Everywhere Else – 2 – U Craiova 1948 SA

“We had a youth intake that didn’t produce anything worthwhile, and why would it? Our facilities are woeful.”

It’s the end of season one, so WTF happened?

Cut to the chase, Robert Vonsen‘s U Craiova 1948 were promoted as champions of Liga 2 in Romania at the end of our first season.

Unbeaten in the first phase, losing just once in the second. Finishing the overall campaign as winners by 14 points. Joy.

We were tossed out of the Romanian Cup 4-0 by domestic rivals CS Mioveni in the 5th round, but the board weren’t bothered since we bagged promotion.

How did you do it?

Although we stuck to the aggressive and relatively direct 442 I had envisioned for the team, I was completely wrong about the players I would select, mainly because of the painful registration rules.

Something I posted previously but clearly didn’t properly read.

I famously said in blog post one alongside the above screenshot, “There are also some non-EU and homegrown player requirements, which I am sure I will get used to in time.” It turns out that this was an ambitious lie.

Attribute strengths and weaknesses analysis that proved ultimately meaningless, as better players aged 21 and over had to be sacrificed in favour of younger, lesser players; in order to meet the registration requirements.

I played pre-season, got my preferred team all lined up and ready to go; only to realise that you need 14 players under the age of 12 with double-barrelled names and dual Romanian-Egyptian heritage in the starting 11 in order to play in competitive matches (<- exaggeration).

To be fair, pillar of the community and Romanian football delegate FM Pressure then said to me, after the fact. “You should’ve asked, I’d have told you the pitfalls.” I guess I’ll know for next time.

As a result, predicted key man Marian Anghelina (Jolie) had to drop out of the “first choice” starting eleven, and young and aggressive but otherwise underwhelming midfielder Drago艧 Albu had to play most of the time instead.

Lineup requirements meant that old and good had to be swapped for young and untested.

In a similar extension of this narrative arc, I had predicted Valentin Munteanu to be our key source of creativity down the right-hand side. Nope. He also had to be largely displaced for a younger model, the more handsome but lesser footballer, Samuel Zim牛a.

Lineup requirements meant that…you know the drill.

I had previously called out that we needed a new goalkeeper, so in came Ismet Kisyo, a promising young Bulgarian. On a free of course. Unfortunately it turned out he wasn’t young enough. So to satisfy the u18 rule, I had to play our existing youth keeper, Robert ‘Big’ Popa instead. I didn’t misunderstand his age, just the league rules. I’m not a (complete) moron.

Thankfully Popa is actually a really good prospect and improved immensely across this first season. What you see below to the right is him after an entire season of small but steady attribute improvements. A happy accident.

Kisyo and Popa. Popa improved so much I may actually keep him as our first-choice stopper next season in the top tier.

I made one other signing. A wonderful Uruguayan man. His goals fired us to the title, and I hope he stays here until the end of time. I love him. Introducing Williams Peralta.

What a man. Look at him.

After 25 goals in 27 games coupled with 9 assists and an average rating of 7.54, Peralta‘s initial nine month deal signed as a free agent (obviously), turned into a no-brainer decision to offer a three year contract to a man who will be 36 years old when it expires. I hope he plays (and lives) forever.

Tactically, as I’ve mentioned, our aggressive 442 worked well for us. The deep-lying playmaker knocked timely lofted forward passes at the right time whenever the marauding wingers weren’t an attacking option. The full backs focused mainly on their defensive duties and a pressing and an advanced forward partnership complemented a generic central midfielder who regularly moved into the channels to create “pockets of space.”

I particularly liked the spread of assist types, a penchant for placed finishes exhibiting good technique, a tendency to start games on the front foot by scoring early and the team creating just under 2 clear cut chances every 90 minutes, while conceding just over 1.

These numbers are taken from the in-game analysis. They are nice and useful when thinking about what works well and what doesn’t in your tactical approach, even if the numbers can be inconsistent due to known FM issues.

Look at the analysis with your eyes, now, below. The SciSports polygon and graphical plots from the end of season review are at the end of the article. Because that’s a more logical place to put them.

Stats the way to do it.

Worth mentioning too was that U Craiova 1948 captain William Baeten also loved a long-range driver. I say loved; he only scored three goals all season, and two of them were in one game. They were both so good, however, that it was worth immortalising them below. The second goal and the Baet-man‘s player profile are in the comments of the Tweet if you use your mouse or trackpad, hover your arrow somewhere specific and do that clicking thing I’ve read about.

What else happened?

We had a youth intake that didn’t produce anything worthwhile, and why would it? Our facilities are woeful.

Mostly lies.
The best of a disappointing bunch.

The board inexplicably decided to build a new stadium despite our financial situation being what could kindly be described as “in freefall” but I did manage to bag a coaching badge before the board realised there was literally no money left.

Onwards and upwards.
One step ahead of the inevitable financial collapse.
But why? Relocation desire aside, how are we paying for this?

We hired a new Director of Football who used to play for Paris Saint Germain so therefore must be brilliant, and hired a new coach and chief scout. One I vividly remember playing for Real Madrid, Chelsea and Newcastle, and the other played for Sevilla and was capped a million times for Mexico. We pay absolute buttons to these staff members, but more fool them if they are happy to do the job.

PSG – 2003-2006.
Geremi (Kyle) and a Mexican legend.

What’s next?

Actor Mark Wahlberg acting as Robert Vonsen in a scene where he is “thinking.” A snippet from the upcoming ‘Journeyman’ biopic.

Now this is where it gets subjectively interesting.

My thinking was (because I am a realist) that when we get promoted to the top tier, there will still be absolutely no money in the bank. The guaranteed wage rises that already feature as part of the vast majority of player contracts in the squad (pretty much everyone will be paid 25% more when we move up) will kill any hope of having a transfer budget of any description. Plus, there’s the new stadium still to pay for. This in turn will destroy any chances of me being able to tell the board of any prospective new club we may move to in future that I am “good” at managing in situations with a limited budget. Merrily skipping into bankruptcy was not on the agenda, nor is it a good look.

Then something crazy happened that confirmed to me that it was definitely time to leave.

I was offered the opportunity to be interviewed for the Cluj job, arguably the biggest club job in Romania. I hadn’t applied, it was nice to be asked. My stock must have been high.

This little invite ultimately led to an absurd over-confidence in the ability of the manager to move up the career ladder and get a better job this early on.

How dare they?

Ultimately, Cluj chose to hire Cosmin Contra instead. A 72-times capped former manager of the Romanian national team who previously played for both Milan and Atl茅tico Madrid. How that was preferable to a German with less than 30 matches on his CV along with a National B licence and not a single attribute yet near 10, I’ll never know.

With my contract expiring (and moving to a rolling one) I effectively applied for EVERYTHING. Semi-professional teams in Denmark’s lower tiers? Check. A Finnish team who are solely made up of part timers? Check. A South Korean team with 7 players in their first squad? A Colombian second tier side adrift at the bottom of their table? Check and check.

It wasn’t looking promising. I’ve never been “laughed off” so often in my life.

Effectively I chose gambling to stay at U Craiova 1948 for at least another season over unemployment and applying for roles for months. A three-year deal was signed, and we soldier on.

We do get to play against bitter (and much, much better than us) rivals CS Craiova next season, so I guess my situation this early in a journeyman save is nothing to “Crai ova” (thanks Ed, I didn’t think you’d mind if I shamelessly stole that one).

You could say that failing to find the next step on the ladder after a strong first season is a horrible failure (like my good friend Rock’s End FM suggests), or that another season in Romania might just do our job prospects the world of good.

Only time will tell.

Strong foundations, but not yet strong enough. Clearly.

End of season (1) review

Thanks for reading.

FM Stag

Everywhere Else – 1 – U Craiova 1948 SA

“Was this really a good idea?”

What is this all about?

This new series, which I’m calling Everywhere Else, is going to be a bit different for me. Since finishing the more serious (as serious as it can be when it is about a computer game) writing of my recent La Sombra Rayo Vallecano series, I wanted to take a more light-hearted approach to another batch of FM21 writing. Casually put together, I’ll stick to shorter posts tracking progress, tactics, players and results.

I’ll be thinking out loud, so I’ll pivot from scouting to player comparisons to performance statistics, and whatever else comes to mind as I work my way through the series.

This new save is a journeyman, starting unemployed (obviously), but with no set end goal(s) or conditions, other than that none of the so-called ‘big’ leagues are loaded up this time, as I wanted a break from the ordinary.

Therefore, the initially available leagues are as follows:

South Korea to Iceland via Belarus? Why not.

The manager

Meet Robert Vonsen. He’s a 39-year-old German with a decent grasp of English. Loves Augsburg, a classic 442 and likes his players to be aggressive and brave. Typical.

An undiluted display of German Cholismo. That’s a thing, right?

Unemployed, barely a coach, but on the lookout for a manager’s job. There is a handful of jobs available at the start. Interviews are coming thick and fast, but where will we take our first steps? PFK Montana of Bulgaria? FK Blansko of Czech Republic? Rapid Bucure葯ti of Romania?

I am afraid to tell you that they all said “no.”

The team

Someone did say yes though! Robert Vonsen successfully interviews for the U Craiova 1948 job in the Romanian second division. I told myself I鈥檇 accept whichever team accepted us first, to get playing as soon as possible; ideally with the chance of managing a decent pre-season spell before the first campaign kicks off in anger.

Founded in 2017 and valued at 拢23.4k, don’t confuse U Craiova 1948 with their bitter rivals CS Craiova, four-time winners of Romania’s top division, Casa Liga 1.

It’s a complicated story between the two teams as to why both exist in parallel. Sort of Wimbledon / MK Dons-esque but more confusing and controversial.

Looks a lovely place, to be fair.

I landed in Romania mostly by chance, after applying for all the available jobs and seeing who said yes first; but for a more focused Romanian save (he begins there), have a look at fellow angry Scottish blogger FM Pressure and his website.

The beginning

First things first. No disrespect to Romania’s second tier, but the quality of players isn’t of the same level as the ones in the heady heights of 2026’s LaLiga that I’ve been used to seeing recently, so I choose to adjust the attribute colour thresholds accordingly, so I can better judge talent relative to our level.

Next, I review the squad’s strengths and weaknesses, build a system, then sort out team and individual training for every player and age group, because I’m a masochist who can’t bear the thought of it being automated. The 442 is going to fit in well here and with this group, I reckon. There are a few players who look capable of playing actual football, but a few glaring issues to address too. As I always like to do, I keep attribute masking on and close the first transfer window.

This way I can identify the team’s problems, but realistically can’t address them until the next transfer window. Even then, my manager has such a low experience level, I won’t be able to see 95% of any player’s attribute profiles outside of my own for the first few years anyway, until I improve. Every signing will therefore be a risk/educated guess. I imagine I won鈥檛 have much (or any) funds to build a decent scouting system.

Was this really a good idea? I guess it will be challenging if nothing else.

The board expect us to get to the fifth round of the Romanian cup. We enter at the third round, so fingers crossed that is ticked off.

We also need to be promoted to the top tier. There is an unusual system where everyone in the division plays each other once (20 matches) then the top six go into a playoff group where everyone plays each other twice (a further 10 matches) then the top two sides gain promotion.

There are also some non-EU and homegrown player requirements, which I am sure I will get used to in time.

The players and system

As I mentioned earlier, there are a few players who seem fairly decent. One in particular I like the look of is central midfielder Anghelina (Jolie, presumably).

For the second tier in Romania, these three look fairly solid.

On the other hand, some of the team’s challenges are obvious. Our goalkeeper needs replaced, our best striker is hardly clinical, and there is no strength in depth whatsoever.

It makes me deeply unhappy that our first-choice goalkeeper is so poor. Striker B膬lan isn’t terrible, but we could certainly do with an upgrade.
Trusty old faithful 442.

442 is the system. Anghelina will be expected to run the midfield, while Munteanu on the right will be our main creative outlet. The full-backs will be asked mainly to defend, and while Raducano can’t finish or run, he is reasonably strong, decent in the air and can pass a bit. If he can occupy defenders, perhaps B膬lan can get in behind and grab a goal or ten.

Former captain Costinel Gugu has this year passed the Baeten to William. (Sorry)

Baeten isn’t the most creative player to set as our playmaker, but he is a decent all-round midfielder and our new captain. I need Anghelina to be everywhere at once in the midfield, hence asking him to move into channels as a central midfielder on support duty, but these two partners may switch roles if it doesn’t work on the pitch as I intend it to.

