Coach: Paco Herrera
Key signings: Sergio Araujo, Jonathan Viera, Antolin Alcaraz
Key sales: Casto, Marcelo Silva
Last season: Fourth in Segunda Division, play-off winners
This season [predicted finish]: 19th
Predicted finish is the average prediction of the Football Espana team.
“We are in the Primera Liga. Now I can die happy.” Those were the words of Las Palmas President Miguel Angel Ramirez shortly after Los Amarillos ended a lengthy absence from Spain’s top-flight by defeating Real Zaragoza in a dramatic Segunda Division play-off final in June.
Trailing 3-1 from the first-leg, top scorer Sergio Araujo’s strike five minutes from time earned the Gran Canaria side a 2-0 home win in the return fixture, and victory on away goals. Promotion, so heartbreakingly squandered with the last-kick of the season in the previous year’s play-off final, was finally secured. 13 years after last mixing it in the big time, Las Palmas are back.
Local boy David Silva summed up the excitement surrounding the club’s return to Spanish football’s top table by declaring: “It’s very special for everyone on the island that they are back in the Primera. The big thing now is for everyone to enjoy it.” Not even two months after Los Amarillos’ day of triumph, however, the harsh reality of the challenge awaiting Paco Herrera’s team is beginning to set in.
With a shorter time to plan for life in the top flight than fellow promoted sides Real Betis and Sporting Gijon, not to mention clubs already established in the Primera, the Canary Islanders will kick-off the new season as rank outsiders to avoid making an instant return to the Segunda. Cordoba, the team who pipped them to promotion in last summer’s play-offs, were found wanting at the higher level, winning just three matches all season and collecting a paltry 20 points as they were relegated back to the second tier.
Nevertheless, there are reasons for optimism that Las Palmas will not suffer a similar fate. The club pulled off a major coup in the transfer window by making Argentine Araujo’s loan move from Boca Juniors permanent. With 25 goals in last season’s successful campaign to his name, whether the 23-year-old can make the step up is likely to be key to his team’s survival chances.
A permanent deal for attacking midfielder Jonathan Viera has also been concluded, while the arrivals of Antolin Alcaraz from Everton and Javier Garrido from Norwich will add valuable experience to Herrera’s backline. Speaking of experience, Spain World Cup 2002 squad member Juan Carlos Valeron, at 40-years-young, is back in the Primera for one last crack at the top-flight with his hometown club, having agreed to stay on following promotion. He is poised to become the League’s oldest player.
With last season’s regular goalkeeper Casto allowed to leave the Estadio Gran Canaria on a free transfer, 24-year-old Raul Lizoain appears set to take over as Herrera’s number one. Other than that, the majority of last season’s first-team performers will be given the opportunity to prove they can cut it in the Primera. Not many neutrals will be tipping them to succeed, but Las Palmas fans everywhere will be hoping they can.