El Centrocampista

SOUTHERN STARS – So far, so good as Granada defy expectations.

At the very start of the season, Primera new boys Granada CF were touted as favourites for relegation in most quarters of the Spanish press.

A return to the highest level after a 35 year absence, which came about following back to back promotions from the third tier of Spanish football.

“Too much too soon” was on many football experts minds, plus the club appeared to be struggling to attract some of the bigger names in the summer transfer window.

Dani Güiza turned down a return to his native Andalucia and offers from both Granada and Real Betis, in favour of the bigger pay packet offered by Getafe… this after claiming it would be his “dream” to play for either of the Andaluz clubs.

Belgian starlet Steven Defour was approached, but opted for European football with FC Porto, whilst a loan deal for Arsenal’s Moroccan striker Marouane Chamakh was accepted by the London club, but he claimed never to have heard of Granada and refused the offer.

Thankfully, Granada president Quique Pina and director of football Juan Carlos Cordero, managed to build bridges with Portuguese giants Benfica, which saw two players arrive on free transfers, plus three on loan. A big boost for Granada, having been frustrated so many times with other enquiries.

In other moves, Yohan Mollo was signed from Monaco, though contrary to expectations hasn’t featured much so far. Fran Rico was captured from Real Madrid Castilla for €1m and is already proving to be a superb bit of business. A club record signing came with the €4.5m move for Senegalese international, Pape Diakhate, who’s proved to be worth every bit of the money paid with superb performances in the centre of defence.

So, all this activity and money available from a club that’s supposed to be in administration? Well, contrary to various reports and articles which have Granada tagged as one of the many Spanish clubs in a precarious financial situation, they aren’t in administration or in financial difficulty at all.

Whilst during the 2008-2009 season they did go into administration and almost faced closure, it was the Italian investment from Udinese and Gino Pozzo that saved the club and opened the door for Quique Pina to assume presidency of the club. Immediate debts were cleared, further debts of around €7m were refinanced in loan deals that expire in 2015, plus the club quickly left administration. All this more than two years ago, before the club even gained promotion to the Segunda.

Indeed whilst many clubs are struggling financially, many with immense and crippling debts, Granada CF are now actually one of the most financially solvent clubs in Spanish football and running at a healthy profit.

On the pitch, after a slow start prompted the press to claim the accuracy of their predictions, with Granada rooted in the bottom three, the many new arrivals began to gel as a team, whilst manager Fabri also started to discover his ideal starting eleven and utilise players in their most suited roles.

Granada have been guilty of dropping points against direct rivals in the bottom half of the table, they can be justifiably proud of performances against all the bigger clubs they’ve faced so far this season, which has contributed to a mid-table position and growing confidence.

Their opening game of 2012 sees them travel to the capital, facing Real Madrid, with around 3,000 supporters expected to make the trip. Whilst many might expect an easy win for Real Madrid, Granada have proven to be very stubborn defensively against some of the best La Liga has thrown at them so far.

So don’t be surprised to see Granada park the bus and look for opportunities to counter-attack. This approach so nearly worked in Valencia, whilst it stunned opponents and gained victories in Sevilla and Bilbao.

As the January transfer window opens, Granada have inevitably been linked with numerous players. Due to their lack of goal scoring prowess, several rumours have involved a variety of forwards.

Striker Aduriz is one name that’s often been mentioned recently, said to be unsettled at Valencia due to being kept out of the side by the superb form of Soldado.

Young Brazilian full-back Gabriel Silva from Palmeiras has also been strongly linked. An exciting prospect, seen as either cover for in-form Guilherme Siqueira, or possibly to allow either to play in more advanced winger roles.

The club remain tight lipped so far though, but director of football Juan Carlos Cordero has stated that although the January market is always complex, the door is still open for players to move in or out of the club. The only clear statement so far, was to quickly deny reports that they were signing Javier Saviola from Benfica, a move the player also denied.

One player that looks like he’ll be moving out, is Nigerian forward Ike Uche. On loan from Villarreal who are stricken with injuries to forwards, their president Fernando Roig has apparently had private talks with his Granada counterpart Quique Pina, about terminating the loan deal early.

Whilst Granada will always be looking to strengthen, the current group of players have certainly given a good account of themselves. Either way, before the end of January there’s bound be plenty more rumours.

With the club looking on course to secure their survival at this level, they can now back up their “here to stay” claims that many transfer targets in the summer, perhaps found difficult to believe.

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