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Eating my words - the rise of Diego Aguirre (21st September, 2017)

A 24-year-old Sevilla graduate from Mairena del Alcor, Jozabed joined second-tier Ponferradina in February 2013, leading his club to just a place off the promotion playoffs. They were behind Las Palmas in the league table, but were level on points, head-to-head points, head-to-head goal difference, head-to-head goals scored and even goal difference; only number of goals scored could separate them. He then joined Real Jaén, where four goals and 12 assists in 36 league matches couldn't prevent relegation to the theoretically amateur third-tier of Spanish football in 2014.

He took the punt and joined Rayo in La Liga. It was a gamble, a huge one, and no one thought about the signing working out. Two years later and with 10 goals and 3 assists not enough to save Rayo Vallecano, Jozabed was on his way to Fulham.

He has since gone to Celta Vigo on loan, and now plays with them permanently.

But why do I bring this up?

In 2014, not many fans could really say that Jozabed was their ideal summer signing. And at the start they were right - he was left out of the first four league match squads and never left the bench in the next two. Until November, he had played in just three league games out of twelve – all from the bench – for a combined total of 83 minutes.

And then, when Jozabed became a regular starter, he was indispensable in midfield. Fans saw the abilities of the all-round player, whose aerial prowess, tactical intelligence and exceptional vision was just as prominent as his ability to intercept passes, procure last ditch tackles and play positive passes towards the opponent's goal. At 5'11" yet weighing just 70 kilograms, he was able to jump higher than players as tall or slightly taller than him, but was also agile enough to get past players on the ball.

The reason I bring this up is because he defied the odds - when it looked like he would be another signing to fill up the numbers he proved us all wrong.

On the 15th of April, this is what I said about Diego Aguirre.

"Diego Aguirre...too, was signed in 2014 after having made waves at Toledo in the third division. The left-back/left-winger has been rarely used at Rayo this season, despite a successful loan stint at Leganés (2014-15). However, a dismal loan spell at Real Oviedo (2015-16), and the performances of Álex Moreno mean that him and Nacho have no place to go.

Not many Rayo fans will care much about Aguirre."

WOW. Funny how things work out right - we certainly care about him now!

Diego Aguirre's career rise has been dizzying. 2009-10 in the fifth tier (Toledo B), 2010-11 in the sixth and fourth tier (Toledo B and Toledo respectively), 2011-12 in the Segunda B (Toledo), 2012-13 in the Tercera (Toledo), 2013-14 in the Segunda B (Toledo), 2014-15 in the Segunda (Rayo, on loan at Leganés).

Yes, that's right, before he made his debut with Toledo in the Tercera in the 2010-11 season, a campaign that ended in promotion, he was playing in the sixth tier of Spanish football.

Diego Aguirre, at Toledo
To be fair, it is his "unleashing" this season from left-back to left-winger - in almost Gareth Bale-esque fashion - that has made the difference. As recently as May Míchel was calling him a potential left-back option.

But even then, it's funny how you can look back and say - what the heck was I thinking?



Side-note: Not that this means anything, but Jozabed, a signing from Real Jaén in the third division, was presented alongside was presented alongside Álex Moreno, a signing from Mallorca in the second division, and Quini, a signing from Real Madrid.

Diego Aguirre was presented alongside Derek Boateng, a player who lasted two months at Rayo before signing for Eibar.

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