The end to last season was certainly an emotional one for Sporting Gijon, with staff, players and fans shedding tears, but fortunately, they were tears of joy. A 2-0 victory over fourth-placed Villarreal at El Molinon, including an absolute rocket from Sergio Alvarez that will go down in the history books in Asturias, meant that their safety was secured.
For Coach Abelardo Fernandez, the club’s aim had been achieved, and it was clear how much it meant to him being an Asturian himself and having represented the club nearly 200 times as a player. Nonetheless, the new campaign beckons for Los Rojiblancos, and with a number of last season’s top performers departing, it is going to be another uphill battle to stay in the division.
It is no exaggeration in saying that the core of Sporting’s starting XI from last season has been ripped apart. Defenders Bernardo Espinosa and Luis Hernandez have left for England and Jony has signed for Malaga, whilst loan deals for Alen Halilovic, Omar Mascarell and last campaign’s top scorer Antonio Sanabria have come to an end.
It’s not only the quality of players that have left the club but also the quantity, yet this is something that clubs with Sporting’s financial stature have to deal with on a yearly basis. There is a definite reliance on loans and free transfers to keep the squad competitive, and the club has taken advantage of the market in trying to replace the key components of his squad from last season.
Duje Cop has signed on loan from Cagliari after somewhat of a disappointing campaign on loan at Malaga in terms of his goal return, but the Croatian striker has shown flashes of a talent that could prosper in La Liga. Moreover, Fernando Amorebieta has returned to Spain from Fulham and has enough experience to slightly ease problems in defence.
Those two are probably the most notable of signings but on top of that, Diego Marino, Xavi Torres, Victor Rodriguez, Moi Gomez, Jean-Sylvain Babin, Lillo Castellano and Burgui have joined the club. Sporting have been busy indeed, and their signings have meant that they have directly replaced the players that they have lost.
Regarding the quality of players at Abelardo’s disposal this season, he is in a pretty similar position to what he was in last time around, which means that the forthcoming campaign should be another difficult one. After staying up last season, though, they will be confident of doing the same again, and if anybody has the passion, commitment and determination to beat the drop, it is Sporting and their loyal group of fans.