The priorities

We know why we are here. It’s the first step in a journeyman. My aims are to get promotion to get that all important reputation boost that comes with silverware. Hopefully, we can complete a couple of coaching badges along the way and then a bigger team comes calling.

Before that happens however, we need reinforcements when it becomes technically (because the first window is shut) and financially (because we are poor) possible. Otherwise, I can see my laptop being fired out of a window when we inevitably ship a hell of a lot of silly goals to teams we should really be beating.

Wish me luck!

Thanks for reading.

FM Stag

La Sombra – 11 – Earned it

This is post eleven of a wider series. To instead start at post one, please click here.

“What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others.”


18 May 2026

In last July, ahead of the 2025/26 season; the bookmakers published their pre-season odds on LaLiga winners and losers, as they always do. Looking for a fourth league title in a row, Marcelo Gallardo‘s Barcelona were logically considered evens favourites. It’s no surprise that Zinedine Zidane‘s Real Madrid were second favourites at 7-2.

Despite previous LaLiga finishes of 6th, 7th, 2nd and 4th since their promotion under Fernando Teixid贸 in the 20/21 season, the bookmakers tipped historically thrifty upstarts Rayo Vallecano to finish 9th. The ‘poor but proud’ Madrid club were priced at 50-1 for the title. To put things in perspective, Valencia were tipped at 20-1 to win LaLiga. The same Valencia who hadn’t finished in a Champions League qualification place for five years.

Lots happened in the 25/26 campaign to confound the critics, bookmakers and fans alike. Let’s get into it.

What happened?

Fast forward nine months to the present day and the landscape of Spanish football has been turned upside down.

Basque giants Athletic Club are competing in Spain’s second tier for the first time in their history and as it stands sit 4th in the table with three league games remaining. No guarantee of an instant return to LaLiga.

Zidane is currently unemployed after being sacked for poor performance to end a stop-start 25 years at Real Madrid as a player, coach and then manager. Interim boss Alfredo Merino will step aside at the end of the season when current Juventus manager Mauricio Pochettino will make his long-awaited move to the Bernab茅u. The Argentine’s arrival can’t come quickly enough for Los Blancos. Real Madrid finished in 8th this season, missing out on UEFA competition qualification of any description and finishing in their worst league position since 1977.

Rayo Vallecano owner Ra煤l Mart铆n Presa finally sold up and moved on, selling the club for an extremely healthy profit. According to economic reports, El Rayo‘s value has increased from around 拢15.5million in 2020 (when Fernando Teixid贸 took the job) to a reported 拢1billion in this year’s tax year-end records. The new board are made up of wealthy Spanish businessmen. Their first order of business was paying off the circa 拢35million loan taken out to build the new ‘Rayo Vallecano Stadium’ scheduled to open in Madrid later this year. Their second was to arrange for the incoming transfers of two sought after footballers they had mentioned in their pitch to buy the club. Those players were AZ‘s Steve Spiering and Athletic‘s Nico Serrano. Both are explosive wingers in their early 20s with huge sell-on potential and the skillset to get Rayistas off the edge of their seats to applaud, but more on them later. The combined outlay for the two transfers could rise to 拢112.5million. By comparison, Rayo’s previous transfer spend record was the 拢4.6million Teixid贸 parted with in July 2025 for flop winger 艦tefan Baiaram, who has since moved on to Standard Li猫ge.

Oh, and Rayo Vallecano won LaLiga.

Wait, what?

Rayo Vallecano are the LaLiga champions of the 2025/26 season. It’s true.

A two-horse race between the ‘little’ Madrid club and Barcelona ended in Rayo ‘doing a Leicester’ and lifting the title. After the just two points which separated those two (Barcelona finished second despite only losing a single league game), Atl茅tico were some 19 points further behind, with Real Zaragoza surprisingly filling out the UEFA Champions League places.

It was quite a season.

Rayo Vallecano under Teixid贸 have been a mercurial phenomenon. Last season, Rayo fans had to witness a ten game losing streak which was covered in detail by my theangrylinesmen colleague Carl Hagedorn in this linked article. Luckily for Rayo, the streak was sandwiched between a first and final third of the campaign where they showed almost untouchable form, a steely work ethic defining their counter-attacking strategy. This in turn saved what could have been a dark stain on Fernando Teixid贸‘s otherwise stellar CV.

This year, El Rayo continued in that positive vein. Many expected the losses to come eventually, but apart from a slim 3-2 away defeat to Sevilla on the 1st of February, they never did. Form started strongly, and so it stayed.

It seems like an easy judgement or observation to put Rayo Vallecano‘s incredible year down to fortuitous timing, but that is to discredit the spirit shown by the eventual champions.

Scoring three goals or more in 47% of their LaLiga matches, Rayo’s 95 goals scored in the 38 matches was some 31 more strikes than nearest rival Atl茅tico Madrid if you remove the incredible outlier of Barcelona‘s 113 goal haul. Conceding 0.86 goals per game was the third least in the division too. So Rayo were as defensively sound as they were offensively clinical. This is where some of the statistical comparisons against previous seasons can prove incredibly useful.

While the ratio of tackles won, pass completion success and shots on target percentage remained largely the same as the previous campaign, the 25/26 iteration of Rayo scored an average of almost a goal more per game (2.5), while conceding 0.37 goals less per league match. Scoring 2.5 times per game against an xG of 1.93 is a marked overperformance; while conceding 0.87 against 0.94 xG conceded per match is largely par for the course in the SciSports xG model, yet no less impressive.

What many could call a “freak” season could arguably be explained by a series of serendipitous circumstances for the triumphant Rayistas, complementing those great performances.

Mid-season injuries to regular strikers Anto帽铆n and Astrit Selmani forced Teixid贸’s hand into prematurely promoting Francisco Pereira. Pereira was a 19-year-old striker who had been plucked from semi-professional Amarante in his native Portugal for just under 拢55,000 a couple of years earlier. Pereira spent most of his time in Rayo’s development B-team, with the exception of a loan last year at Tenerife where he caught the eye in the final third playing in a team that were ultimately relegated due to defensive frailties and lack of midfield creativity. The result was that Francisco Pereira slotted in as the furthest forward attacker on the field in Teixid贸’s 4-4-2, and the young Portuguese ended up bagging 18 goals and 8 assists in just 21 matches. Incredible.

Additionally, just when the defence was looking a little tired and weary, Teixid贸 arranged to part with some 拢15million for defensive pair Abdou Diallo from Lyon and Emerson from Inter Milan. Diallo had previously lifted Ligue 1 with Paris Saint Germain a couple of times, whereas ex Barcelona right back Emerson had been in and out of Inter’s team for the past four seasons. Both went on to play in 19 and 18 games respectively since joining Rayo, forming two defensive mainstays in Teixid贸’s back four. Rayo had signed some quality players previously, but usually from the lower divisions or plucked from obscurity abroad, not two mid-to-late 20s first teamers at large European clubs, paying handsome wages.

Rayo’s relative success against their own expectations in the last few years has meant that times had changed financially, but not in comparison to how they were destined to this year.

The takeover

Jorge Rodriguez had been rumoured to be putting together an all-Spanish consortium with a view to buying a LaLiga club for some time. Rodriguez owns several hydropower operations, and many of the consortium are similar “family” businessmen who have had a collective eye on purchasing a football club. In 2023, the story goes that Eibar were set to be purchased by the group of investors, only for the sale to fall through when they were unexpectedly relegated at the end of that season after a dismal drop off in form towards the end of the campaign.

As mentioned previously, Rodriguez and co made bold promises during the takeover process. Typical of these scenarios (see the ultimately ridiculous ‘Mbappe to Newcastle’ rumours in 2020) lots of big names were circulated as possible Rayo signings when the loan debt was cleared after the new owners’ arrival.

There were two names mentioned by Rodriguez and signing them turned out to be a lot more than just excitable hyperbole.

AZ‘s gifted winger Steve Spierings was taking the Eredivisie by storm. Goals, assists, mazy dribbling runs complemented by terrifying pace and a strong work ethic, Spierings had been linked with some of Europe’s top clubs over the last 12 months, and it’s easy to see why. A fee rising to 拢63million later however, and he was a Rayo player. The Dutchman signed in January 2026. In his half season so far at the club he has managed 25 appearances, 12 goals, 10 assists and 7 man of the match awards. Despite his late arrival, Steve Spierings won the LaLiga Player of the Year award.

Sometimes spending big can backfire spectacularly. Other times it’s a match made in heaven.

Unveiled jointly with Spierings was Nico Serrano. A similar player to the Dutchman, but the Basque winger generally plays on the opposite flank. Technically gifted and exceptionally quick and agile, Serrano also has the advantage of being 6 foot tall and good in the air. Capped twice for Spain by the time he turned 21, signing Serrano was arguably an even bigger statement of intent from Rayo’s new board. Especially given that he is a Spain international who arguably could have been on his way to Barcelona or PSG. Both of whom were said to be tracking his progress. 拢49.5million is the ultimate fee that will be paid for Serrano, including conditions.

The two lively wingers delivered a massive boost to Rayo, just at the right moment in mid-season. The combination of their impact plus the experienced additions in defence steadied the ship, creating a delicately balanced cocktail of stable performances; ultimately leading to the lifting of the LaLiga trophy on the final day.

Rayo Vallecano are ‘poor but proud’ no more.

The analysis

Mention must go to Diogo Nascimento and 脼orsteinn Bj枚rnsson. The youthful central midfield pairing consistently displayed the right combination of technique and grit to carry entire matches for Rayo.

The first choice XI.

We at theangrylinesmen have written at length before about the divisive nature of statistical data analysis, so the below plot aims to visualise it simply.

Attacking contribution considers key passes, chances created, assists, shots on target, goals and xG per 90 and xG per shot.

Defensive performance includes interceptions, tackles, and an adjusted figure for headers won per 90.

Left-back Juan Miranda was crucial in defence, while playmaker Diogo Nascimento was key in a creative sense. There is no surprise that Steve Spierings proved to be the second most useful attacking force, while contributing more in a defensive perspective than some of Rayo’s centre-backs and defensive midfielders. Incredible.

We’ve covered Gaoussou Traor茅 in detail before, and the now 19 year old is making great strides towards becoming a first team regular (12 goals in 20 league appearances this year), but “GT” isn’t the only young striker catching the eye.

Eugenio Fidalgo was a 拢1.2million capture from Marbella when he had just turned 16 years old. Eyebrows were raised when that figure was parted with for a player so young, but now it looks like an outright bargain. Now 17, he bagged 85 goals in 60 appearances for Julio Baptista‘s Rayo under-19 side, and now looks to be the ‘next big thing.’ Look out for theangrylinesmen podcast, where self-confessed Rayo fan Carl Hagedorn is preparing to wax lyrical about this prospect’s potential. Even Rayo fans on Twitter are paying attention.

Last but certainly not least, investment continued into the future potential of the team. The 拢6.5million Argentinian attacker has a name which reminds me of another Argentinian footballer, I just can’t place who.

What else happened?

Rayo performed admirably in the UEFA Champions League, managing to defeat Marseille and Manchester City, but it wasn’t enough to prevent dropping into the Europa League. Torino were dispatched 6-3 on aggregate, but Leverkusen proved a bridge too far. The European dream was over.

Semi-final exits in both Spanish cups were impressive and entirely acceptable results, and even gave Teixid贸 the opportunity to give first team minutes to many fringe players.

It even included Rayo’s record goalscorer Astrit Selmani‘s 70th strike. It was quite a volley.

What’s next?

This is where it gets tricky. New owners, a new stadium, a glut of developing young players itching to burst into the first team. Rayo Vallecano are the dream project for any promising manager right now. The dream continues, right?

Maybe not.

What of current boss Fernando Teixid贸? Six years in charge, 300 competitive matches in total, Teixid贸 has achieved inarguably more than anyone could have thought. More than just emerging from ‘la sombra’ or ‘the shadow’ of Real Madrid and Atl茅tico, Teixid贸’s Rayo have gone one better, finishing above both for the second time in six years, even beating Barcelona to the LaLiga title.

172 victories in 300 competitive games, two trophies and (excluding the fees paid by the board for the two new wingers which Teixid贸 did not instruct) a transfer spend of only 拢50.5m over six years.

