Villarreal have been a regular feature of European competition for the last decade. But, historically a lower league Spanish club, it wasn't until 1998 that 'The Yellow Submarine' played in La Liga for the first time and even then the club was immediately relegated before returning to the top flight in 2000.


From there, Villarreal's rise to elite level was sudden. They entered the 2003/04 UEFA Cup via the now defunct Intertoto Cup, while Champions League qualification followed in 2005 after a remarkable campaign saw the small-town team (population barely over 50,000) finish third in La Liga behind Barcelona and Real Madrid.

Villarreal's Luciano Figueroa celebrates

Villarreal would navigate a tricky qualifying tie against David Moyes' Everton, winning 4-2 on aggregate, and went on to top a group containing Manchester United, Benfica and Lille while remaining unbeaten and conceding just one goal in the process.


An away goals win over Scotland's Rangers followed in the Last 16, before another away goals win toppled Italian giants Inter Milan in the quarter finals.


It was only a narrow aggregate win for Arsenal in the semis that stopped Villarreal from going all the way to the final where they would have met Barcelona in an all-Spanish affair in Paris where anything could have happened.

UEFA Champions League Semi Final - Villarreal v Arsenal

More than 10 years on from that wonderful run, here's a look back the individuals behind it.


Sebastian Viera (GK) - The Uruguayan stopper arrived by way of Colombia ahead of the 2005/06 season to replace the Liverpool-bound Pepe Reina. He was number one during his time at the club, but was ruled out of both semi-final legs against Arsenal.

UEFA Champions League: Inter Milan v Villarreal


Javi Venta - A marauding veteran full-back who signed for Villarreal in 1999 and was a regular throughout 2004/05 and 2005/06. He was even named in Spain's provisional squad for the 2006 World Cup, such had been his impressive form at club level.

Villarreal v Real Mallorca

Juan Manuel Pena - Bolivia isn't known for producing vast quantities of top footballers, but the centre-back was a crucial part of the defence that proved so difficult to break down.

Villarreal Bolivian Juan Manuel Pena (L)...

Quique Alvarez - Alongside Pena, the former Barcelona junior was a long serving member and captain of the side who arrived upon the club's second promotion to La Liga in 2000.

La Liga - Espanyol v Villarreal

Rodolfo Arruabarrena - Another who joined in 2000, the left-back crucially scored in the quarter-final second leg against Inter that put Villarreal into the last four. It was one of relatively few goals he scored in well over 200 appearances for the club in seven years.

UEFA Champions League: Villarreal v Inter Milan

Juan Roman Riquelme - Allowed to leave Barcelona in 2003, initially on loan, after struggling to impose himself at Camp Nou, the Argentine play-maker added an extra touch of quality to Villarreal's team. It was he who missed from the spot against Arsenal in the semis.

Argentina 's Juan Roman Riquelme (L) ope

Josico - Aged 31 by 2006, the defensive midfielder would occasionally captain the side and was a huge presence in terms of establishing Villarreal as a La Liga and European-level club.

La Liga: Barcelona v Villarreal

Marcos Senna - The Brazilian-born lynchpin who would be so crucial to Spain's international success at Euro 2008 was another who signed early in the journey, arriving from Sao Caetano in 2002. He stayed long after the others had left the club as well, eventually departing in 2013.

Villarreal v Manchester United

Juan Pablo Sorin - The instantly recognisable Argentine full-back was often utilised in a more advanced role at Villarreal, playing in a wide midfield position in front of fellow countryman Arruabarrena. His endless energy up and down the flank gave the team so much extra.

Villarreal's Argentinian midfielder Juan

Diego Forlan - Having failed to establish himself at Manchester United, it was his La Liga goals in 2004/05 that fired Villarreal into the Champions League in the first place. He famously scored inside the first 60 seconds against Inter at the San Siro in the quarter-final.

Villarreal Uruguayan Diego Forlan celebr

Guillermo Franco - Remembered in England for his short and less than prolific spell at West Ham, the Argentine-born Mexican only arrived at Villarreal part way through 2005/06 and instantly began to share the 'number nine' role with the more established Jose Mari.

UEFA Champions League Semi Final - Villarreal v Arsenal

Notable Others: Jose Mari, Antonio Guayre, Roger, Javier Calleja, Alessio Tacchinardi (pictured), Hector Font, Cesar Arzo, Mariano Barbosa (GK)

Villarreal v Real Mallorca

Manager: Manuel Pellegrini - Villarreal was the Chilean's first job in Europe. He arrived from River Plate in Argentina in 2004 and was eventually appointed by Real Madrid in 2009 after establishing Villarreal as a genuine force in Spain.

Villareal's Chilean coach Manuel Pellegr

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