Can Real Zaragoza escape La Liga relegation again?
Struggling La Liga club must rely on old-fashioned hard graft to avoid the drop, writes Simon Jalie
Real Zaragoza are struggling badly in La Liga this season. The Aragonese club have won just twice in 18 league games so far in the 2010-11 campaign and that kind of form has left them bottom of the table as we reach the halfway juncture.
Manager Jose Aurelio Gay was sacked in the middle of November and replaced by former Mexico coach Javier Aguirre, but since Aguirre took the reins, the club’s trajectory has not improved.
At the same stage last season, Real found themselves in a similar position. In fact, the club were one place better off in 19th heading into matchday 19, with only lowly Xerez below them. (Xerez spent 31 out of 38 weeks of the 2009-10 season rooted to the bottom of the table.)
Something catalytic occurred, however, last winter, which turned around Zaragoza’s ailing season and saw the club recover sufficiently in the second half of the campaign to eventually finish 14th. Club president Agapito Iglesias embarked on a spending spree in the January transfer window, bringing in no less than seven players who would play a major part in keeping Los Manos up.
Eliseu, Adrian Colunga, Roberto, Jiri Jarosik, Edmilson, Matteo Contini and Humberto Suazo were all signed on large wage packets, the majority on loan, and they provided the manager with the quality to lift the club out of its unhappy predicament.
Of that rescue party, only Jarosik, Edmilson and Contini remain at the club. The attacking creativity of Adrian Colunga and Eliseu has certainly been missed, but more than anything Real Zaragoza have regressed without the top class striking instincts of “Chupete” Suazo, who went on to play for Chile at the World Cup and could have made a big name for himself were it not for the injuries which dogged him in South Africa.
The blueprint, therefore, for top flight survival appears tried and tested, but this year there will be no parachute signings to aid Javier Aguirre in his struggle against relegation. With debts at the club rising above the 100 million euros mark, Agapito simply cannot afford to pay the wages of players who could make a difference, let alone sign them on a permanent basis.
This year, the Aragonese club will have to rely on old-fashioned hard graft to avoid a return to the Liga Adelante. There is talent in the squad, but it remains to be seen whether Aguirre can harness that talent and turn the club into a competitive top flight contender.
This weekend, Real Zaragoza host Levante at the Romareda in the biggest match of their season so far. If they fail to win, their prospects for the second half of term will look very grim indeed.