The Peruvian’s contract runs until the summer of 2029, but rumours are building that Teixid贸 may step down from Rayo Vallecano to take a break from management in the next few weeks. Remember Pep Guardiola‘s exit from Barcelona when his stock was arguably at its highest, just before an inevitable burnout could occur? That could be Fernando Teixid贸 at this point.

Having lost just one league game all season, only an invincible campaign and further progression in Europe could really better the 25/26 campaign that has just finished. Is it even possible for Rayo Vallecano? Has Teixid贸 taken them to their ceiling?

Ancient Greek statesman Pericles said it best when he said, “What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others.”

The impact of Fernando Teixid贸 has been incredible in Vallecas. A small working-class community are now supporters of the champions of Spain. With his legacy of humility, nobility and integrity now cemented in Rayo lore and two trophies in the cabinet, is it time to go?

If Teixid贸 does choose to leave Rayo Vallecano in the coming weeks to take a break or to seek a new challenge, one thing is for sure. He’s earned it.

Jonathan Simpson for theangrylinesmen


Thanks for reading.

FM Stag

La Sombra – 10 – The losing streak

This is post ten of a wider series. To instead start at post one, please click here.

“You either die a hero, or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain.”


The losing streak

26 May 2025

Back on the 28th of February 1960, Las Palmas defeated Valladolid 4-0 in a top flight Spanish football match to grab the points in a season where they were ultimately relegated. The reason this was such a memorable event was that it ended a record-breaking back-to-back losing streak for Las Palmas, stretching back to the 13th of December 1959. Shockingly, this was 11 league defeats in a row.

There is good reason that this record has stood firm for more than sixty years. Even the worst sides in the history of football can win or draw occasionally. Even accidentally.

Fernando Teixid贸‘s Rayo Vallecano side of 2024/2025 will be relieved they didn’t take Las Palmas’ place in the history books, but boy did they come close. El Rayo lost 10 LaLiga games back-to-back in a period lasting nearly three months. Incredible.

The losing streak.

Prior to this run, Rayo had enjoyed promotion as champions of LaLiga 2 followed by 6th, 7th and 2nd placed finishes in the top flight under Teixid贸. What’s more, they had started the 2024/25 campaign in wonderful form, winning their first nine league games in a row, collecting the maximum 27 points.

Before taking on Atl茅tico Madrid at home on the 30th of October 2024, Rayo were sitting on top of the table, conceded only twice in eight games following their 3-2 season opener away at Real Zaragoza.

The winning streak before the losing streak.

How did it happen?

Many publications at this point will throw in spurious graphs, charts and statistics where they don’t necessarily provide actionable insight. In the case of nine straight wins followed by 10 straight defeats however, it is worthwhile to look at the numbers behind the performances.

The use of performance statistics is a divisive subject, but not if you are logical about it. If you have ever read a book written about analysis in football or any decent standard of sports journalism in recent years, you will see that the game is changing, and statistical scrutiny is not only integral to performance coaching and tactical decision-making in the modern game, but also crucial to any decent level of intelligent dissection of sporting performance. But only where it adds value. This is where there is a key disconnect in public opinion around this type of work. Dots and numbers are only worthwhile if they really tell you something beyond watching the highlights package.

The days of the ex-pro on the sofa highlighting that it was a “pinged pass and a well taken finish” are (hopefully) numbered. This ‘analysis’ serves only to narrate what your eyes have already seen.

Tangent over!

During this torrid spell, the under-fire performance analysts at Rayo Vallecano would have been frantically working around the clock in an attempt to help their beleaguered manager out of their tragic slump in form by providing some sort of context to the results. theangrylinesmen has put together some of its own.

Watching Rayo Vallecano continuing to play in their signature narrow 4-3-1-2 with wing-backs providing the width, midfield play provided by three deep-lying defensive midfielders and a classic number 10 behind a striking pair; nothing seemed off to the naked eye while watching the matches. Tactical consistency had been a hallmark of Teixid贸’s Rayo for four years and counting, almost to the point of stubborn dogmatism. So there hadn’t been a sudden departure in playing style that could explain the absurd flip in results.

Playmaker 脰mer Beyaz and wing-back Tiago Ara煤jo were a few months later to leave the club in January 2025 for moves to two Chinese clubs for an eye-watering combined 拢50.5million. Could their heads have been turned in the months prior to their respective moves? Although, neither were first choice in either attacking midfield or at left-back, so I can’t imagine this was a key factor.

Astrit Selmani.

Star striker Astrit Selmani was still chief among the goals that Rayo did manage to score during the losing streak, so neither was it specifically a case of off-form strikers being unable to deliver the goals when the rest of the team were setting up the chances.

So what happened?

This is where the numbers start to become useful.

When comparing the winning streak to the losing one, a specific problem doesn’t emerge as the issue, instead an alarming wider negative trend does. The ratio of shots on target to shots taken in total per game remained roughly the same at approximately 50%, but the volume of shots taken per match plummeted by 30% across the losing spell.

Also, the xG (quality of goal-scoring opportunity in terms of how likely shots are to hit the back of the net) generated across the losing streak was 36% lower on average too. This shows that not only shots at goal were much less regularly occurring but the quality of those chances created dropped significantly too. Couple this with a 13.5% decrease in the number of successful tackles Rayo were managing per match, and clearly the problem was at both ends of the field.

A wise man.

Interestingly the only notable statistic that was on paper “better,” was the average possession. In what could be considered rare, Rayo had only 44% of the ball when they could not stop winning matches, but 47% when they couldn’t win a point for love nor money. Perhaps, as Jos茅 Mourinho famously suggested, having more of the ball just leads to more opportunities to make mistakes, and capitalising on mistakes is what wins football matches.

So, there is a combination of factors here.

Being allowed more of the ball by the opposition suggests that after 200+ matches as Rayo Vallecano manager and three seasons inarguably over-performing with what is a decent counter-attacking side, other teams are starting to respect Rayo as opponents, thinking more pragmatically about how they can nullify the regularity of their chances.

Not Fernando Teixid贸.

Harvey Dent famously and fictitiously once said “You either die a hero, or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain.” In this analogy, it seems like as chief cheerleader for the perpetual underdog and plucky upstarts, Fernando Teixid贸 was suddenly considered a tangible threat to the traditional powerhouses of Spanish football. From LaLiga’s beloved unsung hero to its biggest villain.

Win nine games in a row and sit above Barcelona and Real Madrid in the league table and the conversation around your team’s level of quality and the threat you possess will change overnight.

And it did.

What happened next?

Something had to change. Football is a fickle business. Four years of overperformance and the adulation of the Rayo Vallecano fans can only be stretched so far. Yes, it was only three months, but what if three months became six? A team in freefall is a tragic thing to witness, and conversations must have been had at board level around who would replace the Peruvian in charge, should the horrible form continue.

But then it happened.

Coliseum Alfonso P茅rez.

It was the 22nd of January 2025 and Rayo’s temporary home, the Coliseum Alfonso P茅rez had just played host to a long overdue narrow 1-0 victory for Rayo Vallecano over visitors Real Zaragoza, the players and fans celebrating the rot stopping like victory in a cup final. A clearly emotional Fernando Teixid贸 applauded the fans at full time, and it felt like it could have been a real turning point.

It turns out that it was.

Rayo Vallecano would only lose three more games before the end of the season, drawing three and winning a further twelve.

Finishing fourth in a season that was not in only in abject freefall for almost a third of it but also heading quickly towards the record books for the wrong reasons, is an astonishing end to the story.

But wait, we didn’t discuss how it was turned around.

The turnaround

The classic proverb states that “necessity is the mother of invention” and it was definitely necessary for Teixid贸 to alter something fundamental in order to save the sinking ship. They needed to get back to averaging almost 14 attacks per game. Back to winning tackles again. No one could predict that what was to come would be a complete change of shape.

Switching his team to a 4-4-2 formation is hardly revolutionary, but it represented such a departure from Teixid贸’s famed ‘La Palanca’ system, that it shocked everyone from pundits to opposition defenders.

Retained are the strike pair with one dropping and pressing while the other plays off the shoulder, but gone is the roaming number 10. Gone too is the pivoting ‘lever’ in the defensive midfield area. The full-backs remain, but are asked to be more restrained in their attacking endeavours as there are now wide midfielders on the pitch.

Still expected to press high and counter aggressively, Rayo’s players now rely on traditional wing play; primarily via new signing Jos茅 Prieto down the right flank and the former attacking midfielder turned deep lying playmaker Diogo Nascimento in the middle, who is tasked with playing Kevin De Bruyne-esque curving killer through balls with his incisive passing ability to the strikers.

Ironically moving to a much wider system has allowed more space in the middle of the park for Rayo’s most creative players to operate in. This in turn is unlocking defences with increased regularity. Nascimento’s midfield partner Eden Kartsev is functional and hard-working, but is often tasked with dragging opposition defenders into the channels, opening those gaps for deep through balls or winger’s crosses.

Given the impact that the change in system had, it seems to have turned the page into a new chapter, Fernando Teixid贸: the pragmatist.

Such has been the acceptance of the new system, reports are linking Rayo Vallecano with a host of wide midfield targets for this coming summer. Everyone from Uruguayan Manchester United winger Facundo Pellestri to 32-year old Basque veteran, Iker Muniain.

How did the other competitions go?

Rayo Vallecano‘s first ever campaign in the UEFA Champions League was a mixed bag. An impressive 6-0 victory over Basel was followed by an emphatic 5-2 win over Sporting Lisbon. Despite defeating Basel again in the away fixture, unfortunately Rayo’s horrible slump in form coincided with half of the group games, and abject displays in both legs against PSG and the home leg of the Sporting tie leading to the misfortune of dropping into the UEFA Europa League, despite bagging nine points.

Drawing Liverpool was unfortunate in the second knockout round of the Europa League, and despite comfortably dispatching of Gladbach over two legs in the previous round, the English giants proved much too strong for El Rayo and they were out of Europe.

Cup performances were of a decent quality and arguably exceeded expectations, but in another case of unfortunate luck of the draw, meeting Barcelona in the 5th round of the Copa del Ray was a bridge too far.

What else?

After his 拢1.6million return to Rayo Vallecano last summer, Anto帽铆n has very much looked the player he was when his three-year loan spell at the club ended a year before. The pacey striker bagged 14 goals in 28 LaLiga appearances this season and became Rayo’s all-time league goalscorer. He now has scored 63 league goals in total.

Antonin.

63 does not seem a massive number for a record goalscorer of a historic club to have, but this fact, plus the reality that their record signing is still just the 拢4million paid for Diogo Nascimento, reminds us not just of Rayo’s historic player churn, but also their humble roots and continuing financial caution.

There is a big summer ahead. Should Teixid贸 stick to the new 4-4-2 system, reinforcements are needed for the flanks. Although good form has returned and a UEFA Champions League qualification finish was secured again, Rayo’s losing streak shows just how volatile the business of football can be.

Onwards and upwards!

Carl Hagedorn for theangrylinesmen


Thanks for reading.

FM Stag

La Sombra – 9 – Transfer and youth special

This is post nine of a wider series. To instead start at post one, please click here.

“A fine example of when a foreign player and his new club’s ethos feel like a match made in heaven.”


Rayismo

16 July 2024

It is no secret that Rayo Vallecano traditionally operated differently to other clubs in Spain.

Journalist James Robinson once referred to the approach as Rayo’s “sustainable revolving door.” He was referring to the delicate and perilous financial balancing act of the club’s continuous recruitment cycle. The reality was that it was less of a deliberate strategy and more a perpetual clamber to have enough players of appropriate quality on the books ahead of any given football season. Players would leave El Rayo for bigger and better clubs after a strong season or two, and the gaps would be backfilled with loans and rejected journeymen. It was how the club had to be in order to compete survive.

Recent success and LaLiga stability under Fernando Teixid贸 over the last four years may have changed this for good.

There are many other unique aspects of how Rayo Vallecano are run. For example, we at theangrylinesmen have previously covered how the community-centred club’s new signings are met personally by their passionate yet ultimately divisive supporter group the Bukaneros, to introduce them to the neighbourhood. The concept is for the players to meet the working-class people who are pobre con orgullo (poor but proud) and whose voices will not be silenced; either on the terraces or in the nearby streets. It strengthens the connection between club and community. It shows the player that the contract they have recently signed is not just a footballing one, but simultaneously a social agreement by default.

This is one of several unique Rayisms.

