x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Gain in Spain to help Real Sociedad’s pivot to Europe

Financial boost will aid club's pursuit of a return to Europe's top competition

Oemer Toprak celebrates his goal in Bayer Leverkusen's 1-0 win at Real Sociedad in a Uefa Champions League match on Tuesday. Alex Grimm / Getty Images
Oemer Toprak celebrates his goal in Bayer Leverkusen's 1-0 win at Real Sociedad in a Uefa Champions League match on Tuesday. Alex Grimm / Getty Images

Real Sociedad completed their inglorious Uefa Champions League campaign on Tuesday with another defeat.

What had started so brightly with home and away wins against Lyon in the qualifiers ended in disaster and a record of zero wins and one draw in six games. If they were unlucky and inexperienced at the start of the group, being hit on the counter-attack and conceding last-minute goals, they were pitiful by the end, losing 4-0 in Donetsk and at at home to Leverkusen.

Former manager Philippe Montanier was correct in fearing the dual distractions of Europe and the Primera Liga would stretch a squad he expected to be depleted by the necessary sales of star names. The appointment of inexperienced Jagoba Arraste, 35, as coach caused concern, too.

Yet as Sociedad laboured in Europe, their domestic form improved dramatically after a dire start to the season. Fifteenth after eight games with just a solitary opening-day win to their name, they have won five of their last seven league games, rising to sixth.

French winger Antoine Griezmann, 22, has nine goals in his last nine league games. Central defender Inigo Martinez, also 22, is attracting bigger clubs.

Sociedad play last-place Real Betis on Sunday, another chance to close the gap on the five teams above them. The Champions League was a financially enriching experience. They can now concentrate on reaching it again, though they will find tough competition from neighbours Athletic Bilbao and Villarreal in the race for fourth.

sports@thenational.ae