RCD Mallorca sealed a return to the top flight on Sunday evening after six years in the wilderness thanks to a brilliant 2nd Leg comeback in their Play-Off Final against Depor. The victory capped a remarkable eighteen months for the Balearic Islanders who were celebrating promotion from the Segunda B as recently as this time last year.
It has been a real whirlwind transformation since they dropped into Spain’s regionalised third tier, something that can often act as the final nail in the coffin of troubled clubs struggling on and off the pitch. Mallorca though have got an awful lot right since then and their road back to the top flight is well worth taking a deeper look at.
Here are some of the key moments in their fall from grace and subsequent rise back to the elite level on Spanish football.
June 2017 – Mallorca Relegated to the Third Tier
Mallorca fans (the few who bothered to turn up) display banner aimed at squad & board: “The worst in 101 years”.
Mallorca relegated to 2B. pic.twitter.com/1GjflJxgYs
— Paul Reidy (@paulreidy67) June 10, 2017
Despite losing just one of their final eight games, Mallorca failed to pull off a great escape at the end of a troubled 2016/17 Segunda Division season. Coaches Fernando Vázquez and Javier Olaizola were both dismissed during the campaign which ended with a 3-3 draw against Getafe as Los Bermellones dropped into the third tier for the first time in 36 years.
To some extent, their demise had been coming. In their four year stint in the Segunda following relegation from the top flight in 2013, Mallorca failed to finish above 16th with several previous close brushes with the drop signalling a club that was clearly in decline from their real hey-day around the turn of the century.
August 2017 – Life in the Segunda B begins with Vicente Moreno at the Helm
The decision-making process during the summer of 2017 was always going to be key and two years on, it’s remarkable how much they got right. Former Gimnàstic boss Vicente Moreno was appointed following relegation and an almost complete squad overhaul took place that summer. Some fresh young talent came in but crucially they also managed to lure some more established second-tier players on contracts longer than the one year deals that are often the norm at that level.
They knew though, that they would be faced with the difficult task of getting out of the Segunda B, a league where many big clubs have stagnated with a structure that ensures only four teams out of eighty win promotion.
Mallorca’s fall from grace would have hit hard from day one. They began life in the Segunda B with a 1-0 win at Peralada, a tiny village of less than 2,000 residents in the province of Girona near the French border.
October 2017 – A Flying Start
By October, they’d added another player of real experience and quality with the signing of Salva Sevilla who joined following six straight seasons in the top flight with Real Betis and Espanyol. He opted to drop two divisions to move to the Balearic Islands at the age of 33 with the seeming acceptance that his time at the top was over.
Mallorca had already quickly set about the task of regaining their second tier status by the time of his arrival. They won nine of their opening ten league games, the only exception being a 0-0 draw against Atletico Baleares in the first league Mallorca derby in an astonishing 37 years. They also kept nine clean sheets in their opening ten matches with their defence instantly establishing itself as the meanest in their league.
January 2018 – Derby Joy ends Barren Run
By the winter though, Mallorca were struggling for goals and went into the second derby of the season, this time at Son Moix having gone six matches without victory to throw serious doubt on their promotion credentials. However a dramatic game saw Real Mallorca survive a major scare to see off their smaller island and city neighbours with a 3-2 victory, a result that seemed to kickstart their season.
Read more – Spanish Football Derby Days
May 2018 – League Title & Play-Off Victory
Despite being held to thirteen draws during the regular season, Mallorca ultimately cruised to top spot in their section of the Segunda B. That though is not enough to secure outright promotion from Spain’s third tier and their first and best chance to do that would come in a play-off against Mirandes, winners of the Northern region.
When it mattered most, Mallorca put in one of their best performances of the whole season with goals from Junior Lago, Antonio Raillo and Ariday Cabrera ensuring they raced into a 3-0 lead in the home 1st Leg. A consolation goal for Mirandes proved just that as the return clash finished goalless with Mallorca celebrating promotion back to the Segunda Division at the first attempt. They topped off the season by beating Rayo Majadahonda to be crowned 2017-18 Segunda B champions.
? Vicente Moreno, premio Ramón Cobo como mejor entrenador del Grupo3 de Segunda B 2017-18
— RCD Mallorca (@RCD_Mallorca) September 21, 2018
August 2018 – The Perfect Start to the Segunda
Having already laid the foundations for a side that they believed could compete in the Segunda, the summer of 2018 wasn’t an especially active one, certainly by the standards of a team making the huge jump up from the regionalised third tier.
That belief was only strengthened when they won their opening two matches, including a 1-0 victory over a strong Osasuna side that would ultimately go on to win the title. Again it was their defensive qualities that were particularly impressive early doors, with Vicente Moreno’s side conceding just once in their opening five competitive games of the 2018/19 season.
November 2018 – A familiar Feeling comes & goes
With so many recent memories of Segunda relegation battles, Mallorca fans must have got that sinking feeling when won just once in a nine game spell in the Autumn to slip down towards mid-table. However a 3-0 win over struggling Cordoba sparked a return to form and the Balearic islanders remained in the play-off picture heading into the new year.
May 2019 – Fortress Son Moix – Home Form fires Mallorca into the Play-Offs
Mallorca’s ability to stay in the race for a top six finish was almost completely down to their stunning home form. Following a defeat to Malaga in early December, Mallorca would drop just two home points over the next six months as they ultimately sealed a play-off berth and a 5th place finish with a bit of breathing space with the backing of their home fans a real factor in their unlikely promotion charge.
Read more – Granada & Osasuna clinch automatic promotion
June 2019 – Mallorca Promoted after more Home Heroics
? (IG/eneko_r) pic.twitter.com/7vCy6e8PDP
— 433 (@official433) June 24, 2019
Mallorca sealed their place in the Play-Off Final with a 2-1 aggregate win against Albacete, predictably thanks to a 2-0 victory in the home 1st Leg. That set up a tie against Deportivo La Coruna, who were bidding to seal an immediate return to the top flight.
The 1st Leg at the Riazor couldn’t have gone much worse for Mallorca. They were a goal and a man down by Half-Time with Marc Pedraza sent off for a horror lunge that left Depor midfielder Álex Bergantiños needing to spend the night in hospital with a bruised and bloodied face. Quique doubled Depor’s advantage after the break to leave Mallorca with a mountain to climb in the 2nd Leg.
Depor always looked like the form team heading into the play-offs and would have expected to finish the job, knowing that they only needed to score once to leave their hosts needing four. The Galicians even had an early penalty appeal turned down but as the game settled down, Mallorca began to exert control.
Roared on my another big crowd at Son Moix, they turned the tie on its head with three brilliant goals, the quality of which suggests they could add plenty to the top flight next term. Abdón Prats’ sealed victory with a thumping long-range strike but only after veteran Salva Sevilla’s free-kick had levelled the aggregate score. Incredibly the 35 year old now looks set to be back in La Liga, just two years on from having appeared to close the door on that chapter in his career.
The Mallorca fans poured onto the pitch at Full-Time to celebrate one of the great promotion stories. Mallorca may be a holiday island but Palma is a big city with passionate fans and it will be fascinating to see where this story goes next after a remarkable two years under the impressive guidance of Vicente Moreno.
Article via Mark Sochon – Contact: marksochon(at)hotmail.co.uk | @marksoc1 on Twitter