Robbie Dunne is the author of ‘Working Class Heroes,’ a wonderful book about Rayo Vallecano‘s origins, ostensibly socialist values and captivating aura. He probably summed it up best when he wrote, “If soccer really is a 鈥榓 slum sport played in slum stadiums increasingly watched by slum people鈥 as declared by the Sunday Times in 1985 after the Bradford fire disaster that took 56 lives, then Rayo Vallecano wear their slum affiliation like a badge of honour.”

Los peque帽os franjirrojos

Rayo could have been forgiven had they overlooked their youth academy setup in the last couple of years.

Since their promotion to LaLiga at the end of the 2020/21 season, sports economists suggest that the club has risen in value from 拢15.5million to an eye-watering 拢627million, as of July 2024. Although the 拢20.5million spent on player recruitment by Fernando Teixid贸 in that time is a drop in the ocean by LaLiga standards and cancelled out by the 拢25.5million generated in player sales in those four years, spending of any significance is a relative novelty to the historically underfunded club. Rayo could now afford to pluck relatively expensive players from the transfer market, should they wish. To no longer rely on developing talent from within to fill future team-sheets and ultimately to generate revenue via inevitable player sales. Historically, this was the only way the club could remain sustainable.

This complacency will never be the case in Vallecas. To operate in any other way would contravene Rayo’s principles.

The club are currently building the imaginatively titled Rayo Vallecano Stadium nearby the club’s frankly dilapidated previous marching ground, Estadio de Vallecas. The modern arena will house some 25,233 seats while the old stadium held 14,708. The currently shared Getafe stadium seats just over 17,000. The build is scheduled to be complete in summer 2026.

To the shock of many Rayistas, the famously financially conservative Rayo owner Ra煤l Mart铆n Presa has continued to re-invest funds into the continued development of the club. Not just in a new stadium, but crucially in the complete upheaval of youth development facilities. Let us take a closer look.

Wonderful progression over a relatively short space of time.

Despite this significant investment and incredible rise in club value, Rayo still do not spend lavishly on player salaries or bonuses. In fact, despite their three European qualification league finishes in a row (6th, 7th and 2nd respectively), the club still are in a lowly 16th in the salary spend table for LaLiga ahead of the 24/25 campaign. Rayo have football’s moneymen scratching their heads at their evident overperformance.

To have an exceptional academy bear fruit does not happen overnight. Even the best facilities and coaches cannot create first-team ready superstars in a laboratory. It is a labour of love, and patience is a crucial requirement.

Considering this reality, Rayo Vallecano have also invested around 拢4million in four years on incoming transfers of players who are still teenagers. Some are plying their trade in Rayo’s under 19 squad, others in their B team and a few elsewhere on loan. The truly homegrown talents will appear in time, and when I caught up briefly with new Rayo Head of Youth Development, Fernando Cinto, that is exactly what he promised.

In true theangrylinesmen fashion, here is a round-up of a hand-picked selection of young Rayo players to be aware of. There are some other more established high quality young players at Rayo, such as 21-year olds 脰mer Beyaz, Diogo Nascimento and Thijme Verheijen, but our focus here is on those still in their teenage years.

Some of these young players may become household names in future. Every Rayista is certainly hoping so.

脼orsteinn Bj枚rnsson

19 year old midfielder, Valur Reykjav铆k, 拢12.5k

At a cost that may as well have been zero (literally twelve thousand five hundred pounds), Bj枚rnsson already has five caps for his native Iceland and a mental toughness that belies his tender years. This is coupled with well-rounded athleticism and wonderful technique. He is slightly short at five foot nine, but this should not hinder the all-round midfielder’s progress. Bj枚rnsson is the only player in this report who has already been named in Teixid贸’s first-team squad for the upcoming campaign.

Abel Barata

19 year old midfielder, Estrela da Amadora, 拢100,000

Barata is a similarly hard-working midfielder in the Bj枚rnsson mould. Also 19 years old and five foot nine in height, Barata may require more development time to become as consistent and physical as his Icelandic teammate, but shades his technical profile marginally, according to club coaches. A great tackler with wonderful balance, the Portuguese is one to watch.

Gaoussou Traor茅

17 year old striker, Huesca, 拢1million

Having already scored once for the Rayo Vallecano first team to become a record breaker, it is fair to say that “GT” looks one of the prospects most likely to be a success. Selfless and well-balanced, the young Spaniard has already been likened to a young Karim Benzema or Alvaro Morata. Most notably by me, right here in theangrylinesemen. Quite simply, Traor茅 looks to have all the ingredients required to be an elite striker, in time.

Francisco Pereira

19 year old striker, Amarante, 拢32k

Last but certainly not least is Francisco Pereira. Snapped up from Portuguese semi-professional outfit Amarante for the ridiculously low sum of 拢32k, Pereira will be loaned out to LaLiga newcomers Tenerife for the 24/25 season. A committed team player with a wonderful right foot he regularly uses to flick the ball, elastico-style, past defenders, the Portuguese teenager is already technically impressive while physically well-rounded. While there may be question marks about his focus and application across 90 minutes, Francisco Pereira looks like another Rayo youngster to keep tabs on.

Honourable mentions

Click on any of the images above for a closer look. Particular mention has to go to the final three mentioned – No茅 Becerra, Francisco Hernando and Felipe. Two are 16 years old and the other has recently turned 17. This trio were discovered in the most recent youth intake at Rayo Vallecano. Fully home-grown and the first examples of an intake where new Head of Youth Development Fernando Cinto actively played a part in the identification and promotion of these particular players.

There are clearly bright times ahead at Rayo, and I for one am excited to see where this young crop of talent end up.

Who do you think looks most likely to succeed?

Tom Phillips for theangrylinesmen


17 July 2024

Rayo Vallecano Transfer News

Ahead of Fernando Teixid贸‘s fifth season in charge of Rayo Vallecano (the 2024/2025 campaign), the Peruvian coach has completed a quintet of first-team signings in an unprecedented haul of incoming talent.

With ex-Boca Juniors midfielder Juli谩n Chicco, 26, moving on to Alav茅s for 拢2.3million after three solid but unspectacular years at Rayo and 30-year old Croatia cap and fringe defender Mateo Barac joining Huesca in Spain’s second tier for 拢450,000, there were a few squad gaps needing addressed.

Algeria international goalkeeper Luca Zidane has long been a part of the squad in Vallecas but has never shown the ability required to really put pressure on first choice stopper Stole Dimitrievski for the number 1 shirt. With El Rayo‘s maiden campaign in the UEFA Champions League on the horizon, it was logical for Teixid贸 to go to market to capture another keeper, not least as healthy competition for the Macedonian.

Alban Lafont

25 year old goalkeeper, Fiorentina, 拢1.2million

For a long, long time, Alban Lafont had been mentioned in almost every discussion around the potential identity of the natural successor to Hugo Lloris as France’s first choice goalkeeper. Unfortunately for Lafont, international caps have been hard impossible to come by. He has six under 21 caps but as yet none for the senior side. Despite eventually rising to prominence as Fiorentina‘s first choice keeper last year (10 clean sheets in 37 Serie A appearances in the 23/24 campaign) after serving over five years at the Italian club, Cesare Prandelli seemingly remained unconvinced. This summer, the now 25-year old found himself on a plane to Madrid, transferred to Rayo for the lowly sum of 拢1.2million. While hardly having to ‘rebuild’ his career as his best years as a keeper are certainly still ahead of him, it will be interesting to see if he is the one to finally wrestle the gloves from Dimitrievski’s hands after over six years as Rayo’s first choice stopper.

Ross McCrorie

26 year old defensive midfielder, Aberdeen, free transfer

Scotland vice-captain Ross McCrorie is a fine example of when a foreign player and his new club’s ethos feel like a match made in heaven. A fearless and determined battler, the versatile Scottish midfielder covers every blade of grass and can fit in capably at both centre back and right back as well as in the heart of midfield. Such is his tenacity and work ethic, Teixid贸 boldly named McCrorie, 26 as Rayo Vallecano understudy to newly appointed captain Nemanja Radoja shortly after his arrival. The Scot also takes the number 6 shirt. Expect crunching tackles and a warrior spirit from the no-nonsense leader.

Juan Miranda

24 year old defender, Barcelona, 拢2.9million

Juan Miranda was once considered to be the only contender to Marc Cucurella in becoming the long-term successor to Jordi Alba as the permanent left back in Barcelona‘s first eleven. With Cucurella joining French giants PSG this summer from Villarreal for nearly 拢35million, and Barcelona eventually sticking with 拢45m Englishman Ben Chilwell in the left back berth, Miranda, now 24, quickly became a forgotten man at the Camp Nou. After a surprising loan spell last season in Germany’s second tier with Holsten Kiel, Miranda has returned to Spain, costing Rayo Vallecano 拢2.9million in the process. A strong tackler unafraid to proactively hunt for the ball (Miranda made just over 3 clean and successful tackles per 90 last season), at six foot one he is more imposing in the air than most full-backs, and his five assists in Germany will be a benchmark he will surely aim to better in a Rayo shirt at the other end of the pitch.

Harvey Griffiths

21 year old attacking midfielder, Manchester City, free transfer

Oldham-born Harvey Griffiths, 21, had been at Manchester City since the age of eight. A composed midfielder in possession of the ball, the Englishman is also capable of striking the ball cleanly and accurately with both the inside and outside of his gifted right foot. Agile and well-balanced, Griffiths was tipped to follow Phil Foden into the City and England line-up, but it unfortunately was not to be. Not yet, anyway. After bravely upping sticks for Spain after so many years so close to home, when joining Rayo Vallecano on a free transfer, Griffiths shared that he was excited to be part of “building of something special in Vallecas.” His only spell of consistent senior football was a season-long loan spell at Crewe Alexandra, where he showed a knack for incisive progressive passes from deep. I do not envisage instant fireworks from the young Englishman, but he is certainly one to keep an eye on.

Anto帽铆n

24 year old striker, Granada, 拢1.6million

The last but certainly not least “new” face at Rayo this summer could arguably prove a Teixid贸 masterstroke. Anto帽铆n spent three years on loan at Rayo Vallecano from 2020 to 2023, scoring 52 goals across Teixid贸’s first trio of campaigns in charge. The striker even won the prestigious FIFA Best U21 Player in the world award in 2021. What unfolded next however, was odd to say the least. Anto帽铆n‘s parent club Granada did not want to allow him to return to Rayo on loan for a fourth consecutive season, and understandably demanded a significant fee for the impressive striker’s permanent registration. When this fee was said to be in the region of 拢13million, Rayo of course would not, and in all probability could not, cough this up (Rayo’s record transfer is the 拢4million paid to Coimbra for Diogo Nascimento in summer 2023 and at the time was the 拢3.3m paid for Eden Kartsev). Instead, the player returned to Granada, where manager Ronald Koeman said Anto帽铆n would be a “key part of his plans” for 2023/24.

Fast forward six months and the striker had played the sum total of zero minutes in a Granada shirt and was consequently bizarrely shipped out on loan to Real Oviedo, in Spain’s third tier. Five goals in twelve appearances followed and upon his return in the summer, Koeman made him available for a cut-price transfer. After all this pushing and pulling, the Rayo fan favourite finally made his long-awaited return to the club this month for just 拢1.6million. Expectations are high that the pacey and confident hitman will hit the ground running and return to his previous form. With last season’s strike pairing of Astrit Selmani and Felix Platte notching 59 goals between them in all competitions however, he has a tough job ahead of him displacing either.

Carl Hagedorn for theangrylinesmen


Thanks for reading.

FM Stag

La Sombra – 8 – Can I just shock you?

This is post eight of a wider series. To instead start at post one, please click here.

“A bit like focusing on the final boss’s armour in a classic video game; keep your distance, frustrate and weaken.”

Los Vallecanos

19 May 2024

It has only been a little over four months since theangrylinesmen last published a significant update on Fernando Teixid贸‘s “over-performing” Rayo Vallecano side, but the Madrid club are a hot topic in European football well worth revisiting.

My colleague Jonathan Simpson covered the first half of the 23/24 campaign in his great article back in January, where Rayo sat 5th in LaLiga after 19 games, heading towards the 2nd round of the Copa del Rey and the knockout stages of the UEFA Europa Conference League. Jonathan looked at some of the reasons Madrid‘s “third team” were managing to stay on their feet and keep throwing punches when all the bigger sides around them started breaking sweat. Successful tackle volume, tactical fouling, chance conversion success, attacking dogmatism and triumph in the ultimate David vs Goliath league matchup were all covered in there. It is well worth a read.

