Though frustrated to be on the sidelines as his team return to European action, Joan Capdevila can be proud of the work done so far this season for a Villarreal CF side excelling in the Liga and looking to earn a place in the UEFA Europa League knockout phase.
Just one year ago the Yellow Submarine found themselves in the lower half of the league table and struggling to adapt to life after former coach Manuel Pellegrini's departure. Matters gradually started to improve, however, with Ernesto Valverde's replacement by Juan Carlos Garrido, whose promotion to the senior set-up after 16 years at the club helped to restore Villarreal's reputation.
"Pellegrini left but most players stayed, and except for a few small changes the team hasn't lost its power and energy," Capdevila told UEFA.com. "Villarreal is not a big club yet we try to play football like the big clubs. I have been here for four years now and the focus in our play was to circulate the ball well, and have lots of possession; that's what is still practised and worked on here."
Challenging Real Madrid CF and FC Barcelona at the top of the standings has been made possible largely by the team's in-form strikers Giuseppe Rossi and Nilmar, while seasoned campaigners Santi Cazorla, Marcos Senna, Carlos Marchena and Capdevila have brought plenty of experience to the side.
We have a very balanced team now, there is a really positive mix," the former RC Deportivo La Coruña full-back said. "We don't really have any star players but the experienced guys have already played very important matches with the national team and with the club in European competitions which is crucial especially at key moments and in critical situations. They push the young guys on."
Out injured with a twisted ankle, Capdevila will be cheering on from the stands as his team – who are third in their section – look to boost their chances of a place in the UEFA Europa League round of 32 with a positive result against NK Dinamo Zagreb at El Madrigal on Thursday. "
Maybe nobody really reckons with us, but our objective is to win the Europa League; Atlético de Madrid did it last season so why can't we emulate that?"
Although not part of the side that enjoyed a mesmerising run to the UEFA Champions League semi-finals in 2006, the 32-year-old knows just what European success would mean to the population of a town that sits just north of Valencia. "Just imagine if that happened to this city of 50,000 inhabitants," the Spanish international enthused. "To participate in European competition is obviously important, but imagine if we could win such a title. We would lift Villarreal to the top of European football and that would be the maximum for the club, the city and the players. I'm convinced we can do it we are not underdogs anymore."
Picking up another medal to add to those he won with Spain at last summer's FIFA World Cup and UEFA EURO 2008 would be a proud achievement for the Catalan-born defender, while providing him with more photos to add to his collection of scrapbooks.
"I have about 80 or 90 pictures now; it's a hobby that started when I began playing," he explained. "It's hard to single out a specific group of photos but if I had to, then the pictures from the World Cup might be more special after having won it. You don't really realise it now, but when I stop playing it will be nice to remember those moments, right from when I started."
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