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The true Rayistas - part 3 (16th April, 2017)

You can read part 1 here and part 2 here.

Part 1 dealt with the players who stuck by the club through two consecutive relegations in 2003 and 2004. Part 2 dealt with the players who stayed with the club until they went up in 2008.

Part 3 deals with players who took the club from the Segunda B to La Liga. These players realized a dream - a dream to take Rayo back to La Liga.

The dream took eight years in total, but it happened. And these players made it happen.

Let us first acknowledge that there is a player who makes more than one list - Javier Monsálvez Carazo, aka Yuma, whose praises have been sung in part 2. And he is literally a true Rayista - his cousins are Iván and Antonio Amaya and he even played for Rayo OKC.

Speaking of the Amaya brothers, Antonio Amaya makes this list too. He should have made the previous list (a mistake which has now been corrected). But let's sing his praises here.

Born in the capital of Madrid, Amaya began his career at local San Cristóbal de los Ángeles. He joined another team in the community, Rayo Vallecano, in 2002, also serving a six-month loan spell at lowly UD San Sebastián de los Reyes in Segunda División B.

Eventually, Amaya returned to Rayo, becoming an important defensive unit for the side which returned to Segunda División at the end of the 2007–08 season and comfortably maintained their league status the following campaign, with the player appearing in less than half of the games (18 out of 42).

Amaya signed for Premier League club Wigan Athletic on a three-year contract on 14 August 2009, being joined by Rayo teammate Mohamed Diamé a week later. While Mohamed was sold for 3 million euros, Amaya was sold for just 800,000 euros - an indicator of how cash-strapped Rayo were. But after failing to make a single league appearance in 2009–10, Amaya returned to former club Rayo in a season-long loan. He was regularly used as the club returned to La Liga.

Along the towering center-back, a short right-back was instrumental too - and he came through the youth system too. After emerging through Rayo Vallecano's youth system, Carlos De la Vega went on to play with amateur sides RSD Alcalá and AD Alcorcón, also from his hometown of Madrid, until well into his 20's.

He did not have his first taste of full professional football until the 2008–09 season (he had only played one match with Rayo's first team in 2002–03's La Liga, two minutes) when, after returning to Rayo in the previous year, he was fairly used as the club easily retained its Segunda División status.

In late December 2009, unsettled de la Vega was loaned to another side in the second level, SD Huesca, until the end of the season. In July 2012, after more than one year out of football, the 32-year-old signed for two seasons with CD Leganés in Segunda División B.

But there was another right back too - and he was far more successful. Born in Madrid, Coke, aka Jorge Andújar Moreno, was a product of Rayo Vallecano's youth system, being promoted to the main squad for the 2005–06 season at only 18, with the capital club in the third division. He helped it gain promotion in his third year, and played 33 matches in the following campaign as the team overachieved for a final fifth place (scoring three goals in as many wins, including the game's only at home against Hércules CF on 7 February 2009).

In the following two second level seasons, combined Coke only missed 11 league games out of 84 and scored 12 goals, with Rayo achieving promotion to La Liga by finishing in second place in 2011.

He has since gone on to win three Europa Leagues with Sevilla, and signed for Schalke this summer.

Finally, a center back who rarely gets any mention, and probably won't, is Salvador Funet Sardina, aka Salva. After playing for CD Leganés, Alicante CF and AD Alcorcón, he joined Rayo at the age of 26 in 2007, playing as backup in the 2007-08 season but starting in Rayo's overachieved 5th place in 2008-09 and their subsequent 11th place slump in 2009-10. However, at the young age of 30, he retired due to chronic problems in the right knee which saw him miss the whole 2010-11 season.

One man's loss is another one's gain - and that is the story of how Alejandro Arribas got his chance and subsequently became a La Liga regular.

Oh wait, and the club legends Míchel and Piti too. Not that they need any introduction.

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