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On Raúl Baena (28th February, 2017)

Yes, Getafe just won 1-0 against Rayo, but because Raúl Baena was injured (soleus rupture in the right leg, 4-6 weeks out), I thought it was worth talking about a player who is unsung but hugely important nevertheless.

If Espanyol fans came up a with a list of players who have one-uped Barcelona, Raúl Baena would be high on that list. Born in Málaga and raised at the club with the same name, he was signed by Barcelona at the age of 14, and went on to progress through the youth ranks. However, at the age of 18, he was picked up by Espanyol, which led to a legal battle as Barcelona sued Baena for 3.5 million euros.

And yes, that meant it was Laporta vs Baena, which meant Felipe Izquierdo, Baena's lawyer, could accuse Laporta of "knowing nothing of the matter" and that his presence in Barcelona was only "to make protocolic travels". And Laporta could look at Baena and sarcastically say, "good luck, lad". Also, its interesting to point out that this was in October of 2008,  when Barcelona were starting to look really good under newly-appointed Pep Guardiola.

Moreover, in that fateful game against Rayo in 2013 when Barcelona had less possession for the first time in years (the game that converted me to a Rayo fan, about which I wrote about here), Raúl Baena was accused of not shaking Messi's hand, accusations which he denied and instead stated that Messi had not offered his hand.

But Baena is crucial to Rayo - he was fellow youth graduate Javi Márquez's foil at Espanyol and is Roberto Trashorras's at Rayo. Aggressive, tenacious, hard working and never afraid to put in a tackle, Baena keeps the midfield engine running. His absence due to a cruciate ligament injury towards the end of last season was acutely felt as Rayo fell from La Liga and were free falling in the Segunda.

And it will be felt for another two months. 

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