Tom Phillips has another Rayo Vallecano piece in the works for theangrylinesmen around the Vallecas club’s approach to youth development. He highlights some potentially promising players to keep an eye on over the next few years, as well as reviewing Rayo’s club infrastructure in detail. The article isn’t quite ready to be published, but watch this space!

In the meantime, let us take a look at Rayo’s 2023/2024 season now that the curtains have closed on another thrilling Spanish football campaign. How did it end?

Copa del Rey

Let’s start in the domestic cup.

In short, Rayo Vallecano ultimately tasted glorious failure after reaching their first cup final in their 100-year history. Unfortunately outclassed on the day by a rampant Barcelona side who picked up their 31st Copa del Rey and their first under Marcelo Gallardo. The Blaugrana smelled blood when the cracks of an exhausting campaign started to show in Rayo’s usually solid backline in extra time. Ansu Fati fired the Catalan giants 1-0 up in the 104th minute after a 0-0 stalemate in the first 90 minutes. Lautaro Martin茅z added a second three minutes later and the franjirojo simply couldn’t recover.

If you rewind back to their Third Round victory over city rivals Real Madrid however, something special happened that damp evening. I don’t just mean El Rayo upsetting the bookmarkers by dumping Zidane’s giants out of the cup via a slim 1-0 win after extra time, although that is of course newsworthy. It’s how they did it that made it really worth writing about.

Known for his dogmatic attacking approach, Teixid贸 surprised everyone with this shift in strategy against Real Madrid that night. Not least of which Real’s experienced superstars; including Rapha毛l Varane, Toni Kroos and Eden Hazard.

Belgian superstar Eden Hazard questions why lowly Rayo Vallecano are giving his side the run-around. Literally.

While it would be inaccurate to say that the Peruvian has finally turned pragmatist, there was evidently a conscious change in tactic for this match. Something that Teixid贸 has since went on to deploy more than a few times in the final part of the season, mainly to nullify technically superior attacking sides (even tangentially) and prevent some of the heavy losses El Rayo suffered in the 22/23 campaign. Lesson learned, I guess.

Rayo Vallecano average 316 completed passes in a usual game of football under Teixid贸. This is just under the LaLiga average. By the 90 minute mark in this cup tie, El Rayo had completed almost 600. By the referee’s whistle at 120 minutes, this number had hit a frankly ridiculous 767. Then-captain 脫scar Valent铆n completed a record 150 passes himself. Where the wing backs Hern谩n De La Fuente and Iv谩n Martos would normally look to arc aerial ‘passes’ to the forehead of target man Felix Platte while creative number 10 Diogo Nascimento would usually take the ball on the turn and look to feed through balls to the on-running Asrtit Selmani, instead possession would be won back, recycled and kept in tight triangles of short passing.

This proved to ultimately frustrate Real Madrid, forcing them to break their shape to chase down the ball. Not that Rayo looked to profit from these temporary opportunities. Only one shot on target was registered during the match by Rayo, and the underdogs’ winning goal was a 98th minute penalty from the seemingly tireless Israeli international midfielder Eden Kartsev. The ploy was to antagonise their technically superior opponent, wearing them down until they were truly vulnerable. A bit like focusing on the final boss’s armour in a classic video game; keep your distance, frustrate and weaken, before looking for the kill-shot to take the victory.

That night at the Coliseum Alfonso P茅rez, it worked.

The record books will show a series of Rayo wins before a predictable defeat to Barcelona in the final. “History doesn’t remember runners up,” as they say. Though this Copa del Rey campaign held more revealing tactical details, if you looked a little more closely.

UEFA Europa Conference League

The UEFA Conference League is the Marmite of European club competition. Critics at times lambast it as another needless “distraction” from top level league football, while for some clubs (and certainly for the majority of fans) it provides a stage and opportunity to play under the lights against varied opposition you may never normally encounter, and another chance at silverware. Any ambitious and dedicated footballer will tell you that if there is a trophy that can be lifted and a medal to be added to the collection, they will always jump at the opportunity to win it.

Rayo Vallecano were drawn against AZ, Dnipro-1 and Randers in a group stage that was a competitive affair, highlighted by an absurd 6-4 victory against the Danes. Powerful striker Felix Platte had a productive continental campaign, notching 7 goals in 8 games. Although Rayo eventually tumbled out against Belgium’s Genk on penalties in the Second Knockout Round, it was a worthwhile adventure for Fernando Teixid贸‘s men. Another notable statistic was Portuguese wing-back Tiago Ara煤jo creating three chances with an xG of over 0.3 per chance in just three starts. If you are aware of (or interested in) the data put together by SciSports, this statistic makes the 23-year old Portuguese a definite outlier. Normally a left-sided defender, Teixid贸 experimented with fielding him on the opposite flank, cutting in on to his preferred foot, before curling dangerous crosses with regularity. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the ex-Portugal under-21 international deployed like this more regularly going forward.

La Liga

Incredible.

A breathless campaign led to Rayo Vallecano emerging from la sombra (the shadow) of their giant Madrid rivals and unbelievably finishing ahead of both Real Madrid and Atl茅tico Madrid in LaLiga.

For a team to finish 2nd in LaLiga where their average first team player is paid 拢13,920 a week in comparison to the league average of 拢40,858 is something special. Title-winning Barcelona‘s superstar Antoine Griezmann commands a basic salary of 拢600,000 per week, before bonuses. Rayo Vallecano in their entirety (including all of the players in their B and U19 teams) spend 拢469,859 on wages a week in total.

On the field, Astrit Selmani bagged the top goalscorer award with 24 strikes in LaLiga, while midfield pair Mauro Arambarri (162) and Eden Kartsev (142) were first and second in the table for successfully completed tackles. Goalkeeper Stole Dimitrievski topped the table of successful saves, getting something in the way of an impressive 82% of shots aimed at his goal this season.

The graphic below visualises the performance of Rayo’s first team squad this season.

  • Includes only first team players who played a minimum of 1,000 minutes across all competitions
  • Dot size correlates with minutes played. The larger the dot, the more minutes on the field.
  • Attacking Contribution considers key passes, chances created, assists, shots on target, goals and xG per 90, plus xG per shot.
  • Defensive Performance includes interceptions, tackles and headers won per 90, plus adjusted figures for heading and tackling win ratio.

Turkish playmaker 脰mer Beyaz continues to be a notable thorn in opposition sides, while defenders Hern谩n De La Fuente and Tiago Ara煤jo continue to post impressive numbers at both ends of the pitch.

These are the most fielded players by minutes across the 23/24 campaign in Rayo Vallecano‘s typical 4-3-1-2 formation.

What’s next?

There were rumours that the LaLiga Manager of the Year, 48-year old Rayo manager Fernando Teixid贸 may look to move on at the end of the campaign, due to fulfilling exactly what he set out to do when he took the job on the 10th of August 2020, finish ahead of Real and Atl茅tico Madrid in the table. Four seasons is a fairly significant spell with a single club in modern football. Teixid贸 is now the second longest-serving manager in the top flight after Zinedine Zidane. At the time of writing, the average LaLiga manager tenure is 2 years and 78 days.

There is also a question of where the ceiling is for Rayo Vallecano. They couldn’t conceivably win a European trophy or go one better in the league and actually lift LaLiga, could they?

With Diego Simeone‘s eventual departure from Atl茅tico Madrid after 12 years in charge coinciding with Mikhail Korchagin‘s astonishing financial takeover of the club, many quarters of sports media predicted that Teixid贸 may be in the frame to make a short move across the city to succeed him. When Atl茅ti opted for 51-year old Rog茅rio Ceni, fresh from four exceptionally successful years at the Flamengo helm, many were disappointed. They wished to see what the Rayo boss may have been capable of building with considerable resources at his disposal.

Similarly when Sergey Semak was relieved of his duties at Valencia after just 318 days in charge, Teixid贸’s name was certainly discussed. Ultimately, the Ajax manager Erik ten Hag was convinced to leave the Dutch champions after six successful years to take the job instead.

For now, the Peruvian continues in the Rayo Vallecano hot seat. Given the performances they have delivered and progress they have made together in four short years, I hope we get to see just how far Fernando Teixid贸 can really take El Rayo while the match between club and coach is still a productive and entertaining one. Especially given that the 2024/25 campaign will see the underdogs make their debut on club football’s finest stage, the UEFA Champions League.

COMING SOON: Tom Phillips‘ piece on Rayo’s youth development position and current infrastructure.

Alex Mellan for theangrylinesmen


Thanks for reading.

FM Stag

La Sombra – 7 – The glorious nosebleed

This is post seven of a wider series. To instead start at post one, please click here.

“It’s something of a miracle that Teixid贸 has Rayo pushing anywhere near in the right direction.”

Our favourite fictional publication theangrylinesmen is back, but this time it’s not recently converted Rayista Carl Hagedorn with the pen in hand. It’s his colleague Jonathan Simpson, a stats-driven writer from the Spanish football desk.


7 January 2024

It’s not often we pause mid-season for an analytical article, but a trio of recent headlines early in the 23/24 campaign for Rayo Vallecano have forced our hand here at theangrylinesmen. It seems something special is brewing in the ‘poor but proud’ outskirts of Madrid.

Since 48-year old Fernando Teixid贸 took the Rayo reins in the August of 2020 after a couple of seasons in Bolivia in charge of The Strongest, the wider media paid little notice. The relatively unknown manager’s unveiling did cause a few ripples as he spelled out his philosophy, “humility, integrity and nobility,” which had the typically divisive Bukaneros rocking and applauding at the press conference; but the excitement was mostly confined to that evening, and only for those who were there in the flesh, caught up in the moment.

Often football managers are the protagonists of their own dreamland, and it would have been entirely fair to dismiss the Peruvian’s words as hyperbole.

Then came the substance.

A tight promotion as champions of LaLiga 2 in his first season in charge, followed by a 6th then 7th place finish in LaLiga suddenly propelled Rayo Vallecano into the same bracket as the Real Sociedad, Real Betis and Athletic Clubs of Spanish football. Nowhere near the magnitude (or financial power!) of Barcelona and Rayo’s city rivals Real and Atl茅ti of course, but rather not miles behind Sevilla and Valencia. Around those lower continental qualification places. Certainly top half material, on the pitch at least.

Today is the 7th of January 2024 and currently Rayo Vallecano sit 5th in LaLiga, incredibly having lost only two of their opening nineteen fixtures so far this season. They have amassed 33 points against an ‘expected points’ tally of 28 based on performances so far, but don’t let that be the fly in the ointment. Draws have been a curse as they have tied nine games and won eight, but it has been an incredible start to the season for the team with the 16th highest salary commitment of the 20 teams in the division.

Throw in that Rayo have been groundsharing with neighbours Getafe all year, and will continue to do so until their new 25,000 seater stadium is ready in 2026, and it’s something of a miracle that Teixid贸 has Rayo pushing anywhere near in the right direction.

Add in a 9-0 (yes, nine-nil) destruction of poor Panader铆a Pulido in the first round of the Copa del Ray, plus progression to the knockout stages of the UEFA Europa Conference League after finishing top of a group featuring AZ and Dnipro-1, and you’ll find all the elements of a memorable campaign.

While we at theangrylinesmen are the first to recognise how fickle football can be, progression at the Vallecas club feels worth writing about.

Fellow 2021 promotion buddies Almer铆a have arguably performed even better since also moving to the top tier three years ago, but being considerably backed by wealthy foreign owners (Rayo pay a wage bill 38% of their size), Almer铆a are a different story for a different day.

Texid贸’s commitment to attacking play, even in the face of far superior opposition, is brave verging on reckless. His signature 4312 is almost as certain to be witnessed in each Rayo match as hearing his roaring voice from the technical area joined by his equally passionate assistant John Metgod.

The Rayo players with the most minutes played in each position so far this season.

As always, I love to get my hands on the statistical data to complement a good story, and there are a few standout numbers about Rayo’s LaLiga campaign so far. Data courtesy of SciSports.

