The La Liga table for ’19-20 is finally set: Osasuna (1st in Spain’s second division), second-place Granada and promotion playoff winner Mallorca will be in the top flight. They replace Girona, Huesca and Rayo Vallecano.
Osasuna and Granada secured their places in La Liga weeks ago. The journey for promotion was more memorable for Mallorca, which is owned by Robert Sarver.
Yes, the same Robert Sarver who owns the Phoenix Suns. Also involved in the club are Basketball Hall of Famer/Bleacher Report Football analyst Steve Nash (who is on the board of directors) and ex-U.S. internationals-turned-broadcasters Stu Holden and Kyle Martino (minority stakeholders).
The club also claims tennis legend Rafael Nadal as a fan. The point is: Mallorca isn’t your typical promoted team.
A night to remember
In Sunday’s playoff final against Deportiva La Coruña, Mallorca entered the second leg down 2-0 and in need of a historic effort. They got exactly that, turning in a dominant performance in front of their home fans. Mallorca won 3-0, scoring in the 21st, 62nd and 82nd to set off a chaotic celebration.
Few will compare it to the miracles Liverpool and Tottenham pulled off in the semifinals of this year’s Champions League. Reversing a 2-0 deficit with promotion on the line nevertheless made for memorable scenes on the island, even if the result did not get the headlines a UCL thriller would.
Nash and Holden looked like they wouldn’t have had it any other way.
A quick rise from rags to riches
Mallorca has now been promoted in back-to-back seasons. They were relegated to Spain’s non-professional third tier after the ’16-17 season. However, they were promoted to La Liga 123 (as the second tier is titled for sponsorship reasons) after one year in the third tier. This year, a fifth-place finish in the regular season got them into the four-team playoff for the final spot. They knocked off Albacete in the semis to set up the showdown with Deportivo.
Mallorca, which was acquired by Sarver’s group in January 2016, played in La Liga from the ’97-98 season through the ’12-13 campaign. The club won the Copa del Rey in ’03 and plays at the 23,000-seat Iberostar Stadium. It will be interesting to see what kind of investments are made in the squad ahead of next year’s return to Spain’s top flight, as Mallorca’s pockets are much deeper than the typical club that earns promotion.
But will they spend appropriately?
If you follow the NBA, you’re aware that Sarver’s Suns have been inconsistent in sticking to a plan at best, and totally directionless at worst.
Having the likes of Nash involved may help steady some of Sarver’s worst impulses. And if Sarver is less involved due to unfamiliarity / geography, Mallorca could benefit from a sort of “hands off” approach.
Given what a great story Mallorca’s promotion is for La Liga, that would be a major positive for the club and the league.