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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.

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