  • 550 successful tackles made – Rayo Vallecano have completed 33 more successful tackles this season than any other team in LaLiga. This is only 35 shy of the combined total of successful tackles by their two nearest competitors in 6th and 7th in the table, Sevilla (347) and Valencia (238).
  • 333 fouls committed – Rayo Vallecano have committed the 2nd highest number of fouls in LaLiga. While on the surface this may read like a negative, when you consider that they are yet to have a man sent off in this campaign, Teixid贸’s aggressive and combative approach is regularly disrupting the opposition, but not to his own team’s detriment.
  • 13.3% of chances converted – This is the 3rd highest conversion rate in the division. Only Castell贸n (14.4%) and Real Sociedad (16.4%) have a better shot conversion rate this season. Consider that Rayo have taken 210 shots as a team, while the other two have attempted only 118 and 146 respectively, and it’s clear that not only are Rayo peppering the goal with attacks regularly, but putting a comparatively good number of those chances away too.

Looking within the Rayo Vallecano ranks themselves, some individual performances merit particular praise. ‘Attacking Contribution’ considers key passes, chances created, assists, shots on target, goals and xG per 90 plus xG per shot. ‘Defensive Performance’ includes interceptions, tackles, and headers won per 90 plus adjusted numbers for tackling and heading success rate. The larger the dot size, the more minutes played.

Hern谩n De La Fuente has shown incredible prowess at both ends of the pitch as the best performer overall, while midfielder Eden Kartsev, probably best known for his progressive passing, has surprisingly delivered the highest defensive numbers across the team.

Creative midfielder 脰mer Beyaz has proved crucial in the final third (3.64 key passes per 90). Striker Felix Platte (11 goals from 8.14 xG) has shown that his tireless work rate is as hugely important as his offensive play, as his defensive statistics largely match the numbers delivered by first-choice centre back Emiliano Vel谩zquez.

Now we’ve hit the exact halfway point of Teixid贸’s fourth season in charge of Rayo Vallecano, the key question is if Rayo can keep it up for the rest of the campaign.

The below are three short snippets of recent theangrylinesmen articles relating to those who don la franja. If they don’t convince you why many are choosing the Madrid underdogs to be their ‘second team’, I’m not sure what will.

Enjoy!

Jonathan Simpson for theangrylinesmen


“Homeless” Rayo Vallecano slay Barcelona in shock giant-killing

25 November 2023

Rayo Vallecano have defeated Barcelona 2-1 tonight for their first victory over the Catalan side in over twenty years. The Madrid side took all three points on a breezy November evening at the Coliseum Alfonso P茅rez, Rayo’s temporary home while they build their new stadium.

You have to go back to December 2002 to see a plucky Rayo Vallecano side buoyed by a single Jorge Azkoitia goal hang on to defeat Louis van Gaal‘s Blaugrana in a tight 1-0 affair. The Barcelona teamsheet that night included Patrick Kluivert, Javier Saviola and Juan Rom谩n Riquelme, and tonight the names were every bit as impressive.

拢78million man Jaden Sancho, World Cup winner Antoine Griezmann and Argentine pair Lautaro Mart铆nez and Lionel Messi looked crestfallen as the final whistle blew tonight. The reigning LaLiga champions huffed and puffed to 2.46 xG from 18 attempts at goal, picking up five bookings along the way; while Fernando Teixid贸‘s Rayo Vallecano notched on either side of Lautaro Mart铆nez’ penalty to capture the three points.

Although Barcelona shaded possession with 56% of the ball, their 313 completed passes was only 3 more than Rayo’s 310. The key differences tonight were in decision-making and sheer effort. Teixid贸’s side were patient, hitting the target with 6 of their 7 attempts on goal (86% accuracy), whereas Barcelona only managed 8 shots on target from their 18 attempts (45%). When Barcelona heads went down in the final minutes, collectively and visibly exasperated as Ansu Fati‘s volley whistled past the stoic Dimitrievski‘s left hand post in the Rayo goal, the Madrid upstarts pushed forward again. When Felix Platte‘s late header hit the back of the net on 94 minutes as Marc-Andr茅 ter Stegen lay in a crumpled heap, the result was fully deserved.

Barcelona manager Marcelo Gallardo graciously admitted his fellow South American tactician had got the better of him on the day. The ex-River Plate man congratulated Teixid贸’s Rayo on the result, but you could see he was seething at his own players’ inability to put Rayo to the sword when they had been on the front foot for most of the game. The Argentine said his Barca players “let the opponents slow the pace and dictate the game in the key moments while we watched.”

What is surely a blip for the mighty Barcelona will go down in history as a heroic milestone for Rayo Vallecano and the vast majority of the sold out 17,393 crowd who were there to witness it.

Alex Mellan for theangrylinesman


La Liga underdogs set to break transfer record for the second time in twelve months

4 January 2024

Exactly one year ago today, the 4th of January 2023, Rayo Vallecano shocked football’s financial analysts by eschewing their shrewd and reportedly “under-invested” label by handing Maccabi Tel Aviv a reported sum of 拢3.3million for Israeli midfielder Eden Kartsev. Time has proved that smashing their twenty year transfer record (Elvir Bolic cost Rayo 拢1.8m back in 2003) was a wise choice. The all-action Kartsev is a key cog in the Rayo machine, playing 47 times for the club in the last twelve months, consistently completing over 90% of passes and over 5 successful tackles per game.

Fast forward to this year and Fernando Teixid贸 is hoping his next significant investment is as impactful as the first. With Hungarian playmaker Zsolt Kalm谩r moving on to Eibar after a little over two seasons (a 拢1.6m sale after signing him for just 拢120k), there was a gap opening up in the squad to compete with the Turkish phenomenon 脰mer Beyaz for that ‘number 10’ position in the hole behind the striking pair.

Cast aside as a teenager by boyhood club Benfica, relative minnows Acad茅mica Coimbra picked up the then lightweight and nimble left footer Diogo Nascimento on a free transfer. A tough campaign that resulted in relegation to Portugal’s second tier was lit up by the performances of one young man who often took games (and at times his teammates!) by the scruff of the neck single-handedly. 12 months near the foot of the Liga NOS table and 6 months near the top of the tier below, and potential suitors across Europe began to take notice.

A creative technician whose strength defies his 5 foot 6 frame, Diogo is more than just a playmaker. Nascimento is a determined yet composed battler, known as much for his leadership qualities, constantly shouting and directing team mates when not in possession of the ball, as he is for his deft touches and intricate trickery. Rayo Vallecano were more than happy to give Coimbra the 拢4million required to free him via his release clause.

Another wise (big) investment for the Vallecas club? Only time will tell, but all of the elements are there to suggest so.

Anna Campbell for theangrylinesmen


Rayo beat Real Madrid, Juventus and PSG to “the next Alvaro Morata”

10 January 2024

Alvaro Morata is a striker who divides opinion. In my view, he is never given the credit he deserves. Now 31 years old and still plying his trade at Atl茅tico Madrid, being the selfless striker is often a thankless task. Yet clubs have parted with a combined 拢157million for Morata’s signature over his career, he has bagged 41 goals in 77 caps for Spain and continues to be a key component of Diego Simeone‘s side.

A striker interested in pulling defenders out of position, wrestling with fullbacks to create space for gifted technicians while still managing to sometimes score himself might not be fashionable, but it is sure as hell effective.

When footage of 16-year old Gaoussou Traor茅‘s performances for Huesca‘s youth and then B team surfaced on YouTube, scouts across Europe started to take notice of a striker cut from a similar mould. PSG‘s scout Luca Cattani reportedly demanded that the French giants look at the young Spaniard immediately. Ultimately his muddy boots and combative style was considered too primitive for the bourgeois Parisians. Real Madrid reportedly made an offer for the young prospect via email while Juventus manager Mauricio Pochettino mentioned Traor茅 by name in a press conference during the summer. He said he liked what he saw.

It wasn’t until “GT,” as he has quickly been dubbed by his teammates, met personally with Fernando Teixid贸 that a match was made in heaven.

Teixid贸 is known to be a magnetic figure. All impassioned zeal in the technical area and when facing the media, but quietly sensitive privately, always keen to meet the families and parents of his young players to explain that joining Rayo Vallecano is more than a footballing commitment, it’s a social and moral one too.

A 16-year old Spanish striker of north-west African descent draws immediate and understandable comparisons to be drawn with Barcelona superstar Ansu Fati. The level of potential, playing position and heritage aside however, Gaoussou Traor茅 is a completely different player.

The Alvaro Morata comparison is more accurate in a footballing sense. Real Madrid veteran Karim Benzema is another.

Can Traor茅 live up to his early promise? As a 拢1million capture he certainly represents a low risk move for Rayo.

Personally, I think they’ve unearthed an incredible gem.

Gaoussou Traor茅. Remember the name!

Tom Phillips for theangrylinesmen


Thanks for reading.

FM Stag

La Sombra – 6 – You can never go too far

This is post six of a wider series. To instead start at post one, please click here.

Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.

Carl Hagedorn for theangrylinesmen reviews another nail-biting season at Madrid’s perpetual underdogs Rayo Vallecano for your reading fmpleasure.


Another year has passed if you can believe it. It’s July 2023 and just over two years since I was last tasked by my employer to cover Madrid’s “poor but proud” Rayo Vallecano.

In May 2021, I sat (and eventually stood and applauded) in Mirandes stadium, witnessing the heart-stopping end to Fernando Teixid贸‘s first season in charge of Rayo, resulting in the most unlikely of promotions from LaLiga 2.

Suffice it to say, although not following Rayo’s maiden campaign of the Teixid贸 era in LaLiga in any official capacity as a journalist last year, I’d caught the bug. There is something about the passionate Bukaneros, all the political gusto and outlandish displays of anti-establishment. Also the golden thread of humility that runs through the core of the team and the Vallecas community which stops just short of the club ownership regime. It got me.

Although, despite that final observation, now that times have changed and the club is currently massively profitable (more on this later), the tension between fans and majority owner Ra煤l Mart铆n Presa has certainly mellowed over the last 36 months.

With El Rayo ending last year with an incredible 6th place finish, Teixid贸 and co had certainly set the bar high moving into his third year in charge.

How did the team perform when juggling a hectic LaLiga calendar alongside the usual domestic cup obligations and the challenge of the UEFA Europa League?

Let’s find out.

The players

Heading into the 22/23 season, Teixid贸 had strengthened the team, namely with four first team players.

Nemanja Radoja slotted elegantly into the defensive midfield three (free transfer from Levante) and provided experience and maturity to a team lacking in LaLiga minutes. Tiago Ara煤jo, an exciting young wing back (free transfer from Benfica) showed glimpses of exciting attacking flair in his 15 appearances (11 from the bench) and is definitely one to watch in future. Thijme Verheijen (拢650,000 from VVV-Venlo) is a tricky number 9 with a keen eye for goal, but mainly played understudy to last year’s FIFA U21 World Player of the Year Anto帽铆n, who unfortunately didn’t live up to his own high expectations. He had bagged 42 goals in the previous two campaigns but only managed 7 strikes in this his third and final season on loan from Granada.

A steady influence, two promising youngsters and a powerful forward set to alter Teixid贸’s tactical identity.

It was the fourth and final signing Felix Platte (拢550,000 from Darmstadt) who proved the most tactically impactful for Rayo Vallecano in the 22/23 campaign.

The deeper of the two striking roles in Teixid贸’s signature 4-3-1-2 had previously most often been filled by a robust and industrious forward, such as Swede Astrit Selmani or nomadic Argentinian Jonathan Calleri. Calleri actually left Vallecas during the current campaign for Guangzhou in the Chinese Super League for a club record fee rising to 拢8million, and I can’t help but think it was a bit of a masterstroke from Rayo’s Peruvian manager. With Felix Platte‘s height and power a new weapon in the Rayo arsenal, it signalled a shift in system.

January 2023 saw the arrival of club record signing Eden Kartsev (拢3.3million from Maccabi Tel Aviv) and the Israeli’s unveiling was a true symbol that times have really changed (financially) at Rayo. The club’s previous record signing had been Elvis Bolic from Fenerbahce, costing 拢1.8million some twenty years earlier in 2003.

Rayo’s record 拢3.3m signing sandwiched between two promising youngsters.

The January 2023 window also saw the arrival of Slack’s Scandinavian favourite Albert Braut Tj氓land and Brazil’s teenage defender Sammuel. Ultimately both were loaned out for development game time, but looked promising in their brief appearances in Madrid before their temporary moves.

Below was the system and line-up deployed most often by Fernando Teixid贸 this year:

Special credit must go to Santi Comesa帽a, a career-long central midfielder who has successfully and impressively adapted to his new role as first choice right-back.

Performance-wise, the plot below tells it’s own story of the 22/23 campaign. Dot size is minutes played. Attacking Contribution considers xG per 90 and per shot, goals, assists, key passes and chances created per 90 minutes. Defensive Performance looks at interceptions, tackles and headers won per 90 minutes and their success ratio.

