The trigger comes from afar. It happened on the penultimate day of last year, when the president Chen Yansheng, finally attentive to the popular clamor from the stands, decided to dismiss the sports director Rufete, as well as the coach Vicente Moreno. As much as nothing was at stake, salvation had already been achieved after a year in the sewers and its successive ascent, and the blue and white dome met to draw the new lines to follow. It was about reconfiguring a template that, he understood, was becoming obsolete as well as expensive. Thus, Chen’s whim or gossip, the technical secretary Domingo Catoira was appointed as the new sports director, although it is known that he will not continue in the next course due to his decisions and also due to his disagreements with the blue and white CEO Mao Ye Wu . The presidential decision, in any case, triggered one setback after another to now leave Espanyol in the bones, screwed in the mud of Primera and on the back of a Luis García who postulates himself as the redeemer, still unable to turn the situation around, although this Friday got a draw against Cádiz that cut the team’s six straight defeats. “In the club there is a feeling that the course and the people who have been incorporated over these years have not coincided with what they wanted to project. There has been a lack of alignment ”, wields an authorized voice of the entity.
Chaotic sports planning. Determined to lower the salary bill and give the team a new and young air, Catoira extended casualties like hotcakes to capital players such as Diego López, David López, Embarba, Vargas or Melendo (he did not accept the renewal). A total of 23 footballers who took those of Villadiego by the same catwalk, although in the opposite direction, through which 15 arrived. Which gives 38 movements in two windows, too much to balance a project that was already trembling. “The idea was to rejuvenate the squad and renew leadership in a project with an eye on the medium term, but there has been a lack of stability and that the results will follow,” says a source from Espanyol.
An example of this planning chaos is César Montes -one million for the loan at the end of the season plus seven to be paid later-, since it was done in the summer but the operation was not forged. It turns out that the Mexican Monterrey did not decide to sell until the last day of the market, and then he backtracked and asked for more money on two occasions. There was no other alternative and the second was definitive, so Espanyol was left without the player who had to lead the new project until the next transfer window, already in January and with a crooked course.
Worse management was, however, the departure of Raúl de Tomás. The battering ram, who claimed more money and prominence than he had, since he was one of the nines from Spain, made it clear that his future was far from Espanyol. Conditions that gave coach Diego Martínez rashes, who arrived with the idea that the group comes first and is everything. Which led to a disastrous management of the situation, with the player citing an injury that deprived him of minutes and a showcase during the preseason, in the end undersold to Rayo, already exceeding the market for eight million fixed and three in variables when his clause was 70 and its cost in January 2020 was 22 million, a record amount paid by Espanyol to Benfica. “The striker had no interest in continuing and asked for salary figures that we could not meet. It is clear, based on the developments, that he was not positive for anyone ”, underline other Espanyol sources.
The burning of the bench. The refreshing arrival of Diego Martínez, who came with a happy and satisfying curriculum, seemed like a rain of May for the club. It didn’t last long. More than anything because he was promised 20 million to rebuild the squad -they had the sale of Raúl De Tomás- and he was left in borage water. “Then he projected that what was being proposed to him was not what was promised and he made it public. And the club could not do more at that moment, since everything that was budgeted was spent on both windows, in addition to the remnant of César Montes because it happened on the last day of the market ”, they point out from Espanyol. Martínez, however, did not adapt to the squad without wingers and a defense that shivered without remission. He did not care if they played five defenders, four or that the average was populated to prevent the rivals from launching easily. The hole has not been covered and with Luis García, for the moment, there is no solution either. Among other things because the goal has been a drama kafkaesquealready with eight proven mitts and no hit: Lecomte, Álvaro Fernández, Joan García and Pacheco.
“You have to readjust expectations,” Diego Martínez repeated like a mantra. Message that permeated the locker room, that he lost his self-esteem and that he thought he was worse than he was. Determining disagreements that led to the dismissal of the coach. And he went, of course, with another grotesque. After reaffirming from within that Martínez would continue before the league break, the team resumed the League and lost to Girona. And he changed direction… Mao, in a decision approved by Cheng and also validated by a dressing room that noticed the wear and tear of the relationship, fired the coach to place Luis García, Espanyol’s 11th coach since the president arrived in 2016 (Galca, Sánchez Flores, Gallego, Rubi, Machín, Abelardo, Rufete, Moreno and Blanco were there before).
It is curious that now, in times of anxiety and relegation risk, when it is assumed that football should be more direct and without seasoning, Luis García prefers that Espanyol play more to the touch and from the roots. Although perhaps it is the most practical if he considers that in the previous 26 days he played more kicks with a meager result. “We have total confidence in what it transfers and what it will give. He was signed for that, because we already knew his idea and it is shared by the club ”, they point out from the blue and white entity; “And it is also understood that his vision, knowledgeable about the house, may be more aligned with the projection of the youth team that we want and that has been lost in recent times.” The coach takes the floor: “We can’t play with fear if I fail, that doesn’t come into my idea because fear paralyzes and we can’t be a fearful team.” It happens that, for now, words do not become facts, since he has lost three games and drawn one since he took office.
Social deficit but better economy. A presidency carried from a distance is abnormal, since Chen lives in China. “In day-to-day operations that is not important. The difference in language and culture is more decisive than the kilometers in between ”, clarify official sources from Espanyol; “And it has been shown that he is a president who has contributed economically and patrimonially.” But not in sports -it already dropped in 2020- nor in social terms.
Although he has been presenting losses for three years -relegation and a pandemic in between-, Chen has managed to make up the mammoth debt he assumed with the club’s presidency, then estimated at 200 million and now at 43, the club is currently capable of increasing business revenue and above pre-pandemic levels. “Without being a buoyant situation, we have been able to sign, the employees are up to date and a second sports city is going to be created -after the political elections in July- near Cornellà that will be for the first team, subsidiary and women’s”, they claim from the club. In addition, the RCDE Hub was opened on Balmes street in Barcelona, the construction of a hotel is planned and there are academies all over the planet, thus extending the international exploitation of the brand. But none of all this makes the ball enter and, incidentally, the team has more pull.
Bad sports policy has not helped the growth of a loyal and stabilized social mass below 30,000 members (the record number stood at 35,589 in 2010), now close to 21,000. Even a study by the Center for Opinion Studies of the Generalitat of Catalonia revealed that only 3.6% of Catalans are from Espanyol, 77.5% from Barça and 10% from Madrid. “It is in the historical line of always”, they refute from the club, while remembering that they have gone from two to five million on social networks; “We are aware that there is dissatisfaction with the results and we have to reflect because 95% of the fault lies with us. But our context is more anomalous than anywhere else in the world in terms of bias and the way clubs are treated by the media and institutions. Even so, despite the fact that the moment is bad, the work must be focused on growing in the social sphere, starting with recovering those who have moved away from the club due to our mistakes”.
Against Cádiz, however, claimed by the entity, the fans responded and registered the best entry of the course (28,512 spectators). But the team did not go beyond a tie and there is little room left to correct itself, so as not to dismount from First Division and seal in the worst way a way of the cross that began a little less than a year ago.
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