El Centrocampista

LIVING IN THE SHADOW OF GREATNESS – The turbulent existence of RCD Espanyol

By Olly Dawes

Remember when you were a kid, and you wanted everything that your brother had? That toy, those shoes, his footballing skills? Spare a thought for Espanyol.

May 28th, 2011. Barcelona win their second Champions League trophy in three years. Pep Guardiola had steered the Catalan giants to their tenth trophy of his three year reign at the helm.

Lauded as the best team to ever grace a football field, showing off world stars such as Dani Alves, Xavi, Andres Iniesta, David Villa and the little magician himself, Lionel Messi – the inhabitants of Barcelona must have felt like they were on top of the world, invincible, furlongs clear of any team in this generation.

That would be except for their little brothers on the other side of the Catalan capital. Espanyol have not had the easiest of times during this golden period for FCB.

Former player Pochettino has won many admirers

In 2009, captain Daniel Jarque died of a heart attack during a pre-season camp in Italy, and Espanyol had to try and recover from what was a devastating blow to the team and the fans.

The tragedy also overshadowed the opening of their brand new stadium in Cornellà de Llobregat.

The new Stadium, Estadi Cornellá-El Prat, is the eighth in the club’s history. The constant  nomadic nature of the club had led to the them spending €60m on creating a permanent home.

However, the repercussions of this act have hit the club hard. Espanyol are broke and have been forced to cash in on the most valuable assets in a bid to reduce the whopping €150m deficit hanging over Los Periquitos.

Last season, talented young manager Mauricio Pochettino had led his youthful side to third place in La Liga by the half way point, gaining 36 points.

Espanyol were riding high and the former Argentina international drew huge plaudits for his style of football, encouraging his defenders to feel at ease with the ball, to be creative from the back.

You only have to look at the eccentricity of Cameroonian goalkeeper Carlos Idriss Kameni to see that. Centre back Victor Ruiz impressed, whilst in the engine room, B team talents shone in Raul Baena and the vastly talented Javi Marquez.

Up front, Jose Maria Callejon was providing pace and direction on the wing, supporting the spearhead of the attack, Argentinian-turned-Italian Pablo Daniel Osvaldo, whose goals have attracted great interest elswhere.

Then the Transfer Window swung open, letting all the vultures from around the globe into Estadio Cornella. To begin with, ambitious Serie A side Napoli moved to sign Ruiz for just €6m plus Jesus Datolo. And on deadline day, AC Milan came in to sign the promising left back Didac Vila, who ended up returning to RCD on loan this summer.

The slump took place almost immediately. The departures, coupled with an injury to Osvaldo, saw Espanyol plummet from Champions League hopefuls to hopelessly trying to cling on to a Europa League place – a task which they failed to complete.

Just 13 points were taken in the second half of the season. This was no worry for the club, handing Pochettino an extended contract until 2014.

And as the Summer Transfer Window is in full swing, there are still uncertainties over next season’s playing staff. Kameni has seemingly turned down a move to Roma, whose technical director is none other than former Espanyol hero Ivan De La Pena, Raul Rodriguez was the subject of a £400,000 bid from Glasgow Rangers, whilst Callejon has joined the Mourinho revolution at the Bernabeu.

They have however strengthened by bringing in Getafe playmaker Juan Albin, Mexican centre back Hector Moreno and 19 year old Uruguayan Adrian Luna, and reaffirming their belief that Osvaldo will still be an Espanyol player come the 20th of August, when they take on newly promoted Granada.

The foundations are there for Espanyol, but it may be quite a few years before they can rival their big brothers.

One Comment

  1. Pingback: LIVING IN THE SHADOW OF GREATNESS – The turbulent existence of RCD Espanyol « Sublime Finish

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