As Deportivo marked their return to the Spanish top flight with a 2-0 win over Osasuna on Monday night, it was fitting that the decisive second goal should have been scored by Portuguese striker Nelson Oliveira.
Depor Coach Jose Luis Oltra has seen no fewer than six loanees brought into his squad from leading clubs in Portugal during the close season, with Oliveira, whose injury-time strike sealed the points against the Los Rojillos, arriving at the Riazor alongside his Benfica teammate, defender Roderick Miranda.
Sporting Lisbon trio Andre Santos, Diogo Salomao and Brazilian defender Evaldo also made the move to Galicia, together with Braga winger Pizzi, who spent last season on loan at Atletico Madrid, as Depor look to build on their record-breaking promotion and re-establish themselves eventually as upper-mid-table regulars.
Relegated at the end of 2010-11, Los Turcos stormed to the Segunda Division title last term, amassing a record 91 points, eclipsing the previous highest – 88 by Real Valladolid in 2007 – and ensuring their return to La Primera at the first time of asking.
Long serving 31-year-old former Real Madrid reserve striker Riki and French-Tunisian Lassad Nouioui were a potent strike force against second-tier defences last season, grabbing 14 goals apiece. While Lassad’s future at the Riazor seems uncertain,
Riki, who missed a penalty against Osasuna before opening the scoring for Depor, looks set to play a part at the higher level in the coming campaign. However, with doubts over Lassad’s future, Riki’s new teammates for 2012-13 all look linked by a particular connection.
A long-standing business relationship between Depor President Augusto Cesar Lendoiro and renowned Portuguese agent Jorge Mendes lies behind Deportivo’s newest arrivals. Lendoiro and Mendes, who represents Cristiano Ronaldo and Jose Mourinho among others, first did business together 16 years ago, when Lendoiro set up the deal that laid the foundation for Mendes’ empire, with Guimaraes goalkeeper Nuno signing for Deportivo.
Mendes, a skilled and experienced operator in the loan market, played a part in Depor’s successful promotion charge last season, arranging the arrival of wingers Salomao from Sporting Lisbon and Bruno Gama from Rio Ave. Now, Depor’s elevation could provide him with an opportunity for further exposure of his wares on the grander stage of La Primera.
At the same time, Lendoiro has a chance, perhaps a slim one, to recapture the golden years of the 1990s, when Depor regularly challenged Barcelona and Real Madrid at the top of La Liga. They won the title in 1999-00, secured four runners-up and four third-place finishes and played in the Champions League five years running, reaching the semi-finals in 2003-04.
While Lendoiro and Mendes are doing business off the pitch, Oltra is charged with blending together his disparate new charges on it. The Coach’s contract was automatically renewed with promotion secured. “I didn’t so much live the promotion as suffer it,” he reflected.
To turn newly-promoted into consolidated mid-table, Depor’s endgame this season must be to build a team that can, as a minimum, stay up without too much trouble. With talent such as Portugal striker Helder Postiga, currently at Zaragoza, and Atletico Madrid’s Diego Costa also on his books, they will have Mendes to turn to should a plan B be required.