Manzano is Mallorca's miracle worker
While other clubs are fighting for silverware, worrying over bad results or wondering if they could do better, there's one team that is proving to be a revelation in the Spanish Primera División. Real Mallorca are reborn from the ashes and, with hardly any new faces, are comfortably in the top half of the table.
But Manzano is used to working in dire circumstances. He landed the job in the Balearic Islands six seasons ago and has been forced to embark on a new project every summer for the last three years when his construction materials have been very scarce. In 2007-08 he was left without key players Jankovic, Diego Tristán, Pereyra, Ariel Ibagaza and Jordi López, but managed to finish the season seventh in the table. In 2008-09, the same problems hit the manager's plans and Manzano lost Dani Güiza, Borja Valero, Fernando Navarro and Jonás Gutiérrez. No one expected much at all from Mallorca, but Manzano worked hard again and secured a ninth-placed finish.
This is Mallorca's 13th consecutive season in the Spanish top flight and nothing seems to blur Manzano's vision. But there were plenty of factors, yet again, to distract him from his project this summer. If the season before, the club had supposedly been sold to an English businessman Paul Davidson, a deal that never happened, the situation was even more precarious this time around. The club was officially up for sale this summer, which understandably put all possible new signings on hold. But after failing to receive any interesting offers, Mallorca decided to take the "for sale" sign down and face the new season with what they had, which wasn't much in financial terms.
But the bad management and timing meant Manzano started the pre-season with absolutely no new signings. The coach had to fill in the gaps with youngsters from the reserve team, with no time to worry about the departures of important players like David Navarro, Lionel Scaloni, Cléber, Jurado, Juan Arango or keeper Moyá.
That was the gloomy picture three weeks before the start of the season, just when local businessmen decided to buy the club and started planning which players they could sign. At that stage, Manzano welcomed back Tuni and Víctor Casadesús, who had been loaned out to second division clubs, promoted B-team player Nauzet Alemán, recruited Borja Valero, Paulo Pezzolano, Julio Álvarez, Felipe Mattioni and Rubén González and only spent money on one player: Bruno China. Just 400,000 Euros was the grand total invested in the team, 100,000 less than promoted side Xerez, making Mallorca the club that spent the least during the summer transfer window.
But while few, if any, had faith in the team this season, Manzano worked a miracle yet again. After eight matches, Mallorca stand sixth in the table, in the Europa League zone, with four victories, two draws and two defeats. They have scored 15 goals and conceded nine. Not bad at all for a one-legged project.
Into the tenth week of La Liga, Mallorca have not yet ceased to surprise everyone on the Spanish scene, an example of how to do great things with few resources. Even the national team coach, Vicente Del Bosque, points out the obvious: "Manzano is the key man at Mallorca. He's managed to get off to a great start, especially at home. The team is playing well and that's very commendable. Despite the club's financial problems, they seem to do well every season."
How long can the miracle last in Mallorca? Whatever happens, Manzano has proved that hard work can make a previously non-existent team gel together and fight among some of Europe's top clubs.