New division, same life for Levante

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The Spanish second division used to be a bit rubbish, although a sniffy L’Equipe claims that it still is by branding the BBVA sponsored barndance the fourth worst second tier of Europe’s big five, based on quality of players, attendances and crispiness of the croissants.

La Segunda was once the home of teams who could have been contenders or the second string sides of the likes of Real Madrid.

This season the only feeder side in the division is Sevilla’s, although that may not be for much longer considering they are currently bottom of the pile with just 10 points from 22 games.

Instead, the league is starting to resemble England’s Championship with some big names from the past littering the streets of La Segunda.

Levante protest over unpaid wages... last season

And this is partly due to many of the sides promoted in recent years managing to survive more than one season - the likes of Almería, Valladolid, Getafe and Recreativo - and being replaced by big guns falling on very hard times indeed.

Real Sociedad, Celta Vigo, Albacete and Rayo Vallecano have all been Primera performers in recent years, along with the three most recent sides who fell through the trap door into a division which is not so much cut-throat as hammer your knees with a four-by-four before you can find your bearings.

Of those, Zaragoza are performing the best on and off the pitch - in the sense that they don’t appear to be in administration or plummeting even further down La Liga’s ladder.

Marcelino’s men are currently in fourth place but their chances of bouncing straight back have been given a setback by the financially necessary move of flogging Ricardo Oliveira to Betis for cold hard cash - a very useful item in a league where TV money, sponsorship and general interest is pretty much non-existent.

Zaragoza have managed to hang on to many of their Primera ‘stars’ such as Ayala and Gabi, although it is heartening to see that blog favourite Arizmendi started Sunday’s game against Levante on the bench.

And it’s Levante who are the league’s success story so far this season.

They may be jammed mid-table in 11th place but it’s the fact that they are using Spain’s outrageously liberal tax and debt collection laws to exist that is a modern wonder of the world.

Their plight is still so precarious and their survival abilities so strong that even after an airborne nuclear explosion over Valencia, the club would be happily leaving its players unpaid.

An administrator’s report was published recently which showed the sorry, scandalous nature of Levante’s situation. The document detailed that the club - on January 12 - owed money to 128 footballers, 25 physios, 17 coaches, six scouts, five media organisations and two local councils.

And a paella firm who are still waiting for an invoice for 1,700 euro to be paid. And not to mention the club’s stadium announcer.

Broken down, Levante’s bean counters have to find 28,747,336.54 euro to hand over to the taxman, 12.28m and 4.98m euro to two banks and 1.2m to poor old Damiano Tomassi, who is currently at QPR where he must be a very angry man, indeed.

Such is the chaos on the east coast that Marca revealed over the weekend that a footballer nearly joined Levante without the club actually realising it.

Javier Dorado from Mallorca was at the airport waiting for his big move to across the Med before receiving a call from the club’s technical secretary with some bad news.

Dorado: "I believe you've been expecting me? No?"

“I had to explain to him that no-one at the club knew anything about his signing,” admitted Manolo Salvador blaming the interference of a rogue agent.

The third of the club’s that dropped down from La Primera last season, Murcia, are in 15th but a gnat’s knapsack away from falling into administration, a situation that is beginning to have an affect in the dressing room according to slaphead club captain José Maria Movilla.

Just a fun taste of the life to come for Mallorca, Espanyol and Osasuna if they don’t get their acts together over the next four months.

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