Coach: Jose Luis Mendilibar
Key Signings: Ivan Ramis, Simone Verdi, Borja Baston
Key Sales: Eneko Boveda, Raul Navas, Manu del Moral
Last Season: 18th [reinstated]
This Season [predicted finish]: 17th
Predicted finish is the average prediction of the Football Espana team.
In one of the most turbulent summers in living memory, Eibar, despite initially suffering relegation to La Segunda after finishing 18th last term, are now preparing for another season in La Liga following Elche’s demotion for non-football reasons.
Yet, while the court’s decision was received with overwhelming delight, Eibar have had to rush through their preparations. Even before their search for a new Coach, Gaizka Garitano citing he no longer felt deserving of the job, the minnows did not have absolute confirmation of their place in La Liga until the penultimate week of July as the Valencians requested an injunction.
Another Basque has taken the hot-seat in Jose Luis Mendilibar, who is vastly experienced at the top level, having previously trained the likes of Athletic Bilbao, Real Valladolid, Osasuna and Levante, although he was sacked from all four jobs. Interestingly, however, the 54-year-old coached Eibar during 2004-05, narrowly missing out on promotion to the top flight.
Last season’s initial success was built on the centre-back pairing of Raul Albentosa and Raul Navas, but with the former leaving for Derby County – and Malaga since – last January and Navas heading back to Real Sociedad, Antonio Luna, Mauro dos Santos and Ivan Ramis, the latter possessing considerable know-how at this level, have been brought in as defensive reinforcements.
In attack, two of La Segunda’s top goal scorers from the previous campaign have arrived in Borja Baston and Sergi Enrich, while winger Keko, another star of 14-15, has arrived from Albacete. Nonetheless, Eibar are adopting a risky strategy by pinning their hopes on the trio to make the step-up sharpish and neither has the absence of a stable pre-season helped matters.
On the other hand, other than Navas, heading out are right-back Eneko Boveda, who was considered one of the club’s best performers last time out, and Manu del Moral, although the former Sevilla loanee did not score again after the second week of January. Still, other squad players such as Federico Piovaccari and Javi Lara have needed to be replaced.
However, they have potentially made the best, pound-for-pound signing of the summer in young attacker Simone Verdi, who has joined from Milan on a season-long loan. The 23-year-old is highly rated in his native Italy, possesses plenty of youth experience with the Azzurri and could light up Ipurua with his pace and technique on the ball, providing he adjusts to Spanish football.
Although last season will always be considered a success, regardless of whether they had avoided relegation or not or won just twice in their last 20 games, given it was their debut campaign in La Liga, Eibar will now look to join Athletic and La Real in promoting top-level football in the Basque region. Yet, for this to occur, Los Armeros must live through the struggle for a little longer.