Any club of modest means with designs on mixing it with the big boys knows every investment needs to be carefully judged. When it comes to recruiting players the instinctive sense of the coaching staff is vital to enjoying a successful season and reaching pre-season objectives. One such unglamorous outfit to defy the odds in recent years is Getafe, based in Madrid's sprawling southern suburbs. Not content with revealing a happy knack for putting together competitive squads on a shoestring budget, the Azulones have also become something of a training academy for talented coaches.
Quique Sanchez Flores and Bernd Schuster both triumphed at the Coliseum Alfonso Perez before moving on to more rarefied climes, and the man entrusted with the task of continuing the attractive footballing legacy they bequeathed is another ex-Real Madrid man, one Michael Laudrup.
In the big time
While the club may be short on history, it has certainly enjoyed an eventful existence to date. Founded as recently as 1983, Getafe made their Spanish first division debut in 2004/2005 and immediately offered Sanchez Flores the chance to manage a side in the top flight for the first time. The former Real Madrid and Valencia player handed in his cards as youth coach at the Bernabeu without delay, and set about building a side that was effective yet easy on the eye.
A keen student of the game, Sanchez Flores was meticulous in his approach to the job, displaying a tactical appreciation that drew comparisons with Rafa Benitez, the then Valencia coach.
Ironically, after guiding the unfashionable suburban club to 13th place in that first season, he became Benitez's replacement at the Mestalla, not that Getafe had much difficulty in finding another shrewd former Merengue to fill the vacancy. Flamboyant midfielder Bernd Schuster's experience as a coach was restricted to a season with FC Cologne, two in the Spanish second tier with Xerez and an unsuccessful term in the top flight with Levante, which ended with his dismissal prior to their relegation.
Schuster's burning determination to take the club to unprecedented heights more than made up for his modest coaching CV, however.
"It's a springboard, just like last season with Levante, but I might just stay for longer with Getafe," said the ex-Germany international after signing on the dotted line. In the end he stayed for two years, more than enough time to win over the fans through the feats of his overachieving charges.
A brace of ninth places and an appearance in the final of the Copa del Rey against Sevilla last June have allowed Geta to take their place in Europe for the first time in their brief history. The talismanic tactician will not be joining them, however. Even before the Copa final took place, rumours were rife that Schuster would be replacing Fabio Capello in the Real Madrid hotseat in July.
Which was exactly what happened. Schuster was duly unveiled as the new man at the Bernabeu on 9 July, but only after having taken the unusual step of paying his €480,000 euro release clause himself.
Laudrup makes it three
The Getafe baton has now been passed on to Laudrup, and the Dane is well aware of the standards he has to maintain. "They set the bar very high," he said at his presentation, while also revealing that he would remain faithful to his predecessor's style of play. "Possession of the ball is vital, but it's also essential to have players who aren't afraid of getting into every area of the pitch. That's what I call entertainment."
The Dane is well acquainted with the Spanish domestic scene, having taken the same career route as Schuster did in the 1980s by performing for distinction with Barcelona and then Real Madrid between 1989 and 1996. After gracing the pitch for the last time, Laudrup became Denmark coach Morten Olsen's assistant before taking up his first post as head coach with former club Brondby, where he won one league title and two cups in four seasons.
"One of the reasons I came here was because Getafe is a club that hasn't been in the first division for very long," commented the elegant former playmaker. "They are fighting to stay here and if getting promoted is difficult, then it's even harder to stay up."
Laudrup will have the honour of guiding Getafe on their European debut, a task he is relishing. "A European adventure is always nice when you've never experienced it before. You can't afford to forget about everything else though. The league is more important after all."
Club president Angel Torres for one is confident he has got the right man yet again. "For a relatively small club like Getafe it's a major coup to bring in someone who has achieved everything as a player and who has done pretty well as a coach too. I hope he enjoys, at the very least, the same success his predecessors did."