Football: Villarreal fire Luis Garcia after 50 days and reappoint Calleja

Luis Garcia reacts during a Spanish La Liga match between Villarreal and Athletic Bilbao on Jan 20, 2019.
Luis Garcia reacts during a Spanish La Liga match between Villarreal and Athletic Bilbao on Jan 20, 2019.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

MADRID (AFP) - Struggling Villarreal on Tuesday (Jan 29) fired coach Luis Garcia after just 50 days in charge and turned to Javi Calleja, the man they axed in December.

"The decision I have made is to rehire the coach we had at the beginning, called Javier Calleja, who will take over the squad from tomorrow for the rest of the season," Villarreal president Fernando Roig told a press conference on Tuesday afternoon.

Under Calleja, the club finished fifth last season and reached the knockout rounds of the Europa League. He was sacked with Villarreal 17th in La Liga with just three victories in their first 15 league matches this season.

Luis Garcia took over on Dec 10 and won his first match three days later as Villarreal beat Spartak Moscow 2-0 at home to clinch first place in their Europa League group. But he followed that with a run of eight matches without a victory.

The Yellow Submarine have sunk to second-bottom of La Liga, drawing four and losing two of their league games under Luis Garcia. They were also eliminated by Espanyol over two legs in the Copa del Rey.

Villarreal needed "a person with knowledge of the staff and knowledge of the current situation of the club", Roig said.

He said that Calleja would give the club "the possibility of first-division football next season", adding that the returning coach must save the club without the benefit of any new signings in the January transfer window.

"It is going to be very difficult," Roig said.

Villarreal host Espanyol on Sunday and face Sporting Lisbon in the Europa League last-32 first leg on Feb 14.