1997/98: Promotion to the First Division
The dream came true. Fernando Roig took the reins of the club in the summer of 1997 and foresaw a very ambitious future, in which his aim was to get the team promoted to the top flight of Spanish football “within two years”. The President’s promise was realized quicker than that though and, in his first season at the helm of the club, he made history. Villarreal CF got promoted to the First Division (Primera División) to the delight of the whole city.
In the regular season, the Submarine, managed by José Antonio Irulegui, finished fourth with 48 points; 19 wins, 16 draws and 7 losses (51 goals for and 38 against). The team’s top goal scorer was Paco Salillas with 17 goals. At that time the top two teams in the Second Division got promoted and the bottom two teams in the First Division were relegated, while the teams in third and fourth in the Second Division had the chance to “take away” the top flight spots from the third and fourth bottom teams in the First Division in a promotion playoff.
And it went like this- Villarreal played two matches against SD Compostela (17th in the First Division). The first leg at El Madrigal finished in a 0-0 draw and the second leg was a 1-1 draw in Santiago. The visitors’ goal was scored by Alberto and was the decider in the tie, giving Villarreal the victory in what was a very even match up.
- Villarreal 0-0 Compostela (21/05/98).
Villarreal Line-up: Palop, Pascual, Roberto, Quique Medina, Arregi, Iñaki, Arroyo (Javi Sanchis), Antonio Díaz, Alberto, Salillas and Christianssen (Parra).
- Compostela 1-1 Villarreal (24/05/98). Goal by Alberto.
Villarreal Line-up: Palop, Pascual (Javi Sanchis), Roberto, Serer, Javi Prats, Arregi, Ángel Luis, Antonio Díaz, Alberto (Parra), Iñaki (Alexandre) and Salillas.
Villarreal CF promoted to the First Division for the first time in club history.
A year of transition
Villarreal CF’s first experience in the First Division was as exhilarating as it was short-lived, given that the tough voyage resulted in relegation, after finishing in eighteenth place (36 points) in the table, losing against Sevilla FC in the relegation playoffs (0-2 at El Madrigal stadium and 1-0 at the Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán stadium).
Nevertheless, the club commendably returned to the First Division the following season. The 1999/00 season in the Second Division (Segunda División) was another historic one for Villarreal CF, who, after a brilliant second half of the season, finished in third place in the table and so got promoted directly (the promotion and relegation system had changed, but in those days the first three were promoted).
This team was managed by Joaquín Caparrós for the first seven matches, and then he was relieved of his duty by a man of the club, Francisco García ‘Paquito’. Villarreal finished third with 66 points: 18 wins, 12 draws, and 12 losses (61 goals for and 46 goals against). The main starting eleven was formed by López Vallejo, Roca (Imanol), Quique Medina, Tasevski, Galván (Arregi), Jaime, Cagna (Gracia), Jorge López, Gaitán, Moisés and Craioveanu.