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Brazilian players at Rayo and obscure nationalities (24th April, 2017)

It seems like every club has that one signing from a Brazilian team that looks fishy.

Sueliton Pereira was to Rayo what Douglas is to Barcelona. On 2 June 2011 it was announced that 25-year-old Sueliton was joining newly promoted La Liga side Rayo Vallecano as the club's first signing for the upcoming La Liga season.

He wasn't a nobody - he was signed from Campeonato Gaúcho side São José EC where in his one season with the club, he appeared in 13 matches and scored 2 goals, being selected as the best right back of the competition.

However, he failed to appear in any league matches for Rayo, and rescinded his link on 20 December 2012.

He is the exception to the rule though - at Rayo Brazilian footballers have thrived. I've obviously written about Diego Costa before (here):

It's funny to think that Diego Costa was once a backup at Atlético Madrid.

In June 2011, he was packing his bags. Beşiktaş had agreed a deal, and he was going to leave. All the papers had been signed. The team had four non-EU players and Eduardo Salvio was being favored over Costa.

Costa was going to Turkey.

However, in July, Diego Costa tore his anterior cruciate ligament and meniscus, which meant not only was the deal to Turkey off, but he would also be out for six months and unregistered for an entire year.

Closer to recovery, in January, Sandoval insisted he come to Rayo. Costa was nowhere near full fitness, but Sandoval believed in him. He would later say that Costa was the best striker in the world.

He was right.

Diego Costa scored four in three games, which became six in seven, and eventually ten in sixteen as Rayo Vallecano survived in La Liga. 

Diego Costa went on to score 20 goals in the 2012-13 season and 35 in the next. He would win the Copa del Rey and the league with Atlético, earn a move to Chelsea, and win the league with them too.

A legend was born - and Vallekas was a part of that story.

But there are others too - 21-year-old midfielder Iriney moved to Rayo from São Caetano and joined the club in January 2003. He played for the club in La Liga, Segunda and then the Segunda B, and was an undisputed starter. In fact, he should have been in the first true Rayistas article which was published more than a month ago - which I have now corrected.

Iriney would go on to play for Celta Vigo from 2005-07 in La Liga, being an undisputed starter. Following the 2007 relegation he decided to leave, but was unable to find a new team due to a lengthy judicial battle until the 2008 January transfer window, when he signed with UD Almería.

Subsequently, after gaining match practice, Iriney was relatively used during his stay in Andalusia, with Almería consecutively maintaining its top flight status. In late June 2009 his contract expired and he moved to neighbors Real Betis, freshly relegated to the second level. He contributed with 36 games – 35 starts – and three goals in his second season as the club returned to the main division as champions and, on 25 February 2012, played his 100th official match with the Verdiblancos, against Getafe CF.

After repeatedly refusing to renew his contract, Iriney joined neighboring Granada CF also in the first division, signing for three years as a free agent. After only one, however, he moved sides again, penning a two-year deal with Watford for an undisclosed fee.

Iriney made his debut in the League Championship on 3 August 2013, starting and finishing the 1–0 win at Birmingham City. On 31 January of the following year he returned to Spain after being loaned to division two's RCD Mallorca, until the end of the season.

Then there's left-back/winger Pedro Botelho, who served two seasons on loan at Salamanca (2007-09), then another on loan at Celta and another at Cartagena - all incrementally successful, all in the Segunda and all from Arsenal. His first loan stint in La Liga was with Rayo in 2011, where his performances were great but irregular and he suffered from personal problems. He would join Levante on loan in January 2012, and subsequently leave Arsenal for Atlético Paranaense in the summer of that year.

Léo Baptistão may have left Vallekas controversially but he is admittedly one of its best signings, graduates and sales - being sold to Atlético de Madrid for 7 million euros.

But the crème de la crème is undoubtedly Guilherme - Rayo's best signing in their history by far.

Context: It's the 1994-95 season, and Rayo have been freshly relegated. They're struggling - they're down to their third manager of the season (Paquito, after David Vidal Tomé and Francisco Baena), they're barely scoring goals and while results have picked up towards the end of the year the squad needs inspiration.

In January 1995, Guilherme leaves for Spain and joins Rayo Vallecano, scoring 14 goals in only 17 matches (half-a-season) as the team comes second achieves automatic promotion to La Liga.

During the following two campaigns, he continued to net in double digits, but they returned to the second division at the end of the latter. But it was not all sad - he scored twice against Real Madrid in a famous 2-1 win at the Santiago Bernabéu, a game that led to institutional chaos and the sacking of Jorge Valdano.

A 20-year-old came to Rayo and not only took them to La Liga but did so in style. 

He would go on to play in Brazil with a short stint in Saudi Arabia.

There have been many players who've played for Rayo and have extensive international experience (I've taken those with more than 60 caps). Bold means still active.
  1. Răzvan Raț (Romania, 115 caps)
  2. Idan Tal (Israel, 69 caps)
  3. Hernán Medford (Costa Rica, 89 caps)
  4. Jorge Valdivia (Chile, 73 caps)
  5. Toni Polster (Austria, 95 caps)
  6. Ildefons Lima (Andorra, 105 caps)
Funnily enough, none of them have had a major impact on Rayo, with the exception of Toni Polster who scored 14 goals in the 1992-93 season - his only season at Rayo. And Medford who scored 7 in his stint at Rayo (1991-92). Răzvan Raț has been an admirable backup left back for the club, and was even a starter in the 2013-14 season. Oh, and Ildefons Lima was a starting center-back for Rayo during the 2004-05 season, actually offering to drop down a division - where he had played at Las Palmas and Poli Ejido.


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