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RCD Mallorca v Rayo Vallecano - LaLiga Santander

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Fan Focus: Real Mallorca fan Paul reveals the danger men for Sunderland’s Spanish opponents!

We spoke to Real Mallorca fan Paul McGarraghy ahead of Sunderland's pre-season friendly at the Stadium of Light today to find out more about our opponents!

Photo by Cristian Trujillo/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

First things first, what is your background as a Real Mallorca fan?

Paul McGarraghy: Long story short, I visited the island as a kid for a holiday and ever since then I would keep an eye out for the team’s results, I would try and get the club promoted on football manager games I’d try and win the league and the champions league with Real Mallorca on FIFA.

There was something about the club that drew me in, it was a combination of things, the perennial underdogs capable of upsetting the big boys and the magic of winning the Copa del Rey with a young Samuel Eto’o certainly helped as well.

Wherever possible I’ll find a means of watching Mallorca games, even when the club was in the lower tiers I’d always manage to find a stream to watch the matches live. The crowd at Son Moix is always welcoming and gets behind the team too.

I can’t lie, I am a born and bred Mancunian and City are my first team and always will be, but for a stress-free indulgence in Spanish football, Mallorca are genuinely a fun club to follow.

The team achieved their best league finish in La Liga since 2012 last season - is the mood currently high amongst the fanbase?

PM: It’s definitely the highest it’s been for a while. It is fair to say that last season the club exceeded expectations, and hopes rose especially as the season wore on and there was a very slight possibility of competing for Europa League or Conference League spot.

But realistically if you had asked any Mallorca fan at the start of the season what they would’ve hoped for, then they would have said survival and to be comfortably above the relegation zone, so it was a job done and more in that sense.

I hope last season hasn’t inflated expectations too much, but at the same time Mallorca as a club can and should take confidence from what was achieved last season.

Real Madrid’s Ivan Helguera (R) vies wit
Samuel Eto’o is Mallorca’s all time top-scorer with 70 goals.
Photo credit should read JAVIER SORIANO/AFP via Getty Images

Vastly experienced manager Javier Aguirre has been in charge since 2022, how would you describe his play style?

PM: Aguirre is a pragmatic manager and one that tends to see things for what they are; he doesn’t try anything too clever.

When he first came in and replaced Luis Garcia Plaza I was worried that he would bring in an attritional, almost turgid, style of football - because he’d done that at Leganés on a couple of seasons prior - but I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the brand of football he’s brought to Mallorca.

The team plays on the front foot when in possession and tries to create chances, but without the ball, they’re not keen on taking risks so there is a bit of a trade off - for example, last season Mallorca were in the top three clubs in Europe for yellow cards received during the season.

So it’s not all roses and sometimes there can be a bit of cynicism but for the most part, Aguirre has got the team playing attacking football.

He’s a great man manager and has united the squad.

Kosovo top scorer Vedat Muriqi was your leading goal scorer last season with 16 goals - what makes him so clinical?

PM: Muriqi was so important, not just in terms of last season's finish in the standings, but also the season before where he arrived on loan in January and scored vital goals to help Mallorca avoid relegation.

He’s a target man, a classic target man, but he’s also a great team player and will use his strength and physical presence to help the team in other ways.

For a tall striker, he drops deep more often than expected, but he is the sort of player who needs the right service and with Kang In Lee leaving I do wonder who will offer that service for Muriqi this season.

RCD Mallorca v Rayo Vallecano - LaLiga Santander
Vedat Muriqi has scored 24 goals for Kosovo, more than any other play for the nation.
Photo by Cristian Trujillo/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

Aside from Muriqi, who should Sunderland be wary of during the match?

PM: At this stage of preseason Mallorca are just looking to get minutes in legs. They’ve had a few games in Austria and won by a big scoreline, but the squad are still very much going through conditioning routines at the moment.

That said, Dani Rodriguez is an absolute dynamo in midfield when he’s on form, he’s getting on a bit in years now but he’s box to box and has a creative spark.

I’d also keep an eye out for Copete, a young centre-half who is looking to prove his credentials for a permanent role in the starting XI when the new season kicks off.

In terms of transfers, Mallorca lost Lee Kang-In to PSG in a €22m deal, how do you expect the club to use that money?

PM: Kang In Lee is a tough player to replace, it was a bit of a coup when Mallorca managed to sign him on a free from Valencia in the first place to be honest.

I would like to think that there is a big-ish name replacement coming in for the money that the club has in the bank, but I don’t see that being the case. Instead what’s happening is a couple of the loan players from last season have been signed on permanent deals, such as Manu Morlanes.

They’ve also brought in Toni Lato from Valencia on a free which looks like a good deal. But there is also heavy talk that the club are working on a deal to bring in Cyle Larin from Real Valladolid for around €7m which could be a clever piece of business.

That said, I would still like to see a player with a bit of clutch be brought in in the wake of Kang In’s departure.

Paris Saint-Germain Unveil New Signing Lee Kang-in
22-year-old Lee Kang-In registered 13 goals and assists combined last season which earned a move to PSG.
Photo by Paris Saint-Germain Football/PSG via Getty Images

Do you remember the last time Mallorca played against an English club?

PM: In a competitive match? You’re probably talking about 20 years ago in the UEFA Cup against Newcastle, but then they also played Arsenal a couple of seasons before that.

In fact, I’m fairly certain it was Arsenal that Mallorca were at home to the day that the September 11th attacks happened in New York, as I remember the minutes silence before kick-off.

Seems a very long time ago now. I can’t remember the last time the club played an English team in a friendly though.

Which eleven players do you think Aguirre will select?

PM: I think it’ll be a case of an XI for each half. I’d expect a mix of young and senior players the two goalkeepers Dominik Greif and Predrag Rajkovic will probably get 45 minutes each, but it’s anyone’s guess who starts the first half.

I’d then expect Martin Valjent, Jose Copete and possibly new signings Van Der Heyden and Toni Lato in the back four, Antonio Sanchez, Dani Rodiguez, Idrissu Baba and Manu Morlanes in midfield, with Muriqi and Amath Ndiaye upfront. But Aguirre will rotate at halftime.

Lastly, for a bit of fun, what is your prediction for the final score?

PM: I think both teams will score and it’ll be an entertaining game without being too strenuous. But I think with it being at home, Sunderland will win 2-1.


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