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From Udinese to Granada - the legal rathole: Part 1 (21st November, 2017)

Who doesn't like ranting on Granada? I enjoy it. A lot.

But this story is not about Granada. It is about a story, a sad one at that - how a club avoided disappearance by becoming subservient to a foreign club.

This is part 1 in a multi-part series. Part 2 comes out tomorrow.

Hopefully.




If you look at it from Granada's perspective, Gino Pozzo was a ray of light at the end of a dark tunnel.

In 2002-03, Granada depended on itself to get promoted to the Segunda B, but an unfortunate own goal by Juanjo against Quintanar del Rey at home tore the dream to shreds. The following season was excellent, but in the play-offs, a theoretically inferior rival - La Roda - would eliminate them. In that year, players were forced to lock themselves in the stadium as a protest for not receiving their wages.

In 2006, the team was promoted from the fourth level. And good thing that happened, since at the time Granada was in the worst sporting and economic position in its history. Lorenzo Sanz arrived and acquired the club, relegating the presidency to his son Paco Sanz. The promotion to the Segunda B was gained after winning against Guadalajara 3-0 in a Los Cármenes packed with 18,000 angry fans.

In the following three division three campaigns Granada was running smoothly, But the economic problems at the club began to resurface, and the club couldn't pay its players again. And on January 25, 2009, at the beginning of a match against Melilla, the players showed T-shirts with the slogan "Paco Sanz, you need to pay now". Sanz resigned and a new management board was formed.

In 2009, Gino Pozzo arrived, along with his partners Quique Pina and Juan Carlos Cordero. The Italian, owner of Udinese, took over the debt and convert Granada CF into an SAD. The economic situation cooincided with a great season for the club. Overcoming the play-off against Alcorcón, the team would return 22 years later to the Segunda.

And it got even better - in late June 2011, Granada achieved a second consecutive promotion after defeating Celta and Elche in the play-offs.

But I'm happy Granada are back in the Segunda. The playing field is, somewhat, even now. Money isn't all that matters.

In 2009, a Granada team that was struggling in the third tier suddenly saw themselves with players that no other Segunda B team could dream of having, who knew were too good even for the Segunda, whose salaries were professional in a league that wasn't.

And it wasn't a sophisticated scheme - it was as uncomplicated and blatant as it could be. Players were signed by Udinese and loaned to Granada for ridiculously long loan spells, almost never playing for Udinese themselves. The 2009-10 season itself is littered with examples...

The 2009-10 contingent

Right back Allan Nyom, signed by Udinese from Arles-Avignon, penned a four year contract and was loaned for the entire four years - in 2013, the contract was extended for a further four years and the loan spell was extended for a further two, before being signed by Watford in 2015. Imagine being a player who has played 204 league games on loan at a single club, and none at his parent club.

Allan Nyom


Ok, maybe 204 is a lot. But there are other players who certainly came close - like Dani Benítez with 115. Benítez began his career in the youth ranks of Mallorca, but never appeared for the first team officially. In the 2007-08 season he was loaned to Pontevedra in the Segunda B and in the 2008-09 season to Elche in the Segunda, and was released by the Balearic Islands side afterwards. In the summer of 2009, Benítez signed for Udinese, being immediately loaned to Granada and staying there till 2014. In his second season he scored a career-best ten goals in 36 games as the Andalusians achieved a second consecutive promotion - his volatile character led to his receiving 13 yellow cards and two ejections.

Dani Benítez


Things went downhill from there - Benítez failed to find the net during the 2011-12 season, starting in 26 of his 30 league appearances. On 5th May 2012, after the home game against Real Madrid ended (1-2 home loss), he threw a bottle at referee Carlos Clos Gómez which hit him in the face, eventually being suspended for three months. Upon his return to action, Benítez struggled heavily with injury problems. And in March 2014, it was announced that Granada midfielder Dani Benítez, known in Granada as "Dani Beefeater" because of his night raids, had failed a doping test in a match against Real Betis held the previous month, in which he was sent off after just 15 minutes on the pitch, cocaine being the illegal substance he had allegedly consumed. He had to leave the La Liga club and joined Alcorcón in the Segunda, but after making no appearances dropped down again to the Segunda B, signing for Racing Ferrol in the summer 2016. He has since recovered his form, and this January joined AEL Limassol in Cyprus.

Oh, and let's not forget the 121 appearances of a certain striker named Odion Ighalo, from Nigeria. He played for Nigerian clubs Prime (2005-06) and Julius Berger (2006-07), before securing a trial at Norway's Lyn Fotball in 2007, at the age of 18, scoring six goals in 13 matches in his second year to help his team to the seventh position, and subsequently signed for Udinese in July 2008, agreeing to a five-year contract. However, after just six appearances, Ighalo was loaned to Granada in 2009, scoring 17 times in his first year, helping his team to promotion and earning a loan move to Italy's Cesena. However, after six months in January 2011 he was loaned back to Granada, where he scored five goals en route to another promotion. He would go on to play at Granada for three more campaigns on loan, before being loaned to Watford in 2014 - within months, his loan was terminated and he signed permanently for the club.

Odion Ighalo


Neither should we forget the 152 appearances that Diego Mainz clocked up. A Rayo Vallecano graduate and legend, he was one of just three players who stayed with the team during their successive relegations in 2003 and 2004. After six seasons at the club, in 2007 he joined Albacete in the Segunda. After two seasons as a first-choice player, Mainz was bought by Udinese, but was immediately loaned back to Granada and spent seven seasons at the club before retiring from football.

Diego Mainz


But perhaps the most controversial signing in my opinion was not of one who clocked many appearances but who scored many goals, and that is the signing of 2008-09 Segunda B's top scorer Tariq Spezie. Tariq's story is genuinely unique...

More in part 2 tomorrow!

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