Girona’s historic Champions League qualification: What it means for the club and how they achieved it

The Catalan club will play in the top UEFA competition next term, just three seasons after they were playing at Segunda level.

Girona are a Champions League team. And, for most fans of Los Blanquivermells, it still hasn’t sunk in yet that the biggest clubs from across Europe will be visiting the Estadi Montilivi next season. Not only has the club qualified for Europe for the first time in their 94-year history, but they’ve done so at the highest level of UEFA competition.

By defeating Barcelona 4-2 in Matchday 34, Michel’s side achieved an objective that they only set mid-way through the season. Even when they started off with six wins and one draw from their first seven matches of the season, the coach kept insisting that the primary objective was avoiding relegation. Only in January did he admit that making it into Europe had become a target too.

After the achievement was confirmed, the coach spoke to the media about how much this means to the club, stating: “What we have achieved this year is incredible. It’s historic. It’s a wonderful thing. The project is great. We’ve been able to work and grow day by day. We’ve been working in a calm yet demanding way, and with a squad of players who want to grow. That’s how we’ve gone from the second tier to the Champions League, and deservedly so. I hope everyone enjoys it.”

The fans certainly did enjoy it, with 14,000 celebrating the victory over Barca in the stands of the Estadi Montilivi and many more taking to the streets of the city centre to rejoice on arguably the greatest night in Girona’s history.

From Segunda in 2021/22 to the Champions League in 2024/25

As Michel pointed out during his speech, it isn’t all that long ago that this was a team in the second division. It was only in 2021/22 that Los Blanquivermells finished sixth in Segunda and achieved promotion through the playoffs. Playing an ambitious and direct brand of football, they then took La Liga by storm last season before ultimately finishing 10th, matching the club’s previous highest finish in the top tier.

Then, in 2023/24, Girona stepped up and reached the next level, and they’ll finish third, ahead of Atletico Madrid. The spine of the team remained the same, with the likes of Paulo Gazzaniga, David Lopez, Aleix Garcia and Yangel Herrera. But, the new additions significantly improved the squad, even at a low cost.

In central defence, the veteran Daley Blind arrived on a free transfer to bring his experience to the back line, while Eric Garcia arrived on loan from Barcelona to add another skilled passer at the back.

In midfield, the low-cost signings of Ivan Martoin and Portu proved to be extremely astute, as both players could play in several different positions in the middle and could get forward in attack, with Martín scoring five goals and Portu seven, including two in the win against Barça.

Then, there was the arrival of Artem Dovbyk, arguably the best transfer in all of La Liga last summer when looking at value for money. The Ukrainian striker has reached 22 goals and has made everyone forget about the departure of Taty Castellanos, the Catalan side’s top scorer last season. With the Brazilian winger Savio also coming in last summer, scoring nine goals and assisting nine alongside Dovbyk in attack, Girona’s summer 2023 recruitment was clearly something special, and sporting director Quique Carcel deserves every bit of praise.

Coach Michel also deserves to bask in the glory of this masterpiece, as he has not only built a successful team but he has built an entertaining one too. Girona are scoring 2.11 goals per game this season and always play on the front foot. This hasn’t been achieved by any sort of rigid system, as Michel has used many different formations throughout the season, from a 4-1-4-1 to a 4-2-3-1 to a 3-4-3. Even with Girona having suffered many injuries along the way, the tactician has been flexible and has adapted, always finding solutions and achieving positive results.

At home, they’ve been particularly impressive and have won 14, drawn two and lost two from their 18 games so far at the Estadi Montilivi. The Girona faithful have had a lot to cheer about, then, and the biggest cheers of all came when this modest club became a Champions League team for the first time ever.


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