After a two-year exile, Luis García has returned to Spain to save the sinking Yellow Submarine of Villarreal and keep the side in La Liga

Villarreal’s board is well-known for its legendary patience. Both president Fernando Roig and sporting mastermind José Manuel Llaneza have been able to build a extraordinary project over the past twenty years based on three fundamental ideas – a clearly defined playing style, fostering young talent from the first stages of development (both in the pitch and in the bench) and holding on to their managers, only contemplating sackings as a last desperate attempt to turn things around.

Well, that point was reached last Saturday, apparently.

With stats even worse than the two last times Villarreal were relegated to the second division, Calleja had to go, with the club fourth from bottom of the table. He did it silently, humbly, with his best wishes to the club and being a proper gentleman till the end. The manager was sacked at 10 o’clock on Monday. Six hours later, Luis García was already at Villarreal’s training ground talking with his new players.

García is finally back in Spain after a stint abroad that those people who know him well realize was maybe too long. After all, he was *this* close to become Valencia’s manager in 2011, but a last minute change of mind from the Bats extended Unai Emery’s contract one more season and ended with García on another bench.

The breakout for the former Atlético Madrid youth player came in a moment of desperate need for Levante UD. The Granotas had been relegated in summer 2008 and, at the same time, the club had filed for bankruptcy. Most of the players saw their contracts terminated. When Luis García first arrived at the pre-season headquarters in Oliva, he had only two players under his orders.

The miracle man of Levante

The 2008-2009 season was incredibly tough for them. With no money at all for signings, every newcomer came in for zero euros or on loan. However, the miracle happened and Levante were able to remain in La Segunda. Lightning struck twice and even harder next season: in a league for the ages, Levante were actually promoted to Primera despite being one of the ‘poorest’ sides in the competition.

In his third year in charge, Luis García managed to strengthen his team and achieve yet another amazing feat: remaining in Primera with a budget as tiny as it comes in comparison to other La Liga juggernauts. To put it simply: Luis García’s Levante ‘were’ Eibar even before Eibar became famous.

After that failed attempt to land at Mestalla, García had another challenge at Getafe. He went there under the promise of a much bigger budget to spend and the possibility of signing important players due to foreign investment.

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But it was all was a ruse and he spent most of his three years in the job fighting the board and trying to scrape a bit more cash while juggling a team with too few quality players. Pressure was high and he delivered two straight years, but finally got the boot in March 2014.

He then took a bold decision: he went abroad and landed in the Middle East, coaching Baniyas SC in the UAE. He spent almost two years there, getting to know a different culture and increasing the performance level of the team and club as a whole. He then left in summer 2016 and, twelve months later, he moved to China where he was put in charge of Beijing Rhene. Again, it wasn’t the team with the most cash to spend, but in only six months he achieved an amazing promotion to the Chinese Super League and, in his second season, was able to remain in the top flight.


Now, the Madrid-born manager is back to the Valencian region, where he achieved his biggest success in the past. Making Villarreal great again and steering a sinking ship out of treacherous waters might be one of his biggest challenges to date, but he was keen on tackling it as soon as possible: “It’s a very tough challenge, but at the same time it was very tough to be abroad for two years. I’m hopeful we can turn it around”, he stated on Monday with another rescue mission ahead.

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