La Primera’s three newbies show that the small can prevail in Spain – but will Rayo, Huesca, and Real Valladolid survive the season La Liga?
With La Liga only a couple of weekends away from its kickoff, it’s that time of the year again: what about the ‘newbies’ of the competition? Step up Huesca, Rayo Vallecano and Real Valladolid.
As ever, the survival task seems daunting, especially when comparing their financial might to promoted teams in other countries. Premier League side, Fulham, has already spent $70 million in signings.
Meanwhile, their ‘modest’ Spanish counterparts will have to do with much less: to date, Rayo Vallecano have paid $6 million in transfers, Huesca just $600.000 and Real Valladolid has relied exclusively on loan deals, spending the humungous sum of zero dollars on new players.
Huesca were the first to win promotion and their story is truly epic. The side has never played in the top flight, switching between La Segunda and Segunda B since their foundation in 1910. Two years ago they were this close to making it, but got knocked-out in the play-off first round. It seemed they had lost their first and biggest shot to make it into the major leagues, but once season later they had the chance to redeem themselves and made the most of it.
They have a number of particularities that come to mind, starting with their tiny stadium: El Alcoraz can only hold 5,500, although building work is trying to increase the capacity. Located close to one of the most traditional sides in Spain (Real Zaragoza), it’s amazing how they managed to dominate last season while Los Maños crashed in the play-offs.
Their manager was the stylish and possession-driven Rubi, and had finally made his big break after coaching Levante and Sporting in La Primera. However, in a shocking turn of events, the board didn’t extend his contract and brought in former goalkeeper Leo Franco as their new coach.
Rayo Vallecano have quite the experience in the top-flight. Two years after getting relegated, they managed to bounce back but with a fair amount of trouble. The 2016-2017 season, was terrible in most areas. Truly dramatic till the end, when they narrowly avoided getting relegated to Segunda B thanks to the great job of manager Miguel Ángel Sánchez ‘Míchel’ (do not confuse with Real Madrid’s former player and experienced manager).
— Rayo Vallecano (@RayoVallecano) August 1, 2018
Vallecas became one of the most solid grounds in the second half of last season, and Rayo took advantage of that to finish as the best team. Their signings this summer are ambitious: Gaël Kakuta, Luis Advíncula, Emiliano Velázquez from Atlético de Madrid. Unfortunately, they lost one of their best assets in the talented and young midfielder Fran Beltrán, sold to Celta de Vigo for a $10 million fee.
Finally, another ‘classic’ Primera team will make their long-awaited comeback to the top flight this year. In May 2014, Real Valladolid are returning after four years. And they did it in the most unexpected fashion, after sacking coach Luis César Sampedro and handing the reins of the team to inexperienced Sergio González. Two months later and after an amazing streak of wins, including a spectacular victory in the play-off game against Numancia.
Their undisputed MVP last season, if we leave coach González aside, was amazing striker Jaime Mata, an absolute predator inside the box who scored 35 goals and terrorized the opposition. Unfortunately for Valladolid, Mata was signed by Getafe this summer, but they have tried hard with their own additions: Levante’s winger Ivi, and former Valencia Mestalla’s attacker Iban Salvador.
— Real Valladolid C.F. (@realvalladolid) August 2, 2018
However, fans in Pucela expect their team to not really rely on one single player and become a powerhouse in their Nuevo José Zorrila ground: a 27,000 stronghold with freezing temperatures in the winter where they expect to pick up plenty of points.
Huesca, Rayo and Valladolid. Three more additions to the ‘Rebellion of the Humble’ that’s been taking La Liga by storm, sending ‘classic’ sides into La Segunda and shining a spotlight on small, well-rounded teams (Eibar, Alavés, Leganés…).
Last year, all three promoted teams (Girona, Getafe and Levante) were able to secure a spot in Primera with little trouble. Will the three ‘rookies’ of the 2018-2019 season manage to repeat such a feat?