Skip to main content

Javi Fuego - the pre-Rayo story. And 2006 - the strangely popular journey from Spain to Aris. (8th July, 2017)


What makes modern football so beautiful is that some - few, but some - players love the game, or love a particular club, and stay for a reason other than the paycheck - like Javi Fuego rejecting a 800,000 euro move to Club Brugge in January 2012 because he loved playing at a club that couldn't even pay its players.



In a dizzying array of red and white, spurred by the battle cries and fervent arm movements of Pepe Mel, a 45 year old bespectacled former striker, newly-promoted Rayo Vallecano were punching well above their weight.

The club that was on the verge of filing for bankruptcy, that couldn't pay its players and whose fan base actively hated the owners had a men's team that had just been promoted from the semi-professional third tier and was outside the top ten for just two jornadas, and a women's team that was winning the league.

In the 2008-09 season, at the Campo de Fútbol de Vallecas, there was a team, plucky, beautiful, and aggressive. And it was winning.

I don't follow English football. I live 10 minutes from Stamford Bridge and 20 minutes from Craven Cottage and on the same street as both, and I don't follow English football.

My heart belongs to a working-class neighborhood in Spain.

So when Chelsea took N'Golo Kanté, the cog that kept Leicester City together, there was a sense of déjà vu for me. It was a reminder of what had happened to my club.

The parallels were all too real.

They had Danny Drinkwater - we had 33-year-old club legend and pass master Míchel. They had Christian Fuchs and we had 39-year-old left-back Carles Llorens. They had Kasper Schmeichel and we had David Cobeño. They had Kevin Albrighton and we had Jofre. They had Riyad Mahrez and we had Miguel Albiol.

They had N'Golo Kanté, and we had Mohamed Diamé.

There are priceless players, and then there was Mohamed Diamé. The season after, Pepe Mel was sacked midway as Rayo forgot to do with Diamé what Leicester forgot to do with Kanté - adequately replace him - and Rayo finished a dismal 11th. 

In 2010, Rayo did what they should have done a season earlier, and brought in a tough-tackling, all-action midfielder in Javi Fuego, and Rayo were promoted to La Liga after an eight year absence.




As I rummaged into the transfer dealings of Greek clubs - because clearly I have nothing else to do - I noticed something strange. Aris Thessaloniki, a club for whom no Spaniard had ever played, suddenly had six Spaniards after the 2006 summer transfer window.

That summer, Sergio Koke, Pablo Coira, Javito, Aarón Escudero, José Reyes, and Rubén Palazuelos all moved to the Greek club. And they were joined by Jonan García and Álex Pérez in January 2007.

Heck, there were even non-Spanish players who moved from Spain to the club, such as Konstantinos Chalkias from Real Murcia in the summer and Cacá from Alicante in the winter.

After a little more research, I found that a man by the name of Manel Ferrer had something to do with all of this, but I'm not sure what exactly.

Watch this space.




Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Non-league Incider: Dulwich Hamlet 2-1 East Thurrock United

When I was more young and foolish I made a promise to myself that I wouldn't visit a football stadium until I visited Vallekas. Frustrated by my inability to plan a trip, I broke that promise by watching a game in the sixth tier of English football.

This is that game. This is my story.

If I've learnt anything, it's this: never make promises to yourself. Promises to yourself are like bonds to an imaginary world - they're not attached to anything. Instead, they only serve to frustrate you, and sometimes those around you.

In 2016, I remember being outside Wembley and not going inside for a stadium tour. In 2014, I remember giving up the opportunity to watch Real Madrid play AC Milan in Dubai. For a year the stadiums of Chelsea and Fulham were on the same street as mine. For three years, every time my friend said he was going to watch Leyton Orient, every time my brother talked about his love for Arsenal, every time I looked at a map of London and saw how close I was to the …

Non-league Incider: Cray Valley Paper Mills 4-4 Punjab United Gravesend

Last game: 9th August: St Helens Town 3-0 Atherton Laburnum Rovers
After ripping up my groundhopping calendar, mostly because I was determined to avoid overnight travel, and partly due to other commitments, there was a period of time where non-league football took a backseat.
But that period did not last long. Because of course it didn't.

Secretly, I'd loved travelling over ten hours back-and-forth to watch some 10th division football. And this was 9th division football in London.
When I had gone to East Dulwich exactly a week back, I had commented on how the amount of graffiti struck me as I watched from on board a southeastern train. I was going the exact same way, but much further this time - then I had stopped at Denmark Hill, now I would have to go six stations further. The graffiti I had thought was so emblematic of south London quickly disappeared, as did the tall buildings desperately cluttered together. We, and by we I mean me, were going to the suburbs. The stations be…

Non-league Incider: St Helens Town 3-0 Atherton Laburnum Rovers

Last game: 8th August: Dulwich Hamlet 2-1 East Thurrock United

The previous day, I was blown away by my first ever football match experience. Dulwich Hamlet impressed me, but what impressed me more was the journey. The travel to the stadium was just as enjoyable as the football itself.

I had caught the groundhopping bug.

There were no games scheduled for the 9th of August. There was one, near Wigan, and all I had booked earlier was a refundable bus ticket from Manchester Airport leaving at quarter past midnight.

I should have refunded it. This was a mistake. This whole day was a mistake.

I was only slightly hungover from the previous night, but that was nothing compared to this feeling of loss - I couldn't handle the fact that there was a game happening. And I wasn't too far away. Just three hours and a bit. They'll fly by, I thought.

I was in autopilot. Something within me made me get up, grab a bag, and get out the door. This wasn't me. I wasn't travelling - I was …