Coach: Paco Jemez
Key signings: Diego Llorente, Bebe, Patrick Ebert
Key sales: Alberto Bueno, Emiliano Insua, Gael Kakuta
Last season: 11th
This season [predicted finish]: 13th
Predicted finish is the average prediction of the Football Espana team.
This summer has once again proved a revolving door at Campo de Futbol de Vallecas as a number of Rayo Vallecano’s star performers have moved on to pastures new, and their replacements once again coming primarily as free agents or through the loan system.
It can often take years of careful planning, stability and growth to build a squad capable of not only surviving but thriving in one of Europe’s top Leagues, but Rayo have managed to consolidate their position in Spain’s top division despite operating on a shoestring budget – this is the club’s fifth consecutive season in La Liga.
Paco Jemez’s heart stopping brand of ‘all or nothing’ football has seen the outsiders from the capital win the hearts of plenty of neutrals, and helped guide the club to a comfortable 11th position last season. The manner in which the club has stabilised in the top flight despite routinely having the lowest budget in the division – little more than €12m, a fraction of that at the disposal of Real Madrid and Barcelona, €550m each – is remarkable, yet such are Jemez’s successes that survival is essentially now taken for granted.
However, the squad once more has had to reinvent itself this summer due to a flood of departures. Alberto Bueno, who hit four goals against Levante in 14 minutes last year, and notched 17 league goals in total, is off to Porto, who have also recalled the on loan duo Abdoulaye Ba and Lica. Full-back Emiliano Insua and forward Leo Baptistao’s loan spells also expired, while Gael Kakuta, who was so highly impressive last season, has joined Sevilla on a permanent basis.
The annual recruitment drive has seen a number of left-field arrivals, including Zhang Chengdong, who will become the first ever Chinese player in La Liga, following spells in Portugal and Germany. There are the usual raft of loanstoo, including that of highly rated defender Diego Llorente from Real Madrid and former Manchester United winger Bebe from Benfica. Ex-Real Vallodolid winger Patrick Ebert also joins Jemez’s side, with the German moving from Spartak Moscow on a free.
Crucially for Rayo, the trainer has renewed his contract for another year and that will no doubt be the most important piece of business they do all summer. Roberto Trashorras, so often at the centre of the metronomic passing, remains, as does captain and goalkeeper David Cobeno, along with Angolan striker Manucho.
Escaping the lower half of the table may be too much even for Jemez, but Rayo should have more than enough to maintain their top flight status.