When Leganés hosted Girona on March 16 in La Liga, this match was seen as a key one—the winner would probably breathe easy, the loser would be dragged into the relegation battle.
Well, it didn’t quite work out that way. Girona won 2-0 and with 10 matches to go, were in 12th place on 34 points. But then, the bottom dropped out. Girona lost nine of their last ten, ended up on 37 points, while Leganés (who were on 33 after that loss) and Celta (who were on 25!!) both passed them. Celta’s revival was expected after Iago Aspas returned; they picked up 16 points in the last 10 matches. But what happened to Girona??
To some degree, overreliance on Cristhian Stuani, I suppose. He played in only seven of the last ten due to suspension or injury, and had three of his worst matches of the season against three of the relegation contenders—Villarreal, Celta and Valladolid. If Girona had won one of those.....
Maybe players just wore down: they had seven who played roughly 2700 minutes or more. And, to be honest, Eusebio Sacristan is just not that great a coach; losing Machin in the summer was big (even though he did not last long at Sevilla), and Rubi, who got Girona to the Primera in the first place, is doing just fine at Espanyol.
Girona lost 2-1 to Alavés, with Villarreal practice legend Wakaso Mubarak scoring the first Alavés goal. Rayo, already down, drew 2-2 with Celta; Iago Aspas converted a penalty and scored late to send the home crowd on their way more or less happy. Celta have a big offseason ahead of them: can they/will they keep Maxi Gomez, or do they need to sell him in order to improve their squad?
And Huesca (of the three teams sent down, the one I think people most would like to see return) defeated Leganés 2-1 in their swan song. A match to remember for Martin Mantovani, who came on for Xabi Etxeita after half an hour and scored all three goals—the first was an own goal, though!
And now the transfer fun begins.....
There are no ‘parachute payments’ in Spain, so the relegated clubs can expect teams remaining in the Primera to pick over their rosters for bargains, loaned players to go back to their home clubs, while the relegated teams have to look for free transfers and loanees all over again.
Rayo had a roster mostly made up of loanees. Raul de Tomas was their most valuable player, but he belongs to Real Madrid. Santi Comesaña (midfielder) and Àlex Moreno (left back) are about the only two players Rayo owns who might get offers from Primera clubs.
It’s similar at Huesca, where Gonzalo Melero (who apparently Villarreal have first dibs on) and CB Jorge Pulido are about the only players they actually own of value.
Girona is a different case. Bernardo Espinosa is a centerback with value, as is Juanpe; in the midfield, Alex Granell, Pere Pons, Portu, and Borja Garcia all will attract some interest. And then there is Stuani. Yes, he scored 19 goals, but he is also aged 32. Girona don’t have a lot invested in him, so I expect he will move on for a fairly low fee somewhere.
Villarreal still have not hired a sporting director, as far as I know, but hopefully we are monitoring a number of these players. We need to sign another (more expensive) centerback besides, but guys like Pulido, Espinosa or Juanpe could help us out too. And we have to decide whether we want Melero or not.
What do you think?