It had been quite the journey, but Real Mallorca’s path back to La Liga looked to have been blocked. That they had even made the final of the Segunda Division was impressive in itself and after a 2-0 first-leg defeat to Deportivo La Coruna it seemed that the Balearic outfit would have to comfort themselves with platitudes of how far they had come.
Not satisfied with that, though, Real Mallorca would pull off an astonishing comeback, winning the second leg 3-0 to secure their return to the top flight. This weekend, they will host Real Madrid in the league for the first time since October 2012 having avoided financial oblivion and obscurity in the Spanish lower divisions.
As recently as 2017, Real Mallorca found themselves in the Segunda B, the third tier of the sport in Spain. The days of Samuel Eto’o, Daniel Guiza, Juan Arango and all the other great players who had made the club relevant at the top level over the 2000s were a fading memory. Irrelevance beckoned.
Robert Sarver, the owner of the Phoenix Suns, had other ideas. The American business technically took control in 2016, before Real Mallorca sunk to the third tier, but it was only at this point that moves were made that would eventually revitalise the club. A technical director was brought in with the squad rebuilt from the ground up.
On top of this, the ownership group was expanded to include former US internationals Stuart Holden and Kyle Martino as well as former NBA All-Star and fervent football fan, Steve Nash. To complete this unlikely contingent of chiefs, Real Mallorca’s club president, Andy Kohlberg, is also a former professional tennis player who made it as far as the quarter-finals of the US Open in doubles back in 1985. Former Chelsea defender Graeme Le Saux also sits on the board of directors.
Real Mallorca are well ahead of schedule in their masterplan to become a force once again. The argument could be made that they are ill-prepared for the demands of La Liga at this stage of their development, with Vicente Moreno’s side suffering a difficult start to the season. However, the 2-0 win over Espanyol before the international break suggests they are getting to grips with top-flight life.
“This is what we’ve all been dreaming about," Holden said in an interview given ahead of the start of the campaign, “but you don’t want to be relegated again next season. It’s now we’re going to see Mallorca play Real Madrid and Barcelona and you’re going to see them playing against these big clubs, so how do we continue to push that in the right way that still aligns with what we want this club to look like?”
Island clubs often exist with a streak of the eccentric weaved through their being. Real Mallorca are no different. Between Sarver, Kohlberg, Nash, Holden and Martino they aren’t short of ambitious characters. They want this season to be just the start of something new. They have already succeeded in becoming one of Spain’s most interesting clubs.