After gifting Valencia a 1-0 lead early in the second half following a defensive error, it looked as though Girona were going to lose touch with Real Madrid, who they were level on 35 points with. In the 75th minute, David Lopez was replaced by club captain Cristhian Stuani, who would turn the game on its head. Stuani bagged an equaliser in the 82nd minute and the subsequent winner just six minutes later following a tantalising low cross from Brazilian teammate Yan Couto, resulting in chaotic scenes around Estadi Montilivi.
Since making the starting line-up on Matchday four against Las Palmas, the 37-year-old has found starts hard to come by, with multiple appearances off the bench and only scoring in two other league fixtures this season against Getafe on matchday two and Almeria on matchday 10. The journeyman has represented a variety of clubs around Europe, spending many years in both Spain and Italy with four seasons in Serie A with Reggina between 2008-2012.
Before joining Girona in the summer of 2017, Stuani played for EFL Championship side Middlesborough, where he scored 16 goals over 67 appearances, securing promotion to the Premier League in the 2015-16 season, before being relegated the following season. This ended Stuani’s two-year spell with the English side before joining the newly promoted Girona.
The Uruguayan quickly won the hearts of the locals, making his debut for Girona against La Liga giants Atletico Madrid, where he started and scored a brace in a 2-2 home draw. Stuani went on to score 21 goals and finish fifth in the scoring chart that season, marking a successful first season back in La Liga . Despite a relegation back to Segunda the following season, his first season was a sign of things to come with the 37-year-old becoming the club’s all-time top goal scorer with 121 goals and also being awarded with club captaincy.
The fan favourite, who holds citizenship in both Uruguay and Italy, admits that things will only get harder ahead of their highly anticipated battle against Barcelona, coming up this Sunday. In a recent interview with Marca, the club captain said:
“If, during the preseason, someone told you that (we’d be top of La Liga), you would have called them crazy. Everything we are experiencing is a dream and we don’t want to wake up. We must enjoy it, but also be aware that it is an added responsibility – now we are no longer the surprise and the teams know us more, which means that we must increase the effort and work. We have always transmitted humility, work and sacrifice. Day-to-day the work of the team is brutal and that means we can compete very well at the weekend. Now we must maintain the level, we will work for it and try to do so.”
Stuani will be looking to keep Girona’s positive momentum going and keep pace with Los Blancos at the top of the table as they aim to replicate Leicester City’s famous Premier League title win from 2016.
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