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Rayo Vallecano and 2001 - an international squad (26th September, 2017)

Recently, I wrote a piece about Rayo's 2014 summer transfer window, and the sheer number of signings that were made.

Today's piece is similar - it talks about Rayo's 2001-02 squad, a squad that ended up saving itself from relegation by picking up 15 points in their last 5 games - after a horrendous start that saw them pick up a solitary point in seven games...

Argentina

He was one of 13 players who stayed with the team when they got relegated in 2003.

For some fans, Patricio "Pato" Graff was one of Rayo's worst signings - terribly expensive and played 88 league games (over three seasons), but he never really impressed or dazzled the imagination of Vallekas.

Despite that, it is worth noting that in the 2001-02 season, he played 32 games, and picked up 14 yellow cards and one red. He even played the most minutes (2977, even more than Míchel who played 2931. In the league only, Míchel played 2871, Graff 2797).

Switzerland

Guess the player: He was born in Switzerland but played for the Spanish national team. He was personally recommended by Johan Cruyff, but was then replaced by Johan for his son Jordi. He was a Barcelona youth graduate but could've just as easily been a Valladolid one - or even a Real Madrid one. He is the last Rayista to have played for the Spanish national football team.

That's right - Luis Cembranos. Born in Lucerne, Cembranos was the son of Spanish immigrants in Switzerland, and returned to his country in his teens, moving to Catalonia.

In the 2001-02 season, he didn't play due to injuries - injuries that plagued him for the following two seasons too.

Bosnia

Guess the players? Nah, that would be too difficult, there are three of them! Elvir Bolić, Elvir Baljić, and Emir Granov. Bolić, a striker, was top scorer with 11 goals - and was also subbed off the pitch a record 17 times. He is one of Rayo's most expensive players at Rayo, at 2 million euros. Baljić, a left winger, scored just 1 goal. But that doesn't compare to Granov, a striker, who played just nine minutes.

France

Careers are fickle now, and they were fickle then. In the 1999-00 season, he was the "boss". The defender who put everything on the line. The defender who was comfortable on the ball. The defender who Juande Ramos called the Fernando Hierro of Rayo. The defender who inexplicably was let go of by Compostela. The defender who along with Cota formed an impenetrable partnership in the center of the park.

And yet Jean-François Hernandez wasn't even a starter in the 2001-02 season. The father of Lucas and Theo Hernandez - at Atlético and Real Madrid respectively - he retired at the end of the season.

But neither veteran central midfielder Éric Serge Roy, or striker Bruno Rodríguez were starters either. Roy was signed at the start of the season - at the age of 33. And Bruno played just 39 minutes.



There were others too - Portugese midfielder Hélder, whose one superb 1999-00 season wasn't matched again for four more seasons. And Brazilian attacking midfielder Glaucio de Jesús, who was subbed onto the pitch a record 24 times.

And yet, apart from Pato Graff and Elvir Bolić, none of the players above were starters that season - it was the Spanish players who formed the backbone of the squad. Local hero Míchel bossed the center of the pitch, and Ramón de Quintana was a mainstay in the center of defense along with Sergio Corino - who scored 5 goals. Another youth player, Roberto Peragón, was invaluable to the attack, scoring six goals.

Every player who was replaceable was never really replaced.

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