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A great Rayo moment - the other Tamudazo. And Javi Fuego (31st August, 2017)

13th May, 2012. 7:00pm. The league table reads 15th Granada (42 points), 16th Villarreal (41), 17th Rayo Vallecano (40), 18th Zaragoza (40).

As Villarreal entertain Atlético Madrid at El Madrigal and Zaragoza visit Getafe, Rayo Vallecano play Granada at the Vallekas, arguably the crunch game; both know that most probably, the loser will go down to play in La Segunda.

It wasn’t supposed to be that way. Rayo Vallecano were in eighth place after match day 27, and were two points off a Europa League place. Four points off a Champions League place.

But a poor record of three points - a solitary, albeit impressive, 6-0 win over Osasuna - from nine games, left them relegation candidates and needing a win. Only a win could save them.

On the polar opposite side were Zaragoza, who had given up mid-season, but an impressive run of six wins and a draw in nine had helped them remain in 18th, needing a win.

Granada had been in poor form all along - five points in their last six games hadn’t helped either.

And Villarreal, playing in the Champions League, were in poor form too, but know a draw would be enough.

All that is about to change.

Zaragoza win 2-0 against Getafe, who were reduced to ten men, then to nine. And then to eight. Zaragoza were safe. Miraculously.

And till the 87th minute, Rayo Vallecano were relegated.

Except that three goals, in three stadiums, scored in four minutes, would leave a shocking surprise.

In the 88th minute, Falcao scores off a corner. 15th Granada (43), 16th Zaragoza (43), 17th Villarreal (41), 18th Rayo Vallecano (41). Level on points, but on head-to-head Villarreal were safe, and Rayo were relegated.

Seconds later, at the Vallekas, David Cobeño, the goalkeeper and captain of Rayo, is sent up for a corner. They have nothing to lose, but when the corner is cleared everyone starts to run. The minute the ball is loose, everyone is too. Some run backwards, some forward.

The ball somehow reaches the Granada box, where five Rayo players are standing. A shot is taken by Piti, saved. A shot by Michu hits the crossbar and rebounds. And there, standing near the goal line, a Spanish 5’10” striker tries his luck in an empty goal from a yard out.

A header, a goal.

A goal to relegate a Champions League team with zero debt, to save the aspirations of a club in administration. Actually, two - Granada celebrate too, a while later, once they hear that Villarreal were beaten. The game that was to relegate at least one team, finished with both of them safe.

One goal.



There were many stories about that goal.

The first were the rumors that Granada had let Rayo win - towards the end, Rayo players apparently approached the Granada bench and told them that it would benefit both of them if Rayo won.

The second was that the goal was was offside - and this was no rumor. But after the Rayo stadium had erupted which linesman would have the courage to call it?

But there's a larger story here - that of Javi Fuego. He played in the 6-0 win against Osasuna and in the 1-0 win against Granada. And he didn't in the six losses in between.

He barely missed a game for Rayo in the subsequent two years. In late 2012, as his contract with Rayo descended into its final stages, everyone wanted him. Míchel and Monchi at Sevilla said he was perfect for the club. Swansea sent negotiators to Rayo and even asked Michu for his opinion. Werder Bremen sent scouts to Rayo's game against Málaga. Hoffenheim stepped up interest after Boris Vukčević's car accident. Sampdoria wanted him because their scout, Igor Charalambopoulos, was part of De Biasi's technical team when De Biasi was Levante's manager in the 2007-08 season - Javi Fuego played for Levante that season.

And even Club Brugge wanted him. Even Club Brugge! Despite the fact that he had publicly rejected 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. The arrival of Spaniard Juan Carlos Garrido in November 2012 was touted as an explanation.

The clubs that were chasing a Rayo player - a point of pride

In the end, Valencia signed the player on a pre-contract.

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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.

But when he turned up, the world was at his feet.

If Juan Quero plays against Real Madrid he'll be playing against the club that let him go. The club that didn't think he had it in him to become a La Liga player.

The club that was wrong. Very, very wrong - he went fr…