The cruel corporate world of modern business-oriented football has – to a great deal – eliminated that dreamy element which makes people fall in love with the beautiful sport in their earliest of days.
Ruthless professionalism has little room for emotion but it’s thank to the likes of former Premier League champions Leicester City and La Liga side Eibar, among not many examples, that faith in football is preserved.
Fairytale Rise to the Top
Having achieved the Segunda Division title under the guidance of Gaizka Gaitano back in 2014, lowly Eibar had a bright dream. Los Armeros had made history by grabbing the top-flight football for the first time in their history but the historic success was almost undone before the club even had time to celebrate it.
And once again, it was that corporate side of football that almost ruined a year’s worth of hard work and dedication.
The Spanish FA enforced a rule that stated Eibar needed to have available capital in excess of 25% the average expenditure of the Segunda Division in order to make their La Liga promotion official and Los Armeros were given just a couple of months to raise €1.7 million to compensate the difference and avoid seeing their hard work get destroyed.
Lady Luck’s Smile
A crowdfunding was set up as people from this tiny city of 27,000 people rallied around a good cause to help their club enter through la Liga gates. With no resources to fight the big fish, Eibar had been swiftly pushed out of the pond, however, after an 18th-place finish in their first-ever La Liga season.
Still, God had other plans for this loveable Spanish side.
With 13th-placed Elche found guilty of funds mismanagement and paying the price of relegation, the Lady Luck saw Eibar move one place up for another shot in La Liga.
Having been reprimanded and given a tough lesson in their first-ever season at the top, Eibar decided not to take their gift from above lightly and made steady progress over the past two seasons. Their 13th finish in the 2015/16 season and respectable 10th place last season are there to attest it as Jose Luis Mendilibar’s men continue to dream.
Currently in seventh place in the season – and on the back of a whopping 5-1 triumph over Spanish behemoths Sevilla – Eibar are only one point behind the final Europa League place, occupied by their latest victims, Sevilla. They could possibly overtake Montella’s out-of-sorts side next weekend when they travel to Leganes. Eibar are given 28/17 betting odds to claim three points next weekend.
Villarreal in fifth and Real Madrid in fourth are not beyond their reach, what’s more, but Eibar will know much better than to become complacent and lose ground under their feet.
As much joy as the European qualification and top six finish would bring to lowly Spanish side, it could have a slightly detrimental effect. Eibar’s aim is to consolidate their position in the league and become a standard member of the top flight. In the end, they could draw valuable conclusions from Leicester City’s post title-winning season which brought many problems with it.
The financial boost from European qualification would be tempting, Eibar could generate enough funds to lure more notable players to their Ipurua Municipal Stadium, which could either help them kick it to the next level – or risk squad disbalance and loss of momentum.
It’s a risk Eibar must embrace, however, if they truly want to transform themselves into a steady La Liga outlet they deserve to be(come).
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