Young playmaker 脰mer Beyaz is starting to show his creative prowess and may very well be used more regularly moving into the 23/24 campaign. Fran Garc铆a shows his consistent efficiency at both ends of the pitch, while captain 脫scar Valent铆n‘s tough tackling in midfield is evident from his location on the graph.

The source.

The tactics

As per above, the arrival of German striker Felix Platte signalled a change in Fernando Teixid贸‘s strategy. Not his shape, as the Peruvian sticks almost religiously to his narrow 4-3-1-2 formation; with the wing backs crucial to both attacking and defensive phases, while a creative number 10 looks to deploy ‘la pausa’ to unlock defences with critically timed through passes. But instead how the team looks to attack.

The difference maker?

With a six foot three powerhouse now in the ranks, however, Teixid贸 now was asking his team to regularly look for his aerial prowess as part of quick counter attacks, whether either via early ‘crosses’ from deeper on the pitch, in what can be best described as in a Kevin de Bruyne-esque fashion, or from lofted balls through the middle for the big German to nod on for a more diminutive and fleet-footed strike partner.

I could go on, but the timely release of this wonderful video by Tifo Football covers the foundations of these tactical concepts perfectly.

Career-long central midfielder Santi Comesa帽a‘s retraining as a right-back provided further composure and creativity in a narrow system, while more so than in previous years, Emiliano Vel谩zquez was asked to push forward slightly as a ball-playing centre back, which allowed the central midfield three to push into slightly higher positions to support the regularly deployed pivot into a quick counter attack, in an otherwise low-tempo, patient, short-passing side.

Example:

The system in action.

Unfortunately for Teixid贸, the rewards of these brave new tactical choices had their risks. They usually do.

In the 21/22 campaign, Rayo scored 71 goals, conceding 54. In the 22/23 campaign this was reduced to 65 scored and increased to 64 conceded. With the talismanic Anto帽铆n‘s goal tally dropping from 20 to 7 vs the year before, key central midfielder Eden Kartsev only arriving in January, ultimately disrupting a settled lineup, coupled with the addition of continental football; it was only natural that performances couldn’t meet the heady heights of the year before. Or could they?

The performances

Cut to the chase, Rayo Vallecano finished 7th in LaLiga. Although missing out on Europa League football for the following year, El Rayo will make their debut in the UEFA Europa Conference League in 23/24.

Although 6th looked a certainty at one point, a resurgent Valencia sneaked into the final Europa League spot on the final day. Final day drama is a hallmark of Rayo Vallecano, it seems.

The difference this year for Rayo was although they managed some memorable wins (5-1 against an abject Alav茅s, 5-1 vs Villarreal and 5-2 against an incredibly overperforming Almer铆a side), when Teixid贸’s side were outgunned by a bigger rival, they were routinely destroyed, rather than simply outscored. A 4-1 loss to Valencia, a 5-0 defeat against Madrid rivals Atl茅ti, 4-1 away to Sevilla, 4-0 away to Real Madrid, the list goes on.

This should provide food for thought for Fernando Teixid贸, as although dogmatic and principled football can at times be a joy to behold (see Marcelo Bielsa‘s Leeds for the best example), the lack of a plan B can come back to humiliate teams with massively painful defeats (see Marcelo Bielsa‘s Leeds for the best example).

The UEFA Europa League journey was a welcome distraction for Rayo this year. An incredibly tight Group D resulted in a table-topping performance.

The unlikely group winners.
Famous victories against Dynamo Kyiv and Glasgow Rangers will live long in the memory.

Unfortunately the Second Knockout Round proved a bridge too far, and Ajax dispatched of the plucky Rayistas in a 2-0 victory that seems routine on paper, but in reality was anything but. Although Ajax had the lion’s share of possession (61%), Rayo actually managed 10 attempts on goal, generating 1.37 xG, where the Amsterdam giants only generated 0.92 xG from their 13 efforts. A closer run thing than the scoreline suggests.

The Bukaneros and their beloved community club left Estadio Vallecas with their heads held high that drizzly evening in March.

A fifth round (effectively the quarter finals) exit to Real Madrid in the domestic cup held no shame and overall I think Fernando Teixid贸 can again be proud of his team’s season, all things considered.

What’s next?

Looking ahead to the 23/24 campaign, Rayo Vallecano fans will be hoping for more of the same. If a little pragmatism can find it’s way into Teixid贸’s tactical decision-making when facing a team that are clearly cut from a finer cloth, and any new additions can hit the ground running, it could yield another memorable campaign.

Building work starts soon on the Rayo Vallecano Stadium. Imaginatively titled, I know. This is a long overdue new home for Rayo, complete with 25,000 seats. It is scheduled to be ready some time in 2026, so ground-sharing with Getafe is the awkward solution in the interim.

Success in Teixid贸’s first three years at the helm has created a level of expectation far beyond how high Rayo Vallecano should on paper be aiming, but don’t we all love an underdog who upsets the odds?

LaLiga salary expenditure 22/23.

With (free) pre-contract deals already signed with Getafe‘s dependable Uruguayan midfielder Mauro Arambarri and ex-Arsenal ‘wonderkid’ defender Konstantinos Mavropanos, things are looking brighter than ever. Anto帽铆n sadly finally returns to parent club Granada, but we always knew that his permanent capture would be out of Rayo’s financial reach.

The Uruguayan looks set to be a sensible and steady addition, but can the ex Arsenal defender finally realise his potential at 25 in Madrid?

Two promising youngsters have arrived too, so may be names to remember, but only time will tell.

“It has to be a hard life in Iceland when you are looking like this at the age of 18” – Ond艡ej Rensie.

I now count myself as a bona fide Rayista. If I could offer one piece of advice to fellow Rayo fans; it would be to echo the words of another small anti-establishment representative, and to enjoy it while it lasts. No, not a comparable football team, instead it’s 1986’s Ferris Bueller. Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

Carl Hagedorn for theangrylinesmen.

Thanks for reading.

FM Stag

La Sombra – 5 – Unquestioned answers

This is post five of a wider series. To instead start at post one, please click here.

鈥淚f you thought season one’s final day promotion drama was edge-of-your-seat stuff, the end of season two was every bit as chaotic.鈥

It’s Sunday the 15th of May 2022, approaching midnight.

The Vallecas sky may be dark, but the stars are shining brightly.

The Rayo Vallecano bus has not long parked outside the stadium after the lengthy return journey from the final league match of the season. An unfortunate 2-0 defeat away at Sevilla.

As ever, representatives of the Bukaneros join these large end of season meetings between the board, management team and supporters groups. All flags, songs and political gusto in full attendance. Tonight’s get together feels a little different, however.

The corridors of Estadio de Vallecas are trembling.

In a scene that evokes memories of the powerful opening of 2005’s Walk the Line where impatient Folsom Prison inmates clap and stomp awaiting the arrival of Joaquin Phoenix’s incredible Johnny Cash, the large gathering of club officials and associates restlessly anticipate Fernando Teixid贸. He has not yet emerged from the manager’s office since arriving back in Madrid.

The music may be booming and the inhabitants dressed in their finest attire, but the champagne bottles remain unpopped. But not for long…

Not Fernando Teixid贸. Or Vallecas.

The room erupts into applause as Fernando Teixid贸 and club captain 脫scar Valent铆n join the swell of Rayo staff and most passionate followers, taking their seats at the front of the room alongside club owner Ra煤l Mart铆n Presa. Presa looks content, giddy. Could the last twelve months be a turning point in the relationship between he and the club? Let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

“I want to begin with thanking you all for your loyal support.” Teixido’s booming voice cuts through the music as the room quietens a little.

“A lot has changed in the near two years I have been in Vallecas. But the most important things have stayed exactly the same. Humility. Integrity. Nobility. Somos pobres con orgullo!”

The room erupts again as those in attendance rise to their feet.

The excitement has reached fever pitch at Rayo Vallecano. It’s to be expected.

The LaLiga new boys have only just gone and finished in their highest league position in their 98-year history and qualified for Europe!


Season two (21/22) is over. Rayo Vallecano’s first campaign back in LaLiga is finished, and if you thought season one’s final day promotion drama was edge-of-your-seat stuff, the end of season two was every bit as chaotic.

Before we get there though, let’s rewind a bit.

Season review

Heading into the 21/22 campaign, only 26-year old attacking midfielder Zsolt Kalm谩r joined in addition to those discussed at the end of post four. The Hungarian cost a measly 拢120,000, and paid that back immediately with an exceptional volleyed goal from outside the box on his LaLiga debut, a pace-setting 3-1 victory against Athletic Club.

Despite his lack of pace and power, Zsolt has some incredible attributes in all the key places to be a solid number 10 in a hard working and compact team.

This was Teixido’s most regularly chosen 11 in his second season. Fran Garc铆a and Iv谩n Martos made their loan deals permanent from Real Madrid and Almer铆a respectively, alongside the new additions. Garc铆谩 would have been first choice left back, but missed a decent chunk of the season due to injury.

In a key switch from season one, I did indeed sacrifice the Poacher in favour of a Pressing Forward. It worked!
Chicco flexed between the Regista and Half Back roles depending on the circumstances. He was equally capable in both.

The squad and system were set. This year should of course have been a real battle against relegation, partly due to the overwhelming financial gulf between Rayo Vallecano and our competition.

Just a 23rd of our Madrid rivals’ financial power.

It wasn’t though. Results were a lot better than expected.

A dull September can’t take away from an incredible first half of the campaign.

In some of the most entertaining games I’ve seen on FM21 so far, we defeated Atl茅tico Madrid (a tight 1-0), Real Betis (a thrilling 6-3) and even managed a nail-biting comeback against Barcelona to gain a point (3-3 draw in the dying seconds).

When we hit the halfway point of 19 league games played, we actually sat 5th in the table, and had only lost three games (the joint lowest in LaLiga, tied with Barcelona). All three of the losses were within the opening five fixtures.

I completed some squad analysis half way through the season, just to check that my logic for player selection from the in-game eye test was being backed up by the numbers. Midfielder Javi Mu帽oz (remember him from his last day penalty miss against us that had a major hand in us going up last year?) stood out as someone who in his fleeting appearances, seemed to be much more creative than I had given him credit for. In the second half of the season he eventually ousted Santi Comesa帽a to take the spot at the left side of the midfield three, as a segundo volante. Although his numbers naturally dipped as his minutes ramped up, he still ended the season as our highest key passer per 90 (6.62) and provider of assists per 90 (1.14). A great return from a free transfer who started the season on the bench.

Our chief creative force.
Click to have a closer look. Scatter plots seem to be the current thing.

2022 kicked off with a bang. January and February were the months that made me sit up and realise that we were really not in a relegation battle, and in fact, were pushing up towards the other end of the table.

A horrible March threatened to de-rail our great start, but in the end, it all came down to the final day.

Again.

Not as strong as the first half, but a brilliant campaign for a newly promoted side.

The final day

The last day of the season was another nerve-wracking conclusion to a campaign. Almost like El Rayo don’t know how to do it any other way.

Three clubs all capable of capturing 6th on the final day.

To remain in the continental qualification places; absurdly with one game to go, all Rayo had to do (haha) was hope that Athletic Club didn’t beat Real Betis, Almer铆谩 didn’t beat Real Sociedad or if either or both of them did, to better their results away to Sevilla, which was a titanic ask. Especially when victory for Sevilla would keep Valencia out of the top four and secure UEFA Champions League football for the 22/23 campaign.

With 70 minutes gone, unfortunately Sevilla led Rayo by one goal to nil, courtesy of an incredible (deliberate or otherwise) goal direct from a corner by the tricky Rony Lopes.

Unbelievable.

Unimaginably, both Athletic Club and Almer铆a were also 1-0 down, meaning that we were clinging to 6th place by a single point.

In the end, it was even closer. Both of those teams managed to equalise, to pull back to 1-1. Munir rounded off a great Sevilla performance for 2-0, to secure Champions League football for Los Palanganas. Rayo hearts were in mouths patiently waiting for the final whistle in all three games. A single goal from Athletic or Almer铆a and the European dream was over.

When it eventually came, Fernando Teixid贸 collapsed on the turf again, all emotion left out there on the pitch. Many of the players did too, as it ended in the most unlikely glory.

Rayo Vallecano finish 6th in LaLiga and secure UEFA Europa League football next season. I cannot believe it.

