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Real Sociedad's forward Imanol Agirretxe celebrates after scoring two goals over the weekend. Ander Gillenea / AFP
Real Sociedad's forward Imanol Agirretxe celebrates after scoring two goals over the weekend. Ander Gillenea / AFP

Inamol Agirretxe and Real Sociedad are the surprise package

La Real have surged up the table, from 18th in October to fourth and a likely Champions League finish.

The Real Sociedad striker Imanol Agirretxe grew up in San Sebastian, honing his skills playing football on the beaches of the Basque city for Antiguoko, a junior club which is an unofficial feeder to the local Primera Liga side.

Xabi and Mikel Alonso, Mikel Arteta plus the former Spain winger Javier de Pedro all played for Antiguoko, as did Aritz Aduriz, Andoni Iraola and Ander Murillo. There is not a junior club in world football which has produced so many top-level players.

Agirretxe, La Real's big No 9, is having a dream season.

In January, he came off the bench after his team had been 2-0 down against an unbeaten Barcelona side and scored the wining goal to make it 3-2 in the last minute.

La Real have surged up the table, from 18th in October to fourth and a likely Champions League finish.

That became more likely on Sunday when they beat fifth-place Valencia 4-2 at home in an engrossing game, with Agirretxe, 26, scoring the last two in a man-of-the-match performance.

The victory gave La Real a five-point cushion over Valencia and Malaga with five games to play. They've played thrilling football under the French coach Philippe Montanier, scoring more goals than any team, bar the big two.

La Real haven't played in Europe for a decade. Their 25,000 regular match-going fans would have been delighted with a top-six finish. It looks like it is going to be in the top four, for Spain's surprise team of the season.

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