Can Fernando Vazquez throw drowning Deportivo a lifeline?
Background image: Jose Luis Cernadas Iglesias, CC BY 2.0
On Friday 19 May 2000, a shockwave swept Spanish football. After a topsy-turvy La Liga campaign littered with shock results, Deportivo de la Coruna emerged as La Liga's surprise champions. A 2-0 home victory over Espanyol at Riazor Stadium on the final matchday sealed the Galicians' seal first and so far only Primera Division title. The achievement crowned the “Super Depor” era when greats such as Rivaldo, Djalminha, Flavio Conceicao, Mauro Silva, Donato, Jacques Songo’o and Roy Makaay graced the Riazor turf.
Those halcyon days are now mere memory. In 2010/11, Depor dropped out of La Liga after two decades in the Spanish top flight. In the interim, the Branquiazuis flitted back and forth between the Segunda and Primera Divisions like a bumblebee searching for pollen. The way things are going, however, the storied club may begin the century's third decade in the Spanish third tier. Depor prop up the rest of La Segunda, four points from safety with 18 points in 22 matches.
Their woe may be a hangover after finishing sixth last term and falling to Real Mallorca in the promotion playoff final. Depor's 2-0 win at the Riazor put the champagne on ice but a 3-0 reversal on the Balearic isle took the fizz out of their campaign.
A 3-2 win over Real Oviedo on Matchday 1 was a false dawn for the new season. The next time Los Turcos tasted victory was on Matchday 21 when a last-minute header from midfielder Peru Nolaskoain gave them a 2-1 home victory over Tenerife. Better late than never. The 21 year-old posted an Instagram a few weeks prior to his match-winner, asking supporters' forgiveness and vowing to remedy the dire situation.
Like buses, two victories arrived after a long wait. Depor, in their first match of 2020 noted a 1-0 away victory against Numancia. The result lifted their victory total level with the number of managers who have chewed their nails in the dugout this term. Fernando Vazquez, back for his second stint at Riazor and Depor’s third man in charge this campaign, started well even if victory over Tenerife wasn't enough for his predecessor, Luis Cesar Sampedro, to prolong his stint in charge. The 65-year-old had been on gardener's leave since parting ways with Real Mallorca in December 2016.
Depor lost two key players in the summer. Central midfielder Edu Exposito and striker Quique both joined Eibar following the playoff failure. Nonetheless, on paper, their squad remained strong. Many members haven't performed. Greek international Vassilis Lambropoulos, a summer signing from AEK Athens, is one. Tellingly, the 29-year-old defender sat among the unused substitutes in Vazquez’s first game. The veteran manager dove into the winter market, recruiting veteran winger Sabin Merino and a former favourite, Turkish midfielder Emre Colak.
Any new manager bounce proved short-lived. Depor suffered a shock 8-7 defeat on penalties in the Copa Del Rey's second round against third-tier Unionistas de Salamanca. Adding insult to injury, the loss cost the club a chance to host Real Madrid in a lucrative third-round tie. The cup-set provided a firm reminder of Vazquez’s challenge. Only Albacete, in 15th place, score fewer than the Turks' 18 goals and Vazquez inherits the division's worst defence.
At the turn of the millennium, Depor and Galician rivals Celta Vigo were amongst La Liga’s giants. Should results not improve, Depor could face Galician derbies against Pontevedra, Coruxo and, embarrassingly, Celta B in Segunda B next season. Vazquez’s second stint at Depor could be the veteran manager’s final footballing act. Can he provide buoyancy or will Depor sail off Spanish football's map?