Longevity and continuity in football are increasingly rare aspects in football. ‘One club’ players are becoming increasingly rare while on a management level, clubs are becoming increasingly impatient with a lack of instant success. Coach Asier Garitano’s decision to leave Leganes at the end of the season ends a marriage which had brought plenty of joy to both parties.
Garitano took the reins in 2013, with the Madrid-based club in the regionalised third tier of Spanish football. He achieved promotion in his first season and in his third, guided Lega to their first ever stint in the top flight. Last season they survived and this year they grew, reaching the Copa del Rey semi-finals, led by inspirational captain Martin Mantovani.
Last season, Los Pepiniros finished 17th – one place above the relegation zone – and that is where they currently sit, again clear of the danger of demotion. This represents success. La Liga is increasingly home to overachieving clubs, with Eibar, Girona and Lega’s rivals Getafe all pushing for top-half spots. But this should not detract from the Butarque club’s achievements.
Their elimination of Real Madrid in this season’s Copa del Rey was the finest success in the club’s history, trumping the 2016 promotion and survival the following season. They were eventually seen off by Sevilla in the semi-finals but such a cup run had never before been seen by the club’s loyal following.
When confirming his departure earlier this week, the club thanked Garitano for his ’commitment, honesty and ability to tie in with both values of the club and their fans, as with those of the entire city’ in a statement on their official website, while praising him for an ‘unforgettable’ five years at the helm.
The reasons behind his exit are not clear, although reading between the lines in the coach’s comments to the press throughout the second half of the season, it appears he wants to push on to greater things. He has spoken of ‘ambition’ and ‘potential’, stating that his future at the club had nothing to do with finances but about what the club would be willing to commit to.
Garitano appears to believe the club have reached a ceiling. Survival in the top-flight is their limit, certainly under his guidance. Getafe, Eibar and Girona were all vying for a European spot this season with budgets limited compared to more illustrious rivals, but Lega’s board may not be even to commit to that level.
Five years of steady and unparalleled progress now gives way to a feeling of uncertainty around the club, with the next appointment vital. Such stability in Spanish football is rare. They are the only club in the bottom half not to have changed manager’s at least once this season, while last time out they were one of only two clubs in that respect. One chapter has drawn to its but the next for Leganes might be their most significant yet.
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