Spanish outfit Deportivo La Coruña are enveloped in almighty trouble and face one of the darkest periods in their 113- year history. It is a sad to see a giant of Spanish football languishing for so long in the bottom reaches of the second tier.
Only two decades ago, at the turn of the millennium, 'Super Depor' as they became known, accomplished the ultimate for any Spanish club – being crowned Primera champions for the very first time in their proud history. Led by experienced boss Javier Irureta, the Galician team were a who's who of talent – Diego Tristan, Albert Luque, Roy Makaay, Djalminha, Jorge Andrade and Juan Carlos Valerón to name a few who lit up La Liga with flair, entertainment and goals in abundance.
It was a rosy period league wise with five straight top-three finishes between 2000 and 2004. Not only did they succeed in La Liga but were a regular fixture in Europe too and were not just there to make up the numbers. Thanks to their fortress of Riazor, which no away team relished, Deportivo conquered all before them.
In April 2004, Depor blitzed an iconic AC Milan side – roaring back from 4-1 down on aggregate from their first leg defeat in Italy to win 4-0. This ensured Depor performed one of the greatest feats in European football history to prevail 5-4 on aggregate to write another famous chapter in their history.
They also famously crashed Real Madrid’s centenary party by winning Copa del Rey in 2002 in Madrid’s Santiago Bernabéu stadium. They were the ultimate Spanish party poopers. Those days seem far away now, due to years of poor organisation and financial struggles. Depor are a world away from those heady days and currently are battling for their lives in Spain's second tier.
For much of the season, the Galician side have been staring at the abyss and the potential of relegation to the Segunda B for the first time in 40 years, since the 1980/81 season, when their stay lasted just one season before being promoted once more.
It could have been very different – at the end of last season, Depor were a goal away from returning to the topflight. The club made it to the playoff final against Mallorca and won the first leg in Riazor 2-0 to take a commanding but went down 3-0 in Son Moix. A bitter pill to swallow and to be so close and yet so very far.
Fast forward to this season and the historic club has been on its knees. For now though, the club is in a precarious situation and the demise of Deportivo is a possibility…or is it?
After winning on the opening day of the season, it took Depor four months to register their next victory – against Tenerife before the short Christmas break. A further four have followed in succession to lift the club – who had been at the foot of the division since early September – out of the drop zone and breathe life into their campaign.
The experienced boss Fernando Vázquez, who knows his way around this division and is in his second stint with the club, has been charged to steer the club into calmer waters and it is a case of so far so good since his appointment post-Christmas.
However, the team suffered the ignominy of being dumped out of the second round of the Copa del Rey on penalties by Segunda División B outfit Unionistas Salamanca but that could yet turn out to be a blessing in disguise to concentrate on their more pressing league duties.
Deportivo find themselves currently on 27 points and still very much in trouble – just two points and two places from the relegation zone. However, little over a month ago they were flush bottom and completely cut adrift of the pack. There is fight still left in this giant.
These are delicate times for an historic outfit of Spanish football as is Deportivo de la Coruña as to whether their demise is a reality or perhaps, a new dawn breaking.