Deportivo’s return to the Primera after a year’s absence is a great boost to a League desperately seeking some good news after an uncertain summer blighted by financial uncertainty.
Expectations for the Galicians though are hard to judge. Like Real Betis a year ago the size of the club means fans will demand more than merely surviving a relegation battle, but it is important Jose Luis Oltra’s side are given time to walk before they can run and compete once again with the strongest teams in the league.
Only 12 years ago Depor were the champions of Spain and regular Champions League participants, but the landscape of Spanish football is now drastically different and a mid-table finish on their first season back would be more than a decent return.
Although headed in the right direction, Depor are like most Spanish clubs in terms of the burden of debt they are carrying, so despite promotion there hasn’t been a massive cash splurge on new additions. However they have utilised the loan market and some good connections in Portugal – the phone number of a super-agent or two comes in handy when times are hard – to make some interesting moves.
The headline signing has been that of Nelson Oliveira, the young Portuguese international who despite not having scored a League goal for Benfica had a host of top European clubs interested after a decent showing at the European Championships.
Roderick Miranda has also joined on loan from Benfica as have Evaldo and Andre Santos from Sporting Lisbon, whilst Pizzi has joined from another Portuguese side in Braga and can expect to get more opportunities to shine than he did on loan at Atletico Madrid last season.
The balance of the squad is also helped by the other two arrivals Carlos Marchena and Abel Aguilar, who in contrast to the other signings are two experienced internationals who know all about La Liga.
The difference maker – Juan Carlos Valeron
Never has the phrase ‘form is temporary, class is permanent’ seemed more appropriate than when talking about Valeron. Through all the highs and lows that Depor have lived through over the past decade he has been the constant figure and at 37 will again be entrusted to pull the strings in midfield.
Best signing – Nelson Oliveira
Getting Oliveira even on loan is a major coup given the promise he showed towards the end of last season for Benfica and at the Euros. Moreover, his ability to lead the line by himself should suit Depor’s style perfectly as it allows Valeron to sit in the hole, whilst his power in the air gives the likes of Bruno Gama, Diogo Salomao and Pizzi a target to aim for in the area.
His time? Bruno Gama
Continuing on the Portuguese connection, Gama is another who has left his homeland for the north of Spain but appears to have found the platform where he can shine.
After breaking into the Braga side at just 16 he was snapped up by Porto but failed to make the grade at the Dragao and eventually found his way to Depor via spells back at Braga and Rio Ave.
However, the winger was instrumental in the romp to promotion last season and at 24 the former Portuguese U-21 international has plenty of time to prove he can perform at the highest level.
Coach – Jose Luis Oltra
Oltra not only delivered success in his first season in charge at the Riazor, he also restored the pride back into Depor with an attractive brand of attacking aggressive football. That style was in stark contrast to the snoozefest put in place by Miguel Angel Lotina the year before which had managed to turn the side that used to be everyone’s second favourite team into one the neutral was happy to see relegated.
The big question…
The question for Oltra will be whether he can implement those more adventurous tactics against a higher class of opposition. He has already tasted relegation as manager of Tenerife and Almeria, although he was sacked from the later before relegation was mathematically assured. Another failure in the top-flight would lead many to question whether he is just better suited to life in the Segunda.
Probable line-up: Aranzubia; Laure, Ze Castro, MARCHENA, EVALDO; Berganitos, Dominguez; Gama, Valeron, Salomao; OLIVEIRA
IN: Evaldo (d, Sporting Lisbon), Marchena (d, Villarreal), Roderick (d, Benfica), Aguilar (m, Hercules), Pizzi (a, Braga), Andre Santos (m, Sporting Lisbon), Oliveira (Benfica)
OUT: Guardado (m, Valencia), Morel (d, Independiente), Borja (m, Getafe), Pablo Alvarez (m, Lugo), Colotto (d, Espanyol), Lassad (f, unattached), Felipe Ramos (gk, Valencia B), Rochela (d, Racing Santander)