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José Antonio Dorado - welcome back, and a belated happy birthday! (12th July, 2017)

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.

Many players have made their La Liga or even professional debuts late in their careers. And, if you've read this blog, you'll know I love these stories and writing about them.

But it's easy to forget how commonplace that story really is. So commonplace, in fact, that there's someone at Rayo that can relate. Someone who competed for Segunda and Segunda B teams till the age of 29. Someone whose versatility has meant a progression from left midfielder to left back, and finally to center back. And someone whose professionalism means he is still going strong at the age of 35 - it was actually his birthday day before yesterday!

Dorado was born in Córdoba, and began playing football in his hometown, passing through the lower categories of Córdoba. At a territorial championship, Real Zaragoza noticed him and signed him, despite offers from more prestigious La Liga clubs such as Espanyol and Valladolid.

The technically excellent left handed midfielder kept rising up the ladder, and even made it to preseason training with the first team under the orders of Juan Manuel Lillo in 2000. That season was the first of four spent at Zaragoza's B team, where he enjoyed the confidence of coaches such as Manolo Villanova and Jesús Solana. However, the coaches that mattered - Paco Flores and Víctor Muñoz, didn't bet on him in the first team, which meant that he would leave in 2004 to join Segunda outfit Lleida.


He spent three seasons at Lleida, alongside the likes of Albert Crusat, Stankovic, Óscar García Junyent, Bruno Saltor and veteran Chema Alonso - the third of which was spent in the Segunda B after a heartbreaking relegation.

But that is where the sad story ends, and one of a rapid rise to greatness starts.

Huesca, in the Segunda B, signed him in 2007. More specifically, Manolo Villanova was reunited with Dorado. By 2008 he was back in the Segunda. Two more years as an undisputed regular meant that Real Betis came in for him. And in 2011, Pepe Mel's Real Betis were back in La Liga, with Jorge Molina leading a deadly attack and Dorado leading a watertight defense and gaining the respect of Betis fans.

At the age of 29, after five seasons in the Segunda and six in the Segunda B, Dorado was in La Liga. He would still be a starter for Betis, but in the 2012-13 season the arrival of Paulão meant that Dorado left six months into his third season at Betis for Segunda outfit Villarreal. He would go on to help them to promotion too, forming a solid partnership with Mateo Musacchio, and stayed there for a further two seasons in La Liga.

Unfortunately, every story must end, no matter how good, and injuries have meant that Dorado's 2015-16 season was spent at Rayo Vallecano - in all probability his last season in the top tier.

But, if Rayo go up, that story could still end well.





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