- Granada are challenging near the top of La Liga
- The newly-promoted side have lost just 3 times so far
- New signings include Roberto Soldado and Yangel Hererra
- Barcelona, Real Madrid and Atletico are yet to hit top form
Was anyone honestly expecting Granada to be around the top of the La Liga table near the end of October? They’ve spent the previous two campaigns in LaLiga 2 after an uninspiring spell in the top flight, their manager’s a rookie and a 34-year-old Roberto Soldado is one of their higher-profile players. If anything, they were more likely to be tipped for relegation than to be hovering at the top of the league.
A turbulent few years
Granada has recently been known in the UK for its Tony Adams connection. The former Arsenal and England skipper took charge of the club in April 2017, losing all seven matches at the helm as Granada finished bottom of La Liga. Yet, since that turbulent season they’ve been firmly on the right track.
A remarkable amount of players that season were only at Granada on loan deals. Footballers as varied as Jeremie Boga, Andreas Pereira and Franck Tabanou, were plying their trade at Nuevo Los Carmenes with almost an entire starting XI and subs’ bench of loanees alongside them. Clearly, a rebuilding process was needed.
The 2017-18 campaign was one of consolidation for Granada. Finishing 10th in LaLiga 2, it wasn’t anything like the instant La Liga return fans were hoping for. Yet, a year later, they’re back in the big time. Chinese businessman Jiang Lizhang is impressing as owner at just 38 years old - although relegation occurred on his watch he’s also seen over the rebuilding process.
Granada were formerly owned by Italian businessman Gino Pozzo, who also owns Premier League team Watford and Serie A’s Udinese, before he sold to Lizhang in 2016. With Granada now no longer involved in various loan deals featuring the other two clubs, they’ve been able to focus on their own players to a greater extent.
Preparing for La Liga again
As they began to prepare for life back in the top flight, Granada spent little on new transfers, although their squad has very much been rebuilt. In comparison to their last season in the top flight, loanees now embellish, rather than make up, the rest of the squad. Venezuela international Yangel Hererra has arrived from Manchester City, while they’ve also borrowed the likes of Carlos Fernandez and Maxime Gonalons from Sevilla and Roma respectively.
Just who are the most prominent new arrivals this season?
Domingos Duarte (undisclosed fee from Sporting)
Yan Brice Eteki (€1m, Sevilla)
Carlos Fernandez (loan, Sevilla)
Maxime Gonalons (free, Roma)
Yangel Herrera (loan, Manchester City)
İsmail Köybaşı (free, Fenerbahce)
Neydar Lozano (free, Elche)
Darwin Machis (€3m, Udinese)
Jose Antonio Martinez (loan, Eibar)
Roberto Soldado (free, Fenerbahce)
Fede Vico (€250k, Leganes)
Soldado might be in his mid-thirties, but barring that spell at Tottenham, he has had a solid top-flight career, scoring frequently for the likes of Getafe and Valencia in La Liga. Centre-back Duarte, a €3 million arrival from Portuguese side Sporting, has been a mainstay in the team, while they’ve also been able to call on some of those who served them well in the second tier. German Sanchez, Angel Montoro and Antonio Puertas have all played key parts in getting the team up to their current standing.
How will the league play out?
Of course, it’s impossible to discuss Granada’s success without mentioning the unremarkable starts of Barcelona, Real Madrid and Atletico. Much like the way Leicester City took advantage of the big teams’ travails in the 2015-16 Premier League season, Granada are top in part due to the failings of the ‘big three’. They’ve lost just three times this term, and beat Barcelona 2-0 in September.
When up against Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu, they fell to a 4-2 defeat, so not complete pushovers despite conceding four. A home meeting against Atletico is coming up in November, and should serve as a barometer for just how far Granada can really go this season. Should they get a good result, it would hint at a longer staying power.
Granada kicked off the season with an enthralling 4-4 draw at Villarreal in which they came from behind three times. From there, a 1-0 loss at home to Sevilla hinted at a mundane season of struggle for the Andalusians. Since then, however, they’ve won six out of eleven league games, and are looking more than capable of grinding out victories against everyone from Barcelona to Leganes.
It’s going to be a long season, and no-one’s suggesting that Granada can keep this form up. If they did, it would be a shock greater than the Leicester triumph of 2015-16, but it’s incredibly unlikely. Barcelona might not be firing on all cylinders but are the team to beat, going top in mid-week. The emergence of teenage forward Ansu Fati has given their fans something to cheer about. Likewise, the two Madrid rivals cannot be written off just yet - particularly Atletico, who sit pretty in the top four.
Between the late 1990s and the early 2010s, Udines...