La Liga feature: The curse of the long-term injury
Injuries are again playing their usual part in this La Liga season, writes Simon Jalie
Injuries have the potential to ruin a club’s season. Just ask Deportivo de La Coruña boss Miguel Angel Lotina.
His side have arguably been hit harder than any other top flight team in Spain on the injury front this term, with their two best players, Riki and Jose Andres Guardado, confined to just a handful of games so far.
Imagine how Barcelona would fare without Xavi and Lionel Messi and then consider that Depor don’t have the likes of Javier Mascherano and Bojan waiting for their chance from the bench. It soon becomes clear why the blanquiazules are struggling so badly.
Guardado and Riki have managed less than ten La Liga starts between them in 2010-11 and the Galicians have been playing like a team that is missing its best players.
Riki was given the all-clear to play this week and Lotina is expecting to have Guardado back within the next couple of weeks so that should help the club in its quest to pull away from the bottom third of the table. Lotina must proceed with great caution with his prize Mexican winger, who lasted just a few minutes into his last injury comeback before suffering a recurrence.
Here are five other La Liga players who, since the beginning of the season back in August, are yet to kick a ball in anger.
Ikechukwu Uche (Real Zaragoza)
Since the international striker joined the Aragonese club from top flight rivals Getafe in the summer of 2009 – for an undisclosed fee thought to be in the region of several million euros – he has managed just two starts.
In his second game for the club he picked up a serious knee injury and missed practically the whole of the 2009-10 season. He returned to training last summer and quickly proceeded to crock himself again, this time before the campaign had even started.
He didn’t play much for Marcelino Garcia (who signed him), he didn’t play at all for Jose Aurelio Gay and you would forgive Javier Aguirre for failing to recognise him. His brother, Kala Uche, also plays in the Spanish top flight for Almeria.
Ivan de la Pena (Espanyol)
Ivan de la Pena’s injury problems are particularly tragic because of the calibre of this once great player, who, sadly, is unlikely ever to make a full recovery.
Physical setbacks have dogged the midfielder for at least three years now but he did make a short comeback in early 2009, during which time he famously scored a brace to help bottom of the table Espanyol beat league leaders Barcelona in the Catalan derby.
However, last season he made just four appearances and he has not managed a start yet for Los Pericos in 2010-11. He said a while ago that, if his problems persisted, he would call it a day, so most Espanyol fans are resigned to the fact that he will hang up his boots this summer.
Felipe Mattioni (Espanyol)
Felipe Mattioni’s story will hopefully have a much happier ending than Ivan de la Pena’s. The attacking wing back enjoyed a very successful spell at Real Mallorca last season on loan from AC Milan and that convinced Mauricio Pochettino to move for the player on a permanent basis last summer.
A pre-season injury immediately ruled Mattioni out until 2011 and he is still some way off a complete recovery. When the 22-year-old does return, we will hopefully see his great potential fulfilled at the Cornella El Prat.
Diego Ifran (Real Sociedad)
Real Sociedad’s highly rated young Uruguayan striker Diego Ifran has had a torrid time of injuries and false dawns. On several occasions this term it has looked like the 23-year-old was ready to make his debut for the Basque club but every time his knee fails to hold up to close scrutiny.
He has not played since he signed a five year contract under compatriot Martin Lasarte but now would be a good time to prove his fitness as Joseba Llorente has been struck down by a back problem again and Lasarte is looking for a hungry player with plenty of quality to keep Raul Tamudo on his toes.
Francisco Javier Farinos (Hercules)
Last season, Fran Javi Farinos was an integral part of Hercules’ promotion push. The Valencia-born midfielder hardly missed a minute of Esteban Vigo’s side’s 2009-10 campaign but this year he has not featured at all. There is light at the end of the tunnel, though.
The cultured midfielder, who boasts long spells at European giants Valencia and Inter Milan on his CV, has been named in Hercules’ matchday squad for the first time this season for Saturday’s showpiece clash with Barcelona at the Jose Rico Perez. Hopefully a successful comeback will spell the end of Farinos’ injury woes once and for all.