La Liga is swiftly becoming the division of the underdog, with tiny clubs from around the Spanish nation beginning to fill the division. The remarkable rises of Eibar, Getafe, Leganes and Girona to their first ever spells in the top flight have been well-documented, and next season they will be joined by Huesca.
From the Aragon province, their Estadio El Alcoraz seats just 5,500 spectators and they had not even played second tier football until 2008. They have already suffered a blow ahead of next season following the departure of promotion-winning Coach Rubi, who has been appointed at Espanyol.
The club have moved swiftly to appoint former Argentina international goalkeeper Leo Franco to the hot seat. Having never previously managed, it could turn out to be a baptism of fire for the former Real Mallorca and Atletico Madrid shot-stopper. The 41-year-old, who also played for Independiente, Galatasaray and San Lorenzo, finished his career at Huesca in 2016 before taking up a coaching position. Franco won four caps for Argentina and represented his nation at the 2006 World Cup.
Yet the role of the Coach in the rise of a club can often be overstated in Spain. After all, Juan Antonio Anquela left Huesca last summer after guiding them to their first ever promotional playoff spot and Rubi’s reputation was damaged, many thought irreparably, in Spain after relegation with Sporting Gijon.
Huesca only need to look at recently promoted sides to take heart from the situation. In 2016, Segunda title winners Alaves dismissed title-winning boss Jose Bordalas and appointed Mauricio Pellegrino. The Argentine’s sole season at the Basque club brought a top-half finish and a first ever Copa del Rey final. Bordalas had been immediately appointed at Getafe, who he guided to promotion – via the playoffs – and overachieved again this season, helping to push Los Azulones towards a promotion spot.
Huesca have spent the majority of their existence between the third and fourth tiers of Spanish football yet they are the latest example of how a club with stability and cohesiveness off the pitch can lead to success on it. Spanish football is an ever-changing landscape and the recent relegation of 2000 title winners Deportivo La Coruna and Malaga, Champions League quarter finalists in 2013, is further proof.
It may well be that the Aragonese club come straight back down again next season and that anything else is defying the odds, but do not be surprised to see them repeat the trick of similarly-humble clubs and make a name for themselves in the top flight.
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