"We're making history," said Angel Torres, president of Getafe on the eve of his side's UEFA Cup Round of 16 clash with Benfica, and Spain's team of the moment have continued to enjoy a campaign to remember.
An integral part of the Getafe success story has been Torres' choice of coaches. Indeed, this was the subject of a FIFA.com article earlier this season, looking at the club's growing reputation as a stepping stone par excellence for gifted young tacticians. After highly rated Spanish coach Quique Sanchez Flores left the suburbs of Madrid in favour of Valencia, in stepped the German Bernd Schuster, whose performance secured him a deal with Real Madrid.
Azulones' latest supremo Michael Laudrup appears well
set to follow in their footsteps, overcoming a difficult start to
be linked with the likes of European giants Chelsea and Barcelona.
"There were people who doubted the coach at first, but we held
firm. Now that's proving to have been the right decision
because he's doing a splendid job and getting the very best out
of this squad of players," said Torres, who has presided over
Getafe's meteoric rise over the last six years.
Recipe for success
Despite a relatively meagre budget by La Liga standards, the 55-year-old businessman has assembled a well-balanced and hard-working squad competing admirably on both domestic and European fronts. Given the club's massive turnover of players and coaches in recent years, how has Torres achieved this remarkable feat?
"The best thing to do is to bring in coaches who share a
footballing philosophy. Just look at the list: Quique, Schuster,
Laudrup..." says the man himself. "And I also think
we've enjoyed a slice of good fortune, because you have to be
lucky for things to keep going well after such constant changes in
Another feature of Geta's sensational campaign has been their judicious use of the loan system, with Spain's big guns seeing the southern Madrid outfit as the ideal place to blood their gifted youngsters. Two perfect examples are Real Madrid youth products Ruben de la Red and Esteban Granero, who appeared for Spain at the FIFA U-20 World Cup Canada 2007. Braulio and Jaime Gavilan, meanwhile, from Atletico Madrid and Valencia respectively, won the UEFA European U-19 Championship with Spain and travelled to the FIFA World Youth Championship Netherlands 2005.
Between the sticks, Argentinian custodians Roberto 'Pato' Abbondanzieri and Oscar Ustari offer two safe pairs of hands, while Getafista icon David Belenguer and well-travelled Romanian full-back Cosmin Contra help shore things up at the back. At the sharp end, the goalscoring burden is shared by Manu del Moral, Kepa Blanco and Ikechukwu Uche, aided and abetted by Uruguayan poacher Juan Angel Albin.
Twenty-five years on from the official founding of Getafe CF, the club lie in eighth spot in only their fourth top flight campaign - just six points off a UEFA Cup berth. And having reached the final of the Copa del Rey last year, losing only to Juande Ramos' Sevilla at the Bernabeu, Geta go into Wednesday's cup semi-final return against Racing Santander holding a 3-1 first-leg lead.
The third chapter of this season's epic tale is in Europe,
where Getafe's historic qualification for the UEFA Cup
quarter-finals has brought them into direct confrontation with
Bundesliga leaders Bayern Munich. As if to underline the tie's
David v Goliath context, while Bayern supporters were celebrating
UEFA Champions League glory in 2000/01, Getafe fans were mourning
their side's relegation to Spain's third tier. Yet seven
years later the two teams will meet in April for a place in a
European semi-final, with demand for tickets to the home leg at the
17,000 capacity Coliseum Alfonso Perez sure to far outstrip supply.
"What we're achieving is really something," said Laudrup, whose charges overcame Lisbon giants Benfica in the previous round despite missing nine first-team regulars. "It would be an impressive feat for any team to be in the situation we find ourselves in now. Well, it's even more so for a club like ours."
The Azulones are, along with Barcelona, the only Spanish team still competing on three fronts, an achievement sure to have big-spending neighbours Atletico and Real Madrid green with envy. And with a second successive Copa del Rey final within reach, and a glamour tie with Bayern on the horizon, Getafe's blue revolution continues to take the capital by storm.