[FM23] THE CROWN OF ARAGON

Steinkelsson
9 min readOct 25, 2022

For those of you who have followed me for a little while you would have noted that my FM22 journey began in Spain with Real Betis, this save like many others spanning across the FM cycle was cut short as a new idea popped into my head leading to another nicely polished introductory blog.

It is for this reason that I felt the need to return to Spain to pursue a long-term save with Villarreal CF, albeit with a little twist (I will cover this later in the blog, need to keep you guys reading).

Villarreal is a city of 50,000 inhabitants on the Mediterranean coast. It is a modern peaceful and welcoming place with a mild climate and hospitable people, that bases its economy on ceramics and agriculture. Although the pride of the city, and the main reason for recognition worldwide is undoubtably its great football team Villareal cf.

WHY VILLARREAL CLUB DE FUTBOL?

La Liga has always been the land of the giants. Superclubs Barcelona, Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid are the three clubs who have dominated the league for the best part of twenty years. In fact no other club outside of the big three have been crowned the Spanish Champion since 2003/04, Rafael Benítez’ Valencia.

Villarreal have been a real force within the continental game over the past few years; in 2020/21 the club secured its first major European trophy beating Manchester United on penalties to win the UEFA Europa League.

The following year the club achieved the unthinkable securing passage from their Champions League group containing Atalanta, Manchester United, and Young Boys, before defeating Juventus (4:1) over two legs in the last 16 and Bayern Munich (2:1) in the Quarter Finals, eventually losing out to Liverpool in the Semi’s.

In my opinion there are few clubs that can find the necessary ingredients to build a successful and progressive club, which is both stable and attracts a core of both local and varied fans to drive it onwards.

There are few better examples in the current European game than that of Villarreal CF, based in the Spanish province of Castellón.

Despite the club punching significantly above its weight in Europe, The Yellow Submarine haven’t finished in the top four in the domestic game since 2015/16. It is this inability to fight on all fronts which is the attraction to take the side on as my FM23 challenge.

CLUB HISTORY

After moving between regional leagues, like most teams in the province the club's destiny changed completely in 1997 with the new President Fernando Roig.

Roig intentions were clear he promised to take the club to the elite of Spanish football. In that same season and to the surprise to those living in the area, the yellow submarine this feat was achieved, making a dream come true.

Thus the golden age began, for a club that in just over a decade went from being a humble regional side to an example of a football club regarded as a model of excellence.

FERNANDO ROIG

Often the catalyst for small clubs enjoying a rapid rise in fortune is financial investment. Cash is injected into a club and optimism and expectations soar accordingly. This investment is often short-term, and new owners can become frustrated at a perceived lack of success or a return on their investment.

Villarreal have a passionate President in Fernando Roig who has been the driver behind the clubs transformation. The renowned local businessman who made his fortunes primarily as the owner and president of Pamesa Ceramica completed his takeover of the club for the cost of a million euros today.

He immediately outlined his vision to not only be a major force in LaLiga, but also in Europe. The Stadium would be modernised, a football complex would be built and a cantera would be created to produce outstanding young talent to make transition into the first team.

ESTADIO DE LA CERAMICA

The Estadio de la Cerámica, the Villarreal CF stadium covered with glossy, yellow porcelain stoneware is yet another depiction of the club’s commitment to the region and its prominent industries.

The stadium has a capacity of 22,000 which is just under double of the population of Vila-real which is just over 50,000 people. It is midway through a renovation which has cost €35 million and is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2022.

ENDAVANT

The club slogan, ‘Endavant,’ is a Valencian word which is best translated as ‘keep moving forward’ and is used by fans as a ‘come on!’ to support the Yellows. This word epitomises what Villarreal is all about; a never-say-die attitude to ‘keep moving forward’ no matter what. This communal spirit has guided Villarreal to promote the sport, aid the local community, and enhance the economy of the Castellón province.

THE CANTERA

There are many factors to the club’s success, but one of the most common answers when this question is brought up is that the Villarreal academy is the driving force of their achievements.

Average age of recruitment, by club

This is reflected in the above data taken from CIES Football Observatory which was on the ‘recruitment policies of big-5 league clubs from an age perspective’.

As you can see Villarreal are the third highest when sorting the data for transfers over the age of 30. They have a pipeline of talent which seems to be readily available from within, the challenge is for Roig to secure the long-term futures of these players as they transition into the first team and beyond. (I will cover where I think the club sits in La Liga’s pecking order below).

Inspired by Scouted Football

The recruitment strategy is amplified in the above visualisation, academy products such as Pau Torres, Alfonso Pedraza, Yeremy Pino are bolstered by smart signings of older players such as Dani Parejo, Francis Coquelin and Raul Albiol, with the view of providing experience.

