El Centrocampista

¡SALVEMOS EL REAL ZARAGOZA! – Crisis deepens at La Romareda

A month has passed since Manolo Jimenez gave his first press conference as the new coach of Zaragoza, and little has happened in that time to convince the club’s supporters that they have any chance of somehow avoiding the relegation trapdoor for the second year running.

Indeed after last weekend’s results they are in deeper trouble than ever, with nine points now separating them from safety.

Jimenez has cut an increasingly frustrated figure in that time, and one has to wonder how much longer he will hang around damaging his cv. He was the preferred option of a board of administrators who are long gone, and there is little doubt that with the possible exception of Malaga midfielder Apoño, his transfer window reinforcements are well short of what was required to give his team any chance of survival.

Midfielder Tomislav Dujmovic and striker Carlos Aranda were sitting on the benches of Dinamo Moscow and Levante respectively when the call came, whilst Argentinian right back Pablo Alvarez only signed when sporting director Antonio Prieto missed out in his attempts to sign Juventus defender Marco Motta, whose decision to join Catania instead left them with a spare defender going cheap.

Prieto went on the attack this week, accusing one local journalist of advising Apoño not to join the club, although he then declined to name the guilty party. For much of the lengthy interview he seemed intent on blaming everyone else but himself for the desperate situation both on and off the pitch, but whilst accepting some responsibility for mistakes made during his three and a half year reign, he still rejected any suggestion that he should resign.

To be fair to a man who does not really deserve much support, it is hard to know what more Prieto could have done over the past month, although bringing in a couple of your agent friend’s players is perhaps one faux pas to avoid. The likes of Guti and Adrian Colunga, who were first mooted as possible additions when the window opened, were never likely to join what is to all intents and purposes a rapidly sinking ship.

Indeed some might argue that signing four new players on loan until the end of the season is about the most that could have been expected of a club on the brink of financial meltdown. However much maligned owner Agapito Iglesias’ declaration on the club’s official website that the squad which he and Prieto have now assembled is ‘extremely capable of keeping the club in the Primera Liga’ is as much a source of mirth amongst most supporters as the revelation that Levante will receive 100,000 euros for Aranda if the ‘maños’ are still in the top flight next season. Let us hope they are not counting on that potential windfall to balance the books.

Meanwhile the action group ‘Salvemos el Real Zaragoza’ (let’s save Real Zaragoza) continues with its campaign to get Iglesias to do the decent thing and sell up, a decision which he still shows not even the slightest interest in taking. The ‘agapitada’ will be back at the Romareda this Sunday for the clash with Rayo Vallecano, a sixty second period of mass whistling in the 32nd minute to coincide with the year in which the club was founded.

Signatures are also being collected for a petition calling for him to leave, whilst a delegation from the group will meet with a government minister in the next few days to air their concerns. Ultimately there is little that can be done – the club is owned by one man who can do exactly what he pleases with it for as long as he can keep it afloat. However the hope is that enough pressure on him from every angle imaginable will eventually bear fruit.

Whilst there are still a small group of optimists who see some salvation, presumably ignoring a return of three points from the last thirteen games, most supporters are already taking bets on which week of fixtures will eventually see their team mathematically relegated. However the biggest concern for all is whether their team will actually survive to contest what would only a fifth season outside the top flight in the last 55 years.

As clubs continue to fall by the wayside lower down the Spanish league pyramid, there remains a distinct possibility that the economic crisis may be on the brink of claiming a much more high profile victim.

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