La Liga Review 2010/11: Levante’s Miracle and Málaga’s Near Disaster

Our man in Spain, Tim Stannard, continues to look back on another incredible year in la Primera with the second installment of his review of the seaon...

EspanyolFinal Position - 8thLLL Prediction - 11th

Everything was going bizarrely well for Espanyol in the first half of the season, with the Pericos sashaying towards a little European vacation like a particularly camp German towards a sun lounger. Then in January the Catalan club’s bosses thought it would be a fine idea to sell two key defenders, Dídac and Víctor Ruiz, for the princely sum of around €13 million. Espanyol’s plans for a nice little cross-continent road trip promptly crumbled as a team that had spent a good portion of the season in the top six slipped out of the European places into a resting position of 8th, thanks to a fairly feeble three victories since the end of January.

So this has LLL thinking whether all that loot was really worth missing out on testing themselves against the likes of Stoke next season. The answer is probably yes.

Highlight Getting Real Madrid to fork out €4m for José Callejón and his Vanilla Ice hair-do

Lowlight Losing 5-1 in Cornella to Barcelona (below)

GetafeFinal Position - 16thLLL Prediction - 8th

Ultimately, another hopelessly incorrect prediction from LLL - but for the first half the season all looked well, as Getafe went into the winter break as a top seven team before drumming up just four more victories in the second half of the season, leaving the club in danger of the drop on the last day.

The club’s usually trusty 'buy low, sell high' policy failed this time round. Adrian Colunga proved himself to be no Roberto Soldado, while Javier Arizmendi made it blatantly obvious to any sentient being that he was not a suitable stand-in for Pedro León, who left to become José Mourinho’s punch bag last summer.

Club president Angel Torres clearly wasn’t pleased by the late survival scramble and chose not to rehire Míchel The Manager, looking for someone else to lead the Getafe/Team Dubai reboot in the new campaign.

Highlight Club captain Manu del Moral becoming the club’s top goalscorer in la Primera, scoring nine top flight goals this season (one of which is shown below)

Lowlight Manu del Moral taking advantage of this to get a move to Sevilla. 

HérculesFinal Position - 19thLLL Prediction - 19th

The first words LLL will say about the Alicante club are 'good riddance'. Aside from the words before those two words, of course. The side’s promotion to la Primera was tainted by the whiff of a match-fixing scandal, but the Spanish FA and League decided to archive the case. The chaos surrounding Hércules continued with the club’s players not always seeing their pay cheques on time, having no training facilities and even issues with a lack of hot water in their own stadium.

Hércules president Valentin Botella chose to blame much of his side’s failings, not on his chaotic and amateurish organisation, but rather on loanee winger Royston Drenthe. He moaned that the club weren’t getting value for money from the Madrid player - although the Dutchman disagreed because, as he claimed, his salary had dried up around September time...

This lack of motivation from the players began to tell out on the pitch. Hércules' impressive early season form - which included the unlikely 2-0 win over Barça - was soon a thing of the past, and they sank slowly towards the bottom of the table, where they deserved to be.

Highlight That night in Barcelona (below).

Lowlight Royston Drenthe being verbally abused by Hércules fans and having KKK painted onto the walls of his house due to his reluctance to return to Spain after the winter break due to the financial issues.]

LevanteFinal Position - 14thLLL Prediction - 20th

When LLL first clapped eyes on Levante as they suffered a 4-1 defeat to Getafe in the second round of the league season, the blog thought the side was doomed, what with it being stuffed to the bursting brim with players who made you ponder such questions as ‘didn’t he used to play for...?’ and ‘surely he’s retired?’

Levante were happy to play to that prediction too, but then after the winter break coach Luis García refused to take what looked an inevitable relegation lying down and dragged his players up the table through motivational exercises, DVDs of their finest goals and even making his team murder a song to thank the fans for their help.

Valencia’s second club have survived to fight for another year in the top flight thanks to the 13 goals of Filipe Caicedo, the inspirational leadership of man mountain Sergio Ballesteros and the apparently Getafe-bound Luis García, who almost certainly wins the non-existent prize of LLL’s coach of the year.

Highlight A brilliant 1-0 away win at Villarreal to kickstart the clubi’s recovery (below).

Lowlight An 8-0 Copa del Rey battering by Real Madrid in the Bernabeu.

MálagaFinal Position - 11thLLL Prediction - 9th

In the end, Málaga were just one place shy of the pre-season goal of a top ten finish. But that doesn’t really tell the full story of what could have been the sensation of the season in Spain - the relegation of technically one of the richest clubs in the division just one year after being bought out by billionaire owners, hell-bent on turning the club into the Barcelona of the south.

Málaga were in all sorts of trouble going into April, but the return of Julio Baptista (who was signed in January but almost immediately got injured) sent the southern side flying out of the relegation zone with a five match winning streak during which The Beast banged in seven goals, including a spectacular opener away to Racing (video below).

Further investment in the club this summer will ensure that there won’t be a repeat performance of the last campaign where la Primera’s first big dalliance with foreign types controlling the purse strings nearly went spectacularly wrong.

Highlight Manuel Pellegrini taking over to prove to Marca once and for all, that he remains a very good manager.

Lowlight A home defeat to Zaragoza in January which had many doubting the above declaration

 

Part One: Barca give Jose a bath and Depor bite the dustPart Three: Madrid’s solid season and Racing’s AWOL owner Part Four: Sorry Sevilla & Dastardly Zaragoza

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