Copa del Rey Final: Between Nash and Kerr, former tennis player Kohlberg reinvents Mallorca | Soccer | Sports

Son Moix Stadium during an RCD Mallorca match.PALMA CITY COUNCIL (Europa Press)

There is no past, no matter how brilliant and winning it may have been, even idyllic, that will rescue you from a calamitous present. Football has less mercy than memory. And this is how the Mallorca fans suffered, which from becoming the revelation team of the League at the beginning of the 21st century, with qualification included for the Champions League in the 2001-2002 campaign, was relegated to Second B in 2017. In 15 years, he jumped from the legendary Highbury Park (Arsenal, 38,500 spectators) to the Olot field (2,500). And the cold and wind of London has nothing to do with that of the Costa Brava. Basically for a matter of glamour. “I was clear that we would get ahead. It was the path, that experience had to toughen us,” explains Alfonso Díaz, business CEO of Mallorca.

The hardest thing, in any case, was not to fight against the history of the Balearic institution, but to fight against the illusion of a project that as soon as it was born seemed destined to die. “We found ourselves in a complex situation,” recalls Díaz. In one fell swoop, his budget went from 10 million to five. A blow for the fans, also for the new shareholders.

Only a year and a half before, in January 2016, an American investment group had landed on the island with the idea of ​​returning Mallorca to Primera. Foreign capital? Nothing new in the Balearic Islands: 27% of the population are immigrants (337,948 of the 1,231,487 people who live in the archipelago). The curious thing in this case was that those who bet on the club came from the world of sports: Robert Sarver, the largest shareholder and owner of the Phoenix Suns, was associated with NBA star Steve Nash. “The athletes,” explains the business CEO; “They know how complex this world is, in which you are always expected to win, but it is normal for defeats to be many more than victories.”

After testing the purchase of Glasgow Rangers, the investors finally decided on Mallorca, which was going through a serious economic crisis (bankruptcy included) and social crisis (an average of 6,142 spectators in the 2014-2015 season). “They understood that LaLiga had great growth potential and they wanted a club that would be the first in a city. Furthermore, by the rules of fair play financial, they knew that their capital was going to be safe,” underlines Alfonso Díaz. The group of shareholders also included Stuart Holden (former American soccer player) and Andy Kohlberg (former tennis player).

They were not, however, tied to the ball, no matter how much Steve Nash liked football (not football). soccer: he is Canadian) and will publicly declare himself as a Tottenham fan. “One of the first challenges, which I now remember with a laugh, was telling some of the minority shareholders what it meant to be relegated,” said Stuart Holden, in the Diari ARA.

With more or less knowledge of football, the shareholders still had their sights set on two objectives: returning the club to First Division and bringing it closer to Balearic society. “We are the club of the island, with all the values ​​that this transmits: the light, the sea, the land, the mountains and the Tramuntana. Mallorca is Mallorca,” says Díaz.

It happened, then, that unlike Robert Sarver, Andy Kohlberg understood that idea perfectly. The former tennis player bought a penthouse in the center of the city, he began to spend time on the island and no one is surprised to see him in Son Moix. Kohlberg, then, soon bought out Sarver’s interest. And, with him, another NBA arrived: Steve Kerr, coach of the Warriors. The club went from 6,000 to 21,000 subscribers, on social networks it has nearly seven million followers compared to 400,000 in the past and they renovated the stadium. Today the average is 17,146 spectators. Of course, always between Spain and the world. “30% of the tickets we sell are to foreigners; and in hospitality75%,” Díaz reveals.

Mallorca reinvents itself in the city, but also in the offices. Mostly, he does it on the grass. Something that would not be understood without the arrival of Pablo Ortells in 2020. “The beginning was not easy, we know how complicated it is to go up in the Second Division and it was a direct promotion,” the football CEO explains the return to the First Division in 2021.

Kohlberg had his eye on the Villarreal model. And he went to Castellón to fish for Ortells. In his more than three years at the club, he signed more than 40 players, including Kang in-Lee. A success that translated into his transfer to PSG last summer for 22 million and a record balance with 85 million in income. This season they aspire to make 65, six times more than when Nash, Holden, Kohlberg and company arrived at the club in 2016.

“It is a project that we are growing. Our idea is to stabilize the club in First Division. It will be the way to aspire to more things,” Ortells concludes. And, along the way, the Balearic team reaches the final of the Copa del Rey. Nothing more and nothing less. Between the NBA and tennis, Mallorca is close to your island. And football, of course.

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