“I have the best squad in the League,” said Joaquin Caparros this week.
To call that statement ludicrous would be a gross understatement, but the former Athletic Bilbao boss certainly seems ebullient about his team’s chances of building on their eighth place finish last season.
His confidence would seem reasonable given that the Islanders were just 90 minutes away from a European place before a 4-1 drubbing at the hands of a Real Madrid side with just record numbers to play for on the final day of the season showed the gulf in class between the top two and the rest, despite what Caparros might claim.
The Basque, though, did manage to revitalise a squad in danger of drifting towards the lower reaches of the table when institutional unrest forced Michael Laudrup out last October. However, their eventual European challenge was more a product of most of the teams in the top-half falling over themselves not to qualify for continental competition rather than the result of a special season.
Caparros’ claim this week is based on the back of what he sees as so far a very shrewd summer of transfer work. The well-travelled Javier Arizmendi and former Atletico Madrid captain Antonio Lopez have arrived to offer their experience, whilst Ruben Mino adds depth in the goalkeeping department.
Yet, the most intriguing arrival has been that of Javi Marquez, this time last year a target of many clubs in the Premier League and who had a multi-million Euro price-tag on his head. A combination of injury and his refusal to sign a new deal at the Barcelona club after being frozen out by Mauricio Pochettino have resulted in his transfer to the Balearics. His would appear to be a very smart signing if he can harness the form he showed in the previous two years for Espanyol.
It is though hard to argue that, despite those additions, the Mallorca squad is stronger as currently instituted than the one that ended the season at the Bernabeu.
One of the principal architects of their fine late season run, Chori Castro, has moved on to Real Sociedad having either scored or assisted in over 35 per cent of Mallorca’s goals last season.
Another of their most consistent performers Chico has followed Laudrup to Swansea, whilst Sergio Tejera was a makeweight in the Marquez deal and Fernando Tissone has returned to Sampdoria at the end of his loan agreement. Moreover, captain Ivan Ramis continues to make noises about a move to England, which would remove the bedrock of all Caparros’ sides – a well-organised defence.
All of which leaves the Islanders like many of those in the middle reaches of the League in a time of economic austerity, running to stand still.
Despite the optimism there is more than a chance Caparros’ Mallorca could suffer from a serious dose of second season syndrome.