Skip to main content

The story of three defensive midfielders whose careers are connected: Part 1 - Sergio Matabuena (9th December, 2017)

This blog is all about the stories that we ignore or pay lip service to, but don't genuinely appreciate. And, in that spirit, this post, and then some, are about the stereotypical tough-tackling, all-action defensive midfielder.

The player who, despite not being blessed with notable technical skills, possesses pace, strength, and work-rate to complement and support other midfielders with a more composed, creative playing style. The player who stands out most for energy, aggression, and a hard-tackling style of play, but is often not talked about for the qualities that reside beneath those ball-winning abilities.

A competitive nature. Leadership qualities. Endurance.

And so these next posts are about that defensive midfielder. Oh wait, I should correct the record - not about a defensive midfielder. No, it's about three of them. Three defensive midfielders whose careers are, weirdly, connected to each other.

Their names? Sergio Matabuena. Javi Fuego. And Raúl Baena.




Sergio Matabuena has always had to fight for a place - especially at local club Racing Santander. A product of their youth system, he made his debut in La Liga at the age of 23.

Never an undisputed starter, Matabuena would be a mere training partner upon legend Gonzalo Colsa's return to Racing in 2006 and, after only five appearances during the 2006-07 campaign, he moved to Sporting de Gijón in the second division, being instrumental in helping it achieve a 2008 top flight return. In a campaign in which he collected 14 yellow cards he earned the affectionate nickname "Gattuso Matabuena".

Sergio Matabuena of Sporting Gijón battles with Gary O'Conner of Birmingham City

Matabuena appeared significantly less in the following top level seasons - namely only 14 matches in 2009-10 - being only second or third-choice holding midfielder. In January 2011, at nearly 32, he returned to the second level and signed for Real Valladolid, before retiring in 2012.

But his move to Sporting Gijón was no coincidence. It was borne out of necessity....



Full disclosure - this blog post was inspired by the news-piece below.


"Matabuena takes over from Javi Fuego". Credit: elcomercio.es.


The news media doesn't often cover these types of players with the recognition they deserve. The narrative is that players are replaceable. They are cogs in team's machines, licking their lips in anticipation of a contract expiring so that they can go somewhere else. That language is reductive.

I'm not exaggerating. I mean, the very first line reads "One leaves and another arrives". And yet, despite all that, in this case that narrative might be very, very true....




Javi Fuego was the talk of the town. He was the Segunda star, and La Liga teams were knocking on the door...

The Asturias native started playing professional football for Sporting Gijón, representing the local side during six second division seasons (2001-07) and being first-choice between 2004 to 2007.

There was a line in the article above that summed up the whole thing - "Both operations were carried out simultaneously". As soon as Levante had agreed the 853,000 euro deal, Sporting had agreed on the Sergio Matabuena deal.

Javi Fuego would later go on to leave the squad upon relegation and serious financial problems, and in August 2008, he signed a three-year deal worth €140,000 with Recreativo de Huelva, appearing regularly as a starter during two years but being relegated from the top flight in his first.

During those 3 seasons, between 2008-11, something was happening at Rayo Vallecano.

Watch out for part 2 tomorrow, which is on Javi Fuego.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Francisco Pérez Pérez - the actual oldest player to have played in Spain (1st November, 2017)

I've always wanted to ask a football player: how much do you love your club? If you see your club go down, what are you willing to put on the line to see them go back up? The notion that "players will come and players will go, but the fans are the club" is one that is sadly true in what has become a money-filled sport. The story of a player sacrificing money and success for his club? That story is rare. That story is beautiful. This is that story. This is the story of a player who loved his club. His local club. It'll be a long time if and when someone beats his record. Francisco Pérez Pérez, also known as Chico, currently holds the record for being the oldest player to play in the Segunda B - 43 years and 93 days is the figure. That's a figure that second place Diego Rodríguez Fernández (41 years and 324 days) falls short of by a year and 134 days. I should also point out that the top 3 list for oldest players to play in any of the top three tier

Non-league Incider: Cray Valley Paper Mills 4-4 Punjab United Gravesend

Last game: 9th August: St Helens Town 3-0 Atherton Laburnum Rovers After ripping up my groundhopping calendar, mostly because I was determined to avoid overnight travel, and partly due to other commitments, there was a period of time where non-league football took a backseat. But that period did not last long. Because of course it didn't. Secretly, I'd loved travelling over ten hours back-and-forth to watch some 10th division football. And this was 9th division football in London. When I had gone to East Dulwich exactly a week back , I had commented on how the amount of graffiti struck me as I watched from on board a southeastern train. I was going the exact same way, but much further this time - then I had stopped at Denmark Hill, now I would have to go six stations further. The graffiti I had thought was so emblematic of south London quickly disappeared, as did the tall buildings desperately cluttered together. We, and by we I mean me, were going to the suburb

Who is Raúl Martín Presa, the Mickey Mouse? Part 1. (20th August, 2017)

José María Ruiz-Mateos was the head and main shareholder of Nueva Rumasa - the company that owned Rayo and other companies - mainly specializing in dairy products. (He wasn't the president of Rayo though - his wife, Teresa Rivero, was Rayo's president). In early 2011, the directors announced a debt of over 700 million euros, that it was on the verge of bankruptcy and that staff wouldn't be paid. And the players were visibly angry about it - captain Míchel assured the press that the club would continue fighting on the pitch, but the day after the announcement was made, six key players didn’t attend training. Veteran midfielder José María Movilla spoke on radio station SER about the situation, about the fact that he had only received seven of the last eighteen months of pay, about the fact that there were a few players who couldn't even afford car repairs. When Rayo Vallecano were about to earn promotion to La Liga despite all the odds - the players not being paid,