020-2021 season or the semifinals of the Champions only a year later. But before, the team was the protagonist of a process of identity creation and consolidation of its fundamental pillars with ten key moments that explain the history of the first 100 years of the club.

1. Foundation. Its foundation dates from March 10, 1923 by a group of fans from the city, with the pharmacist José Calduch Almela as one of the great promoters of CD Villarreal at the time. It was there that the sign of identity that still accompanies the Castellón team was sown, which since June of that same year played its matches -they were not official until the following decade- in the old Madrigal and current La Cerámica Stadium, with 23,000 spectators after the last remodeling.

2. First game. After choosing the colors black and white for the first kits -they remained until 1946-, Villarreal played their first friendly match on August 21, 1923, when they faced Red and Star from Castellón. The team began to take part in the provincial and regional championships, and in the 1935-1936 season it fought unsuccessfully with Cartagena for its first promotion to the Second Division.

3. Promotion to the Second Division. After several name changes until it became the definitive Villarreal Football Club since 1954, it was two years later that it was promoted to the Third Division for the first time. However, they had to wait until the 1970-1971 season to celebrate their first promotion to the Second Division and with it, to professional football. At its premiere, it managed to stay, although it was relegated the following season and began a period of anxiety in the national and 2nd B categories, until it returned to professional Spanish football.

4. Promotion to the First Division. Villarreal managed to establish itself in the ‘middle class’ of the Second Division during its first six seasons, to rise to fourth place in 1997-1998 and play the promotion tie against SD Compostela. With two draws (0-0 and 1-1), the double value of Alberto Saavedra’s goal in San Lázaro made the ‘Yellow Submarine’ a First Division team for the first time in its history.

5. First match in Primera. Their debut in the top flight was at a high-level venue like the Santiago Bernabéu and on a Monday, August 31, 1998. Villarreal went ahead on the scoreboard after 3 minutes through Gica Craioveanu, but would end up losing for 4-1. Palop; Pascual, Serer, Robert, Arregui; Gerardo, Albelda, Díaz, Alfaro, Moisés and Craioveanu made up that first eleven of a team that could not avoid relegation.

6. First participation for Europe. Already in the 2000s, and with Fernando Roig in the presidency, the team was established among the elite of Spanish football. And in the 2002-2003 season, the team finished fifteenth in the domestic table, but the victory (1-2 and 0-0) over Dutch Heerenveen in the Intertoto, their first international competition, allowed them to qualify for the Cup of the UEFA 2003-2004, celebrating their first participation in a continental competition that ended in the semifinals against Valencia.

7. Historic qualification for the Champions League. This feat gave wings to the yellow project, with figures such as Juan Román Riquelme, Rodolfo Arruabarrena, Pepe Reina, Santi Cazorla and Marcos Senna. And in 2004 the arrival of the Chilean coach Manuel Pellegrini, ‘engineer’ of the new ‘Submarine’, became official. The team finished third in 2004-2005 with Diego Forlán as top scorer, qualifying for the Champions League qualifier.

Villarreal “killed” English Everton, accessing the group stage of the top continental club competition for the first time. In addition, they achieved the best result of a rookie team, reaching the semifinals of the tournament, astonishing the entire continent, after eliminating Scottish Glasgow Rangers and Italian Inter Milan in the qualifying rounds. However, the club woke up from the dream of the European final, when Riquelme missed the penalty in the discount of the second leg against Arsenal that would have meant the match tie.

8. Subchampionship in the League. After the setback, although a historic achievement in the Champions League semifinals, the club continued to grow and establish itself in the noble zone. Thus, in the 2007-2008 season, now without Diego Forlán, although with Giuseppe Rossi and Diego López, the ‘Yellow Submarine’ completes the best league start in history (56 points), as a precedent of the domestic runner-up, his best result in League with 77 points (24 wins, 5 draws and 9 losses) at the end of the season, 8 behind Real Madrid, champion that course.

9. Champion of the Europa League. The entity then began a process of modernization and transformation, with relegation involved, which culminated in the harvest of its first major European title, by lifting the Europa League in its first final in the competition in the 2020-2021 campaign. The ‘Yellow Submarine’, with Unai Emery on the bench, beat Manchester United in the final after an intense penalty shootout. This luck would later deprive them of celebrating the European Super Cup, which they lost to Chelsea.

10. Second semifinals in the Champions League. Their triumph in the Europa League gave them a place in the 2020-2022 Champions League, when they once again dazzled an entire continent, qualifying regardless of the level, many times higher on paper, of their rivals. Thus, after emerging unscathed from a group with Manchester United and Atalanta, they beat Juventus in the round of 16 and Bayern in the quarterfinals, with a goal from Samu Chukwueze in the 88th minute of the second leg at the Allianz Arena.

16 years later, the ‘Yellow Submarine’ was again at the gates of what would surely be the greatest feat in its history, but another English team, Liverpool, crossed their path. The ‘reds’ won 2-0 at Anfield, but Unai Emery’s men were able to equalize the tie at La Cerámica before the break. After this, the ‘reds’ took advantage of the small local downturn to come back and put an end to the ‘groguet’ dream with a 5-2 aggregate.

By Lay

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