Putting the disappointment of their 2011 play- off defeat to Elche behind them, Miroslav Djukic’s Real Valladolid finally return to the Spanish top flight this season after a two-year absence. The Serb proved an inspired appointment after the departure of Abel Resino last June and very nearly secured automatic promotion, before settling for play-off triumph.
The club has been busy preparing over the summer, looking to avoid a repeat of their last appearance in the Primera Division when they travelled to the Camp Nou on the final day of the season needing to beat title-chasing Barcelona to stay up.
Former Valencia striker Javi Guerra finished last season with an impressive 17 League goals and scored in both play-off final games, while talented midfielder Oscar put in some eye-catching performances throughout the year.
President Carlos Suarez has assured fans he has no intention of selling any of the club’s prized assets, despite filing for bankruptcy in December with debts said to be in the region of €70m. While there have been no big-name departures, nine players have already been allowed to leave on free transfers.
Nevertheless, and despite previous concerns, Valladolid have a reported budget twice that of the €11m they had last season – no doubt bulked by television rights that increase seven-fold from their two-season stay in the second tier.
Experienced Serbian International Antonio Rukavina and German Under-21 winger Patrick Ebert were both snapped up on free transfers after being released by Hertha Berlin, while former Barcelona B midfielder Lluis Sastre arrives after five seasons at Huesca.
The priority for Valladolid will be to avoid dropping straight back down again However, they may just be capable of ruffling a few feathers over the course of the coming campaign.
The difference maker- Oscar Gonzalez
Now in his third season back at the club where he began his career, Oscar is Valladolid's main creative influence and also provides goals operating behind striker Javi Guerra. Highly rated as a youngster, Oscar spent four seasons at Zaragoza before a short stint at Greek side Olympiakos.
Best signing- Antonio Rukavina
Former Borussia Dortmund and Hertha Berlin right back Rukavina could prove an astute signing by the board. Coached by Djukic for a short period during his time at Partizan Belgrade, the 28-year-old played over 100 games in Germany and has been capped 22 times by Serbia.
His time? Javi Guerra
After a nomadic career spanning no less than 10 clubs, Javi Guerra seems finally ready to prove his worth at the highest level of the Spanish game. Having scored an impressive 46 goals in just 80 appearances for El Pucela, the big striker could be one to watch this season.
Coach- Miroslav Djukic
Under the tutelage of former Deportivo sweeper Djukic, Valladolid played some of the most aesthetically pleasing football in the entire division last season and were unlucky to miss out on automatic promotion. The 46-year-old Serb is sure to maintain his philosophy and style of play this year.
The big question…
Can Valladolid replicate last season’s form in the top division?
Probable line-up: Jaime; RUKAVINA, Jesus Rueda, Valiente, Pena; EBERT, Alvaro Rubio, Victor Perez, OMAR; Oscar, Guerra,
IN: Rukavina (d, Hertha Berlin), Lluis Sastre (m, Huesca), Ebert (m, Hertha Berlin), Neira (m, Lanus), Omar (m, Huesca)
OUT: Nafti (m, Murcia), Sisi (m, Osasuna), Nauzet (m, Las Palmas), Camara (m, Bari), Varela (m, TBA), Jofre (m, Girona), Juanito (d, TBA), Aquino (a, Real Oviedo), Matabuena (m, TBA)