DREAMS COME TRUE
In 2002 UD Lanzarote appointed a novice manager 41 year old José Luis Mendilibar. The club was already on the rise finishing 7th in the Segunda B (Third Tier) and he had an abundance of local talent at his disposal.
Mendilibar arrived as the clubs second choice manager with their first choice Josu Uribe agreeing terms but then decided to take over as manager of UD Las Palmas. This gave Mendilibar the platform to begin a remarkable career at the very top level of Spanish football.
In his first season with the Rojillos in 2002/03 the club finished in 3rd spot and lost 1-2 in the Copa Del Rey to the mighty Atlético Madrid with a young Fernando Torres getting on the score sheet.
The 2003/04 was the clubs most successful season finishing as Champions of Segunda B but in those days there was no automatic promotion and once again Lanzarote missed out in the playoffs. Another brilliant display in the Copa Del Rey saw them lose out to a single goal by the Brazilian international Baptista in a 0-1 defeat to Primera Liga side Sevilla.
Mendilibar had been fortunate to arrive at a club at the right time. He managed to gel together a blend of local and mainland players and spent two glorious years leading the Rojillos.
Since then he has gone on to manage Primera Liga sides Eibar, Athletic Bilbao, Osasuna, Real Valladolid and most recently in March this year Sevilla, who were flirting with relegation. In his nine league matches he has won six, lost two and drawn the other lifting Sevilla up to mid table and a distant 10 points from relegation.
On top of that Sevilla have reached the semi final of the UEFA Cup after humiliating Manchester United 3-0 at home after a 2-2 draw at Old Trafford. The 62 year old is living the dream and it all began on the bench at Ciudad Deportiva Lanzarote.
Mendilibar has recognized that his two seasons as manager of Lanzarote set him on course for a wonderful career and will always hold a soft spot for this little volcanic island.