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Memories of the José Manuel Llaneza Training Ground
Memories of the José Manuel Llaneza Training Ground

The former vice-president has many memorable moments with the youth players at the Miralcamp

The work of José Manuel Llaneza (1948-2022) in the Yellows Academy is well known to Villarreal CF fans and throughout the football world. The fact is that the former vice-president, who was linked to Villarreal for almost 30 years, was not only outstanding on a sporting level, but also on a personal level.

After his death, it has been possible to see his personality thanks to the many messages of affection received from people all over the world of football, including those of appreciation from youth players such as Pau Torres, Baena, Yeremy, Morlanes, Fer Niño and Arana, among many others.

As Ernesto Almodóvar, one of the coordinators of the 8-a-side Yellow teams, explains: “He knew all the kids, but not only on a footballing level, but also on a personal level.” Llaneza used to find out about the new players he didn’t know in the Yellows Academy, if he went to watch a match. “He would ask what club they came from, where they were from, what their parents did for a living… And if their parents were in the stands, he would introduce himself and chat with them,” added Almodóvar.

Meanwhile, Villarreal FC’s youth football director, Pablo Cañada, confesses that: “He taught us all to be demanding of ourselves, not to make excuses. If a match was windy or the pitch was bad, it was bad for both teams.” Furthermore, Cañada stresses that Llaneza always knew what he was talking about “because he didn’t need anyone to tell him what was happening at the Training Ground, as he experienced it first hand.”

One of the best anecdotes that the youth football director recalls about the figure of José Manuel involves the Manu Portela, a native of Galicia, who is now in the U16s: “At that time, Manu had just arrived at the residence, where he was the youngest among his fellow teammates. One day, Llaneza asked him: ‘You are the Galician, aren’t you?’ The boy answered yes and José Manuel told him: ‘In two weeks we play in Vigo. You’re coming to watch the match with the team’s plane’.’

Main supporter of the Villarreal Women’s team

Llaneza was one of the first people at the top of the club who believed in the growth of Villarreal Women. This is how one of the coordinators, Patri Traver, explains it: “He was one of the people who initiated the improvement in the structure of the Women’s team. He gave us all the tools to grow and in the end it led to our promotion to the First Division. We will always be grateful to him because he is a person who, when he set his mind to something, achieved it. He was the architect of this change, which is easier to support now, but he was the one who believed from the beginning.”

Traver also mentions the vice-president’s demanding support: “He always helped you, but at the same time he demanded from you. Whenever he saw us, he always knew how we were doing.” In addition, the Villarreal Women’s coordinator recalls a curious anecdote with Llaneza: “When we were promoted, a celebration was organised at La Cerámica and a small snack was set up on the pitch. When he arrived, he congratulated us on our promotion, but he also gave us a bit of a telling off because the week before we asked to play at the Mini Estadi as a reward for our promotion and, relaxed after achieving our objective, we lost 1-4. Thanks to his personality, the club has grown as much as it has.”

Pioneer of the Endavant project

As well as being a genius on a sporting level, Llaneza was aware that the structure of a club meant more than that and he was always willing to support his community through social responsibility.

Villarreal gave aid to sports in the province of Castellón, but it was not framed in any project until Endavant was born, with Endavant Esports as the first step. Paloma Masó, current head of the Endavant project, assures that: “Having his involvement was a guarantee of success because he got involved in every project. We travelled around the province strengthening ties with the representatives of each locality. Just knowing that José Manuel Llaneza was coming, every town council was delighted to open their doors and listen to our project,” recalls Masó.

The vice-president knew that transmitting the values of the club was essential for the training of the youth players and did not hesitate to support another branch of the project: “When the Department of Methodology and Psychology presented us with the Endavant Igualtat project, he had no hesitation in supporting it and wanted to set it up as soon as possible because for him it was the ideal way to train not only players, but as people in our youth team and he wanted to know first-hand how the teams related to each centre,” says Masó.

We could say José Manuel was the pioneer of the Endavant project. Villarreal and its Foundation continue to do this work today thanks to the fact that the vice-president of the club himself believed in this project and followed it from the beginning to the end of each season,” she added.

Your legacy is everlasting, José Manuel!