Getafe’s invisible rise

The Primera Division is no stranger to financial irregularity and mounting debt. Espanyol, Deportivo and Zaragoza have all seen their deficits deepen in recent times and all have at the same time experienced a downturn in their fortunes on the pitch, whilst Valencia’s own off-field issues threaten to catch up with them too.

Against that background, the rise of Getafe from the suburbs of Madrid to the European places in the Spanish top flight is a genuine good news story. A talented, determined Coach and a hard-working, largely non-stellar squad of players are doing the business where it matters, un-phased by boardroom strife.

Getafe President Angel Torres announced at a recent shareholders meeting that the club’s debts stood around the €30m mark, €10m of which was due for urgent renegotiation with the tax authorities. On top of that, the club has been forced to reduce its budget, while Torres’ trip to Mexico last month prompted rumblings of a possible sale to new owners.

Enjoying their dubious status as followers of Madrid’s fourth top-flight club, behind Rayo Vallecano, Getafe’s compact fanbase has become familiar with the sometimes idiosyncratic stance taken by the President. Raising ticket prices for the final game of last season against Zaragoza because Torres claimed they needed the extra income, the club attracted ridicule as their support dwindled still further.

Getafe won promotion to La Liga for the first time in 2004, having steadily climbed their way up from the foot of the Spanish football pyramid following their inauguration in 1983. Remarkably, the small and largely unheralded outfit have remained there ever since, reaching the quarter-finals of the UEFA Cup in 2007-08 following a sixth-place finish the previous year.

Last weekend’s 1-0 win over Malaga at the Coliseum Alfonso Perez saw Getafe ease once again into sixth place in La Primera but Coach Luis Garcia, whose track record as something of a miracle worker previously saw him guide Levante into the top flight, has refused to even discuss Los Azulones’ chances of European qualification.

The victory over Malaga was Getafe’s third in succession, following wins at home to Real Valladolid and away at basement side Espanyol. Signs that something out of the ordinary might be in store were evident back in August, when goals from Juan Valera and Abdel Barrada saw them overturn a 1-0 deficit to defeat Real Madrid.

There have been setbacks too, though, with 4-1 and 4-2 home defeats to Barcelona and Betis respectively, but Getafe remain fighting on two fronts, defeating La Segunda side Ponferradina to set up a Last 16 tie with Atletico Madrid in the Copa del Rey.

Whatever is the key to Getafe’s success, it is not their striking prowess. Diego Castro and Barrada head the club’s goalscoring chart with three apiece, while former Barcelona and Malaga midfielder Xavi Torres, a proven success under Garcia from their time together at Levante, has provided organisation in the centre of the pitch, but no goals.

The defence has been mean too, but the Coach is the key. Lured from Levante with the twin carrots of a three-year deal and the promise of investment, the highly rated Garcia is in his second season in charge and Getafe could struggle to keep him.

Los Azulones face mid-table Real Sociedad in San Sebastian on Saturday. It is precisely games like this one that Garcia will expect his men to win if they are to stay in contention for European qualification. Indeed, their next four encounters – with Osasuna, Valencia, Rayo Vallecano and Granada – are all potentially realistic sources of points that could see Getafe maintain their lofty position into the new year.