The teams from Andalusia and from Castile and León secured the two automatic promotion spots in LaLiga SmartBank.
A truly exciting LaLiga SmartBank season went down to the wire on the final weekend, with three teams vying for the two automatic promotion spots. Fittingly, it all came down to the final minute, as, in the most unlikely circumstances, a 91st minute goal by AD Alcorcón’s Giovanni Zarfino sunk SD Eibar and confirmed that UD Almería and Real Valladolid would be promoted to LaLiga Santander, Spain’s top flight.
UD Almería went into their final game away to CD Leganés needing a win to guarantee their passage to LaLiga Santander but they could only play out a thrilling 2-2 draw. However, AD Alcorcón’s dramatic 1-0 win against SD Eibar meant the Andalusian team were not only promoted but also finished top of the table, sparking jubilant scenes on the pitch and in the stands.
Meanwhile, Real Valladolid enjoyed a resounding 3-0 win at home to SD Huesca but still had to wait until the final whistle had gone in the other games before they could be assured of promotion. Their players huddled around a mobile phone after full-time before exploding into celebration.
Here, then, comes a look at the two newest members of LaLiga Santander, who’ll be taking on the top teams of Spain in 2022/23.
UD Almería: The coastal club is back after a seven-year quest for promotion
UD Almería are returning to the big time after a seven-year absence and this will be their seventh season in LaLiga Santander since being founded in 1989, making them the youngest club in the division.
The Red and Whites were first promoted in 2008 under Unai Emery, kickstarting a stretch of four consecutive seasons in the elite of Spanish football. A later relegation in 2015 hit them hard but the Andalusian club experienced a resurgence after being taken over by Turki Al-Sheikh in 2019 and, with the help of his investment, they qualified for the playoffs in two consecutive seasons, albeit falling at the semi-final stage each time.
2021/22 was their strongest season yet under the new ownership and no one can say they do not deserve to be promoted after spending the majority of the season inside the top two positions and after leading the division on more occasions than anyone else. They also boasted the best defence, conceding only 35 goals in their 42 games.
A huge factor in their rise was the appointment in April 2021 of coach Rubi, who had previously guided SD Huesca to their first ever top-flight promotion and secured a seventh-placed finish in LaLiga Santander with RCD Espanyol to qualify for Europe.
UD Almería’s promotion means there will once again be four Andalusian clubs in Spain’s top flight, as they take Granada CF’s place. The team from the seaside city of the same name, on Spain’s south coast, will play at the recently renamed Power Horse Stadium, which was previously called the Mediterranean Games Stadium, since the 2005 Mediterranean Games were held there.
Real Valladolid: A bounce back promotion for Ronaldo’s boys
A club with a long and proud history in Spain’s top tier, Real Valladolid are now looking forward to their 46th season in LaLiga Santander. After being relegated on the final day of last season, the White and Violets are back in the elite at the first time of asking.
Key to their promotion has been their swashbuckling style of play, scoring more goals than anyone else in the division, with 71 and with 20 of them provided by striker Shon Weissman. They have also shown they have plenty of character, overcoming a worrying run of one win in four games by winning their four remaining matches, scoring nine times and conceding only once in that run.
Coach Pacheta has been responsible for instilling this never-say-die attitude in the team, giving a taste of what was to come on the day of his presentation last year by saying: “I don’t like to speculate, but we’re going to create a brave and aggressive team that is going to play well.”
The club from Castile and León in the centre of Spain boast one of the most famous presidents in LaLiga Santander in footballing legend Ronaldo Nazário, who became majority shareholder in 2018. The former Real Madrid and FC Barcelona forward was fully immersed in the celebrations on Sunday, donning the club’s shirt and joining fans and players on the pitch at the Estadio José Zorrilla to savour the moment.