Skip to main content

The story of three defensive midfielders whose careers are connected: Part 3 - Raúl Baena (11th December, 2017)

You can read part 1, about Sergio Matabuena, here. And part 2, about Javi Fuego, here.




Pep Guardiola was revered by Barcelona fans because he achieved something believed to be impossible - winning trophies consistently whilst playing beautiful, attacking football.

But beauty is subjective - and it isn't just of one type.

It's hard to justify how a tough-tackling, yellow-card accumulating player who barely ever scores or assists goals can be described as beautiful. It's hard to see the importance of a player like that in a system that rewards passing and movement.

But there is something beautiful, something heroic, something almost poetic, about a La Masia youth graduate, his hair flying in the air, his eyes determined, his brow tensed, his speed, stamina and strength all summoned, into a ridiculous tackle that looks impossible yet he emerges with the ball cleanly.

And he does it again. And again. And again.



If Espanyol fans came up a with a list of players who have one-uped Barcelona, Raúl Baena would be high on that list.

Born in Málaga and raised at the club with the same name, he was signed by Barcelona at the age of 14, and went on to progress through the youth ranks. However, in 2007, at the age of 18, he was picked up by Espanyol, which led to a legal battle as Barcelona sued Baena for 3.5 million euros.

And yes, that meant it was Laporta vs Baena, which saw Felipe Izquierdo, Baena's lawyer, accuse Laporta of "knowing nothing of the matter" and that his presence in Barcelona was only "to make protocolic travels". And Laporta would look at Baena and sarcastically say, "good luck, lad". Also, its interesting to point out that this battle was fought in October of 2008, when Barcelona were starting to look really good under newly-appointed Pep Guardiola. Moreover, in that fateful game against Rayo in 2013 when Barcelona had less possession for the first time in years, Raúl Baena was accused of not shaking Messi's hand, accusations which he denied and instead stated that Messi had not offered his hand.

Baena would sign for Rayo in 2013 as a Javi Fuego replacement, after another Barcelona youth graduate, Víctor Sánchez (signed in the dying minutes of the 2012 winter transfer window) took his place during the 2012-13 campaign. And he became crucial to Rayo - he was fellow youth graduate Javi Márquez's foil at Espanyol and was Roberto Trashorras's at Rayo.

Aggressive, tenacious, hard working and never afraid to put in a tackle, Baena kept the midfield engine running. His absence due to a cruciate ligament injury towards the end of the 2015-16 season was acutely felt as Rayo fell from La Liga and were free falling in the Segunda - he signed for Granada this summer after his contract expired.



That's the end of this series - and it's weird, because usually series don't end on this blog! But perhaps the story to highlight was that players are replaceable - we haven't even talked about Víctor Sánchez, who drove Baena to leave, or Gonzalo Colsa, who did the same to Sergio Matabuena.

You may be thinking - so what? That's just how the market is, right? Players come and players leave?

But as Rutger Bregman once said: "Think of the wastes and the costs". The system is designed, incentivised even, to create waste. To create a space for agents fees, and signing-on fees. To create a system where clubs remain poor because they can't offer long-term deals, and end up paying, and hence staying poor, even to keep the players they have.

It's capitalism for the poor.

And then the question becomes - is that fair? Is that what we want?

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

From Catalonia to Heybridge - the story of an eighth division club (19th October, 2017)

After spending his whole life at UDA Gramenet and a season at Europa, Guillem Ramón moved to Terrassa in the summer of 2014. It was just another Catalan player transferring between two clubs in the Catalan regional leagues - nothing extraordinary.

But it was consequential.

In March 2015, in a match against Sabadell, the full back suffered a complete meniscal rupture, and his season was over. So was his contract - and a big chunk of the 2015-16 season as well. He ended up signing for Cerdanyola, without pay (as he was recuperating), and the doctors said that January would be his return time. However, he debuted in November.

In hindsight, it was a mistake.

After two games, in a training session, on November 25th he got injured again - this time in the quadriceps in the same leg. After two months of recuperation, and still no guarantee of pay, Guillem left for new pastures in February 2016. A trial at Coplestonians FC followed; so did an opportunity at Needham Market FC, in the seventh t…

Non-league Incider: Dulwich Hamlet 2-1 East Thurrock United

When I was more young and foolish I made a promise to myself that I wouldn't visit a football stadium until I visited Vallekas. Frustrated by my inability to plan a trip, I broke that promise by watching a game in the sixth tier of English football.

This is that game. This is my story.

If I've learnt anything, it's this: never make promises to yourself. Promises to yourself are like bonds to an imaginary world - they're not attached to anything. Instead, they only serve to frustrate you, and sometimes those around you.

In 2016, I remember being outside Wembley and not going inside for a stadium tour. In 2014, I remember giving up the opportunity to watch Real Madrid play AC Milan in Dubai. For a year the stadiums of Chelsea and Fulham were on the same street as mine. For three years, every time my friend said he was going to watch Leyton Orient, every time my brother talked about his love for Arsenal, every time I looked at a map of London and saw how close I was to the …

Fuenlabrada - the mighty challengers: Part 2; aka Juan Quero - the roller-coaster (15th October, 2017)

In just a few months, Fuenlabrada have competed for promotion to the Segunda, signed a center-back from a La Liga side, and will now be playing Real Madrid in the Copa del Rey.

This is part 2 of a series about Fuenlabrada, the mighty challengers to Real Madrid, who they play in the cup on the 26th of October.

You can read part 1 here.



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…