Italian clubs see older players as a luxury to be savoured. Their experience is viewed as an intangible, essential for team building.

In addition to a strong academy programme within Spain, Villarreal CF has international academies in over 20 locations across the world. Academies have been established in the United States, South Korea, Japan, China, Australia, Sweden, Puerto Rico, and Canada.

HIERARCHY OF WEALTH PYRAMID

Drawing from some historical content inspired by from reading The European Game: The Secrets of European Football Success, I will again quickly dip into the ‘Hierarchy of Wealth’ pyramid to paint the picture of where I believe Villarreal sit (Mid-tier Achievers) in comparison to the rest of the clubs within La Liga. (for a detailed read please click here)

La Liga Mid-tier Achievers

Mid-tier Achievers — The mid-tier achievers, these clubs have shown their ability to secure signings from super-clubs, often individuals who are surplus to requirements — offering a second home and the chance to re-build their reputations. Great examples of this over the past few years are the likes of Giovani Lo Celso (Tottenham to Villarreal), and Paco Alcacer (Dortmund to Villarreal).

Other players have used Villarreal to build their reputation prior to making the next step up the pyramid e.g. Samu Castillejo using Villarreal to springboard his services to AC Milan. Other examples are Pablo Fornals (West Ham), Pervis Estupinan (Brighton) and Eric Bailly (Manchester United).

Whilst individuals like Juan Román Riquelme used the club to stabilise their careers after being sold by Barcelona.

PAU ‘THE KING’ TORRES

Torres arrived at the club as a five-year-old and has passed through all the age categories, to the point where he is now one of the first names on the team sheet each week.

Villarreal know, though, that they can’t rely on a Pau Torres emerging from Vila-real every year. There’s a need to look further afield when scouting the talent for the future.

We want to try and reach young players early. We’re in a province of 300,000 people, so we have to bring in players from further afield. We have a network of scouts across Spain, in all the automatous communities.

Pau Torres, the first born, raised, instructed, starter and international player for Villarreal from cradle to the Spanish national team.

Now for the twist and the link to the save title ‘The Crown of Aragon’.

THE CROWN OF ARAGON

After opting to play the main save with Villarreal I opted to carry out a little background research to help me to educate myself more on the club. A quick ‘Google’ search, followed by some light reading had me spiralling down into the rabbit hole.

The town was founded with royal status by King James I of Aragon in 1274 during his campaign to regain Muslim territory in present-day Valencia during the Reconquista.

King James I was the King of Aragon from 1213 to 1276, his reign was the longest of any Iberian monarch, one which saw the Crown of Aragon expand in three directions: Languedoc to the north, the Balearic Islands to the southeast and Valencia to the south.

At the height of its power, the Crown of Aragon was a thalassocracy controlling a large portion of present day Spain, parts of what is now southern France, and a Mediterranean empire which included the Balearic Islands, Sicily, Corsica, Sardinia, Malta, Southern Italy and parts of Greece.

With the popularity of the ‘Regionnaire’ save increasing in FM, I thought that ‘The Crown of Aragon’ would provide a great sub-story to the save as I will be looking to prioritise signing players born under the cities within the Crown of Aragon at the point when Villarreal was founded.

Player Search using Place of Birth

As you can see there is a healthy talent pool to choose from, at least 1000 players.

Currently there are only six players within the First Team from within the region, this equates to 23%. I will look to build a side whose core is from within the realms of the Crown of Aragon. (51%)

SAVE OBJECTIVES

Like any long-term save I have sat down and thought hard about some objectives for the save. Like most of you who will be reading this, playing FM for me just isn’t enough and therefore the following objectives will add an additional challenge, hopefully aiding longevity.

1. Secure Villarreal a top four finish and a return to Europe’s top club competition the UCL.

‘If you want football’s finest fruit, you grow your own.’ The job of a manager should be to blood new players into the first team every season.

2. Promote a minimum of two youth players into the first team each season to continue to showcase the Cantera.

3. Prioritise recruitment from within the Crown of Aragon to build a core of players born from within this region.

4. Win the Pichichi.

6. Develop a new club legend. (I will cover more on this in the next post which will cover what I want to achieve from a tactical perspective).

7. Win La Liga and move the team into the category of Major Achievers under the ‘Hierarchy of Wealth’.

Thanks for taking the time to read the intro blog, if you would like to follow the save in more detail, please head over to the SI Forum and click on the below button at the top of the page.

Here you will be presented with a list of options on how you would like to receive new content to keep up to date with life in Villarreal.

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