With pundits and supporters alike toying with the notion of European football, a modest Girona fan would perhaps make do with a top-half finish, given the team’s exploits with still 10 games of the season left. Yet when one looks at Girona’s remaining fixtures and the number of winnable games the club have remaining, you do begin to wonder whether it could be now or never for the Catalans.
Whether it’s too much too soon is a question for another day, but with Pablo Machin and his overachieving Girona very much living and enjoying every moment, should the club be doing all they can to qualify for the Europa League?
The most striking indication yet that the Blanquivermell truly believe they have what it takes to finish in a European position was highlighted earlier this week, when reports emerged in the Catalan Press that the club had indeed applied for a UEFA licence. Although they may just be planning for the future and slowly getting to the unticked boxes on their Primera to-do list, it does seem quite fitting that Girona have deemed it necessary to apply for such a licence.
Last Friday’s resounding victory over Deportivo La Coruna certainly suggests that Europe is a realistic objective for Girona, and while it will take another spectacular performance to take anything from their trip to Real Madrid, several of Girona’s remaining fixtures come against sides below or at a fairly equal standing to them. Therefore, another five or six wins to secure a European spot is very possible.
The only obstacle that could get in the Catalans’ way, however, is the traditional end-of-season burnout, especially with the World Cup on the horizon. Thankfully, as it stands, Girona have only a few first-team players who stand any chance of playing in Russia this summer. Yet with the likes of Cristhian Stuani (Uruguay), Bono (Morocco) and perhaps even Portu (Spain) and Johan Mojica (Colombia) eyeing up places in their respective national teams, rotation at Montilivi may be needed, just when the club needs stability. Nonetheless, their like-for-like replacements, Douglas Luiz, Aleix Garcia, Michael Olunga and Aday Benitez, have proven their worth on the sporadic occasions they have featured, so their transitions into Machin’s XI should be smooth ones.
Yet while long-time fans will tell you that ‘permanencia’ is and will always be the priority, no matter what happens this season, deep down they and the club must both recognise the wonderfully-poised position that Girona find themselves. Indeed, the opportunity to ply their trade in Europe could be the push that the Blanquivermell need in order to keep growing both on and off the field.
On top of the financial benefits that would come from qualifying for European competition and a high League finish, the experience of playing on the continent and what that would bring to a club, who are playing top-tier football for the first time in their 87-year history, would be unparalleled.
With the international break fast approaching, one final push over the line to earn something at the Santiago Bernabeu would be both unbelievable yet, in many ways, unsurprising. A well-earned rest may just be what the doctor ordered for Girona…