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Toché. As well as Martín Mantovani, Sergio Pelegrín and Edu Albácar (4th June, 2017)

In 2007 he won the Segunda title with Valladolid. In 2008 he won the Segunda title with Numancia. In 2010 he was this close to seeing Cartagena promoted and was in the top 3 for the Pichichi trophy. In 2014 he helped Deportivo secure promotion to La Liga.

José Verdú Nicolás, or Toché, is 33 years old and is a specialist at getting promoted. At jumping up a level. At rising above the defence and scoring.

At rising above the shadows.

A former Atlético graduate, he has Champions League and Europa League experience with Panathinaikos. And now, he is at Real Oviedo. The club that just got promoted and wants to get promoted again.

A powerful header, a knack of rising above a defense and an uncanny ability to score goals, Toché has scored nine times in eighteen games and will surely try to find the back of the net again.

But what goes under the radar when it comes to Toché is his technical ability. In Oviedo’s attacking, one-touch system, he scores one-touch goals like these. He distracts defenders and drags them out of position. He is always at the right place at the right time.

And, of course, the Santomera native rises above the defense in the blink of an eye.



Age is just a number. It's a number that can be used as an excuse for failure. It's an abstract standard, a barrier that we create to ourselves, a false benchmark of our abilities.

When Martín Mantovani came to Madrid a decade ago, he had no money and was forced to sleep in the street while trying to get a chance at Atlético. He never really made it and his career looked in ruins when Garitano gave him an opportunity in 2013.

Three years later, the 32-year-old center-back is the proud captain of Leganés, has led the team from Spain's third division to La Liga and he even dyed his hair blue to celebrate the incredible promotion.

His first match as a professional was at the age of 30.

Center-back Sergio Pelegrín spent until the age of 28 playing in the Segunda División B. He bounced around from club to club in the division for nine straight seasons, playing for Espanyol B (1998-00), Mallorca B (2000-01), Real Zaragoza B (2001-03), Girona (2003-04) and Alicante (2004-07).

Left-back Edu Albácar started even lower - in 1998, at the age of 18, he signed for fifth tier club La Sénia where he earned just 350,000 pesetas a month (equivalent to about 3,000 euros in 2015). In 2000 he would sign for Tercera club Tortosa, where he would experience relegation, and only started playing in the Segunda B when he was about to turn 22 - a scout from Espanyol brought him to the B team. Edu would go on to play for Segunda División B teams until well into his 20s, those teams being Espanyol B (2001-03), Novelda (2003-04) and Alicante (2004-06).

It was Segunda outfit Salamanca who gave Pelegrín a chance in 2007, and Hércules who gave Edu his shot at professional football in 2006. Both players would play two seasons there.

Edu went on to play the 2008-09 season at Alavés, and both players played together for the 2009-10 season at Rayo, forming a formidable partnership.

It was a partnership that had started at Alicante, and one that continues to this day.

Both players played at Elche from 2010-15, making their La Liga debuts well into their 30s - 34 for Sergio and 33 for Edu - in the 2013-14 season. After Elche were administratively relegated, Edu retired and was immediately included in Rubén Baraja's staff, and Sergio moved to Alavés to help them get promoted to La Liga.

But Edu was nowhere near done - he stepped down from retirement this season, returning to Elche at the age of 36. Sergio returned too, and they continue to play professional football at a high level.

Their partnership isn't going away anytime soon.




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