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The PoV End of Season Awards 2017! Part 1 (15th June, 2017)

In the heart of Puente de Vallecas, sporting, institutional and political turmoil have wrecked the institutions of a club that didn't deserve it.

Rayo Vallecano, freshly relegated from La Liga, has had three different managers and was just outside the relegation zone with a squad that looks largely unchanged from last season. A signing's (Roman Zozulya) right-wing political views caused the left-wing fan base to protest, and caused Javier Tebas to criminalize fans who were then defended by left-wing political parties such as Podemos and Izquierda Unida. It led to the player returning to Real Betis, and not being able to play anywhere else for the rest of the season, and FIFA making a historic exception by allowing the player to play for four clubs in a single season. And then a Podemos-led coalition called Ahora Madrid tried declaring Javier Tebas persona non grata in Puente de Vallecas for not respecting freedom of speech via a motion in the regional council, a motion that was dropped two days before it was to be heard. A controversial franchise in the NASL, called Rayo OKC, which started operations in early 2016 ended operations at the end of the year which, compounded with the botched signing, has led to fans having visible altercations with board members of the club.

And in all that mess, there is just a few rays of light for fans to be happy about.

Actually, there are none - but we do have these awards...

Best signing

Paulo Gazzaniga is the typical, shrewd Rayo loan signing. It is a testament to Paulo that he has played the most minutes in the squad - more than even captain and pass-master Roberto Trashorras. It is a testament to Paulo that he is learning from his mistakes as quickly as he is. And it is a testament to him that he is filling Toño's shoes admirably and keeping Rayo in games.

But this award, as well as many others, has to go to Ernesto Galán. Replacing Tito, a Rayo legend, isn't easy by any means, but the journeyman has been quietly brilliant this season.

Worst signing

Zozulya might actually miss out here. Toni Dovale was signed from Leganés over the winter, and played just 57 league minutes. Franco Cristaldo and Bruno Zuculini were signed to add depth in midfield, a midfield that already contained Trashorras, Baena, Santi Comesaña, Fran Beltrán, Piti, Pablo Clavería and Joni Montiel - even if the last two didn't play much this season, and Piti was forced out of the club.

Hold on, who forced Piti out? Sandoval...which leads us to...

Worst manager

Sandoval couldn't keep together the dressing room and the results were awful, but this award has to go to Rubén Baraja. If Sandoval benched Piti, Baraja benched Trashorras,

At least Sandoval and Piti had a personal beef - Baraja didn't even have a reason to bench the captain of the team.

Best manager

Míchel. Duh. Not only did he save Rayo, his last game for the Juvenil A squad before making the step up was a 1-1 draw with Real Madrid.

It's a surprise he didn't make the step up sooner.

Best cameo

First, I should point out that Toño was injured for most of the season, which meant that the squad have only one goalkeeper for most of the season.

Anyways, in the winter market, Rayo signed Tomás Mejías from Middlesbrough on loan. In his first game for the club, a 2-1 win at home against Levante, there was more than one time that he was outside the box, a Levante player was in front of him, the ball was behind him, and the Estadio de Vallecas was silent.

I repeat - more than one time.

Best legend who didn't play

Antonio Rodríguez Martínez, aka Toño, is a legend at many clubs. A Zamora winner at Recreativo in the second tier and a Racing de Santander starter for almost seven years in the first. A quick goalkeeper whose reflexes are second to none and whose ability to distribute play is underrated.

Injuries have meant that his impact at other La Liga clubs such as Granada, and this season at Rayo Vallecano, have been affected, but fans have always chanted the name of a 37-year-old who keeps them in games.

Expect him to come back next season.

Oh, and Piti, but you already know that...




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He was short. Very short. At 5'3", the left winger sometimes played in an over-sized shirt.

The ball never left his feet. His feet were tiny but they had magic. A dizzying array of body feints, close control, direction changes and sheer speed, often resembling a roller-coaster, left opposition defenders outwitted. And yes - sometimes, he frustrated. Sometimes, he was irregular.

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