x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Glory days in the distance for Deportivo

Once a giant in Spanish football they are struggling at the bottom of the Primera Liga, writes Andy Mitten.

Deportivo Coruna, and their defender Evaldo, centre, with midfielder Abel Aguilar, right, are struggling in the Primera Liga. MIGUEL RIOPA / AFP
Deportivo Coruna, and their defender Evaldo, centre, with midfielder Abel Aguilar, right, are struggling in the Primera Liga. MIGUEL RIOPA / AFP

Expectations have long been checked in La Coruna, the port city of 250,000 on Spain's north-west Atlantic coast.

Relegation for local heroes Deportivo in 2011 brought a grim reality for a team who had won the league 11 years earlier.

With their playing budget cut annually by their long-time president Augusto Cesar Lendoiro because he wanted to make the club more sustainable, the drop was also inevitable for a team who had been Uefa Champions League regulars five years in a row between 2000 and 2005.

Relegation briefly galvanised the club. Helped by a winning team, attendances surged. Deportivo were not beating Barcelona or Real Madrid - and they had long lost their "Supe" moniker - but they beat rivals Celta Vigo to the title and promotion.

When they beat Osasuna in the opening top-flight game this season, the optimism seemed tangible. It did not linger.

By the time Deportivo registered a second win, it was November and they were in the relegation zone. They still have not managed an away win and the club who once won the Spanish Cup final against Real Madrid in the Bernabeu were hammered 5-1 at Atletico Madrid and 6-0 at Real.

With his side bottom in December, Jose Luis Oltra lost his job as the coach, too good for the second level and not good enough for the first. The former Porto player Domingos Paciencia replaced him and enjoyed a victorious 1-0 debut over Malaga, their first win for two months.

Benefiting from the January transfer window, he has since signed the right-back Silvio on loan from Atletico and his former teammate and tough tackling midfielder Paulo Asuncao, 32, on a free transfer from Sao Paulo. They played together at Atletico.

Asuncao made reference to the former Brazil internationals Mauro Silva and Djalminha when he signed, prompting some weariness. Deportivo can no longer attract stars of their calibre.

Deportivo aim for survival. They are 19th, with 15 points from 18 games and the league's worst defence.

Just four points separate the bottom six, although teams regularly increase the rate at which they pick up points as the severity of their position dawns.

Real Zaragoza had two wins this time last year and managed to stay up.

Domingos has exceeded expectations before, taking tiny Braga to the 2011 Europa League final. That led him to the Sporting job in Lisbon, from which he was dismissed after 33 games.

He has six players on loan from the Portuguese league across the border. And he knows how to get the best from limited resources.

sports@thenational.ae

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