What does this mean?

An outrageous first season in Spain’s top tier.
Rayo’s best ever league position in their near 100 year history.

Paco J茅mez took Rayo Vallecano to eighth in 2013, but the club were not allowed to compete in Europe due to pending bankruptcy. Typical.

Rayo haven’t played continental football in some 20+ years. The 2000-2001 campaign under Juande Ramos ended in finishing 9th in the league, but Rayo won the Fair Play award and qualified for the UEFA Cup. They actually managed to get to the Quarter Finals, where they met Spanish rivals Alav茅s, only to lose to the eventual finalists.

Liverpool defeated Alav茅s in the final that year, with a memorable 5-4 victory due to a golden (own) goal. Those were the days of true drama.

On a separate note, Ra煤l Mart铆n Presa must be feeling the warmth of success, as the below will require considerable investment.

Massive news for our tiny club.

Best Player

The best player of 21/22 has to be on-loan Granada striker Anto帽铆n. A lot of players are built for the second tier of a league. How many times have we seen players in the English Championship look like world beaters only to struggle when they step up to the Premier League? The same applies in Spain, and certainly does to Anto帽铆n’s 23-goal strike partner from last year, 脕lvaro Garc铆a. Garc铆a currently sits in Rayo’s B squad, begging for the Vallecas exit, but is proving tough to shift.

Not Anto帽铆n. His 20 LaLiga strikes after his exceptional campaign last season made him the second highest scorer in the entire division in this one (behind Celta Vigo’s 21-goal Santi Mina). He also followed in the illustrious footsteps of Matthijs de Ligt and Kylian Mbapp茅 to win the FIFA Best U21 Men’s Player of the Year award. Somehow Granada have allowed me to loan him for a third season, so thankfully our star striker will remain with us for at least one more year.

Great achievement.
The star man.

Looking to the future

34 and 35 year old midfield duo Oscar Trejo and Mario Su谩rez are both leaving in the summer at the expiry of their contracts, with the latter being replaced by experienced Levante midfielder Nemanja Radoja on a free. A youthful striking option, Thijme Verheijen, joins from VVV Venlo for 拢650k. Despite Teixid贸’s previous faith in Dar铆o Poveda, a hip injury and only 363 minutes of first team action has left fans underwhelmed.

With the addition of a continental campaign to consider, more reinforcements may yet be needed.

I have high hopes for both. Although the striker needs Thijme to develop. (You can blame CJ for that one).

Nothing exciting happened in this year’s youth intake, but Presa finally agreed to invest a little in the facilities, so perhaps we’ll be third time lucky and get some decent prospects in next year.

Mu帽oz still ended the season with a brilliant number of attacking contributions per 90, while it was good to see my wingbacks contributing at both ends of the pitch (the four players in the top right quadrant). First choice CB pairing (Velazquez and Ely) clearly the best performing central defensive pair. Ideal.

Like in the last post, I’ll leave you with the end of season review screenshots, and we can pick up in season 3, and see how we go about managing a European campaign and trying to repeat our league performance all at the same time.

Click on the first image below and you can flick through it, if you so desire.

See you in season three!

Thanks for reading.

FM Stag

La Sombra – 4 – The segunda conspiracy

This is post four of a wider series. To instead start at post one, please click here.

“Fernando Teixid贸 crouches sternly in his technical area like Marcelo Bielsa has possessed both his legs and facial expression.”

Sunday the 30th of May 2021.

The incredible events of this day will be written into Rayo Vallecano folklore.

Very rarely can glory occur without controversy, however. Especially whenever Rayo are involved.

The exceptional occasion was captured first hand by seasoned football journalist Carl Hagedorn for popular website theangrylinesmen, who was there on the day.


“The Segunda Conspiracy,” by Carl Hagedorn.

I arrived at Mirandes’ stadium Municipal Anduva very early in the morning of the last Sunday of May 2021, when the streets tracking the Ebro river were still fairly quiet. I wanted to get set up ahead of time, ideally including grabbing another famously rich coffee from Cafeteria Anduva. To truly soak up the atmosphere on what would be a day of celebration for the home team’s loyal support, regardless of the result. It was the final day of a mercurial and exhausting LaLiga Smartbank campaign for both clubs who were currently preparing for today’s contest. As I sunk my teeth into the delicious pastisset I had managed to pick up on the journey to the 5,000 seater ground, I had no idea what would later unfold in front of my eyes on this so far fairly unremarkable Sunday.

Mirandes had flirted with relegation all season, but very recently were confirmed as just mathematically clear of the risk of relegation, largely thanks to a pivotal Erik Jirka hat trick in a 4-1 away win at Real Oviedo at the beginning of May. Rayo Vallecano on the other hand were the unlikely current residents of the division’s top spot on 82 points. El Rayo sat ahead of Mallorca by a single goal, who were set to play Albacete in 5th in a home tie in this final round of fixtures. Espanyol sat 3rd, just three points off the second automatic promotion slot. The city of Barcelona’s second team were going away to face already relegated Logro帽茅s, but needed at least a three goal swing and the other results involving the teams above them in the table to go their way, in order to avoid the pain of the playoffs.

It was all to play for.

With the exception of three losses in the fives games played in a disappointing April, Rayo Vallecano’s form in 2021 has been sensational. There is good reason that the Peruvian tactician in the Rayo hotseat, Fernando Teixid贸, has won two of the four Manager of the Month awards presented so far this year. His tightly disciplined narrow counter-attacking Rayistas have been frustrating opponents in both boxes. The deadly striking duo of Anto帽铆n and 脕lvaro Garc铆a have been notching up the goals (22 and 23 strikes respectively). 21 year old Fran Garc铆a has been continuing to deliver both key passes and timely assists during his impressive loan spell from Real Madrid, whether he plays in a ball-winning midfield role or in his more familiar left back berth. The veteran Mario Su谩rez has been metronomic as Rayo’s palanca (‘lever’), averaging almost 70 completed passes per 90 minutes played.

A reminder of the financial gulf in Spain’s second tier.

Rayo Vallecano’s development in Teixid贸’s short spell in charge has been impressive, especially in the face of their 拢6.8m annual salary commitment. Although economically dwarfed by the spending reach of division rivals like Girona (拢11.5m), Legan茅s (拢12.9m) and the bookies’ choice for promotion, Espanyol (拢21.8m salary bill per annum, if you can believe it), money has never been a key driver in Vallecas, though arguably, neither has competitive success.

The first 87 minutes of the final matchday passed largely without notable event. My mind started wandering back to the delicious pastisset I had eaten earlier while unpacking my bags at the functional, yet no frills Ibis Hotel I was checked into nearby. I found myself checking my watch as often as I was checking the other scores across the country. Anything to avoid the relatively drab affair unfolding in front of me.

Meanwhile…

Elsewhere in Spanish football, Zinedine Zidane’s inspired Real Madrid team had already been crowned LaLiga champions before the final day, 14 points clear of an over-performing Valencia, who were sat comfortably in second place with ex-Watford boss Javi Gracia at the helm. The soon to be unemployed Ronald Koeman’s Barcelona were destined to finish third, their 3-0 final day demolition of Real Sociedad ultimately meaningless in the final table.

Little did I realise that the real drama would take place at the top of the second tier in Spain, right here at the Municipal Anduva, and still to come in these final few minutes.

Mallorca are being held 0-0 by Albacete, but that’s how that tie would finish. Espanyol are holding up their end of the automatic promotion bargain, striker Javi Puado applauded off the pitch, being replaced after smashing a lovely volley past the hapless Roberto Santamar铆a in the Logro帽茅s goal to fire his side 3-0 ahead in their match.

Incredibly yet somehow predictably, Rayo Vallecano are falling at the final hurdle. Currently 1-0 down to Mirandes with minutes to go (an Erik Jirka placed shot in the 63rd minute), the usually reliable Peru international Luis Adv铆ncula hauls down Mirandes‘ tricky French winger N盲is Djouahra yards away from the referee, right on the edge of his own box. Furious players from both sides surround referee Rub茅n Barrera as he reviews the incident for what feels like a lifetime via VAR.

The result? A penalty kick to Mirandes, and a straight red card for Rayo Vallecano’s seething right-back. It is all going wrong for El Rayo.

The most heartbreaking possible scenario for Rayo and their travelling Bukaneros with only minutes to play.

Fans around the stadium hold their breath. Rayo boss Fernando Teixid贸 crouches sternly in his technical area like Marcelo Bielsa has possessed both his legs and facial expression. With a team so stretched by limited resources and with very few players, getting hit this hard so late in the plot would surely be impossible to psychologically recover from, especially in time to go again for the playoffs in a couple of days. It is now or never.

Mirandes’ on-loan attacking midfielder Javi Mu帽oz, 26, looks terrified as he is instructed to take the spot kick by his manager Jos茅 Alberto. With the result of the kick being pretty much meaningless for Mirandes, why does the playmaker look so besieged by terror and confused by this decision?

Oh Javi!

His shot is fired down to Rayo’s goalkeeper Stole Dimitrievski’s left, but saved by the stretched limbs of the Macedonian stopper! Mu帽oz stares down at the turf in horror, yet he must know that the fault is all his own.

Teixid贸’s legs and lungs suddenly find power again, as he springs to his feet in the technical area, roaring at his players that there is simply no time for congratulation, and a 1-0 defeat is not enough to go up. His Dutch assistant manager John Metgod’s waving arms and screaming instructions mirror that of his passionate gaffer.

Ninety seconds later and there is a Rayo free kick to be taken, right by the sideline on the opposite side from where I am perched on the edge of my seat, high in the stands, not too far into the Mirandes half.

With every attack-minded Rayo player pushing forward, it is industrial centre-back Emiliano Vel谩zquez’s job to hoof the ball towards the six yard box and pray. The 27 year old Uruguay cap hasn’t yet registered a single assist to his name this season.

Anto帽铆n rises above Pablo Trigueros (a centre-back who genuinely has ‘4’ for jumping reach) and nods home to make it 1-1 and seal the LaLiga Smartbank title for not just the players of Rayo Vallecano but all the people of Vallecas!

Unbelievable drama in the match’s final moments.
The final table.

In the most incredible final 90 seconds of a season I have witnessed since the ‘Aguero 93:20’ moment, Rayo Vallecano will compete in the top tier of Spanish football next season. Automatic promotion by a single point. Champions by a single goal!

I rise to my feet and start to applaud completely involuntarily as the travelling Bukaneros go wild and Teixid贸 slumps to his knees in his technical area. This wasn’t just a victory for a football team, but a memorable milestone for an entire hard-working community.

I shake my head in disbelief, grinning from ear too ear as I start scribbling down notes that later formed the beginning of this article.

How could I forget?

Oh. I almost forgot the most shocking part of the story.

The reason Javi Mu帽oz was so perplexed as to why he was chosen to take the 90th minute penalty for Mirandes that ultimately led to the team dropping two points while seeing Rayo Vallecano promoted?

The reason why the events of today are as controversial as they are memorable?

It’s because around two months ago, Mu帽oz signed a pre-contract deal to leave Mirandes and his parent club Alav茅s to sign for a new club ahead of next season, when his contract expires just 30 days from today.

Who had he already agreed to join in the summer?

Rayo Vallecano, of course.

Coincidence?

Let the segunda division conspiracy theories begin.

Carl Hagedorn for theangrylinesmen.


Wow. What a first season.

If you are wondering, Carl Hagedorn is another fictional character I dreamt up while writing previous blog series, and he always seems to come sniffing around, whenever footballing scandal occurs.

I am of course ultimately delighted that we managed to seal promotion in the first season, but although the financial situation at the club will of course get better as a result, I have a sneaking suspicion that the economic gulf between Rayo and our league rivals will be a monumental chasm instead of an annoying gap next year. Clever recruitment and key tactical tweaks will be required if there is to be any chance of survival.

The Rayo Vallecano team of 2020-2021.
The manager’s record so far.

On the topic of recruitment, you already know about the controversial Javi Mu帽oz free transfer and the hunt for Atl茅ti B striker Dari贸 Poveda, but with promotion secured and the exit of 19 (yes, nineteen) players at the end of June, I was able to go to market and sign up a whole host of players. I ordinarily hate signing a high number of players in a single window, but as I’ve touched on before, it’s absolutely necessary to initially boost this threadbare Rayo squad, especially ahead of a massive step up to LaLiga.

I will look to maintain our tactical identity as much as I possibly can, sticking with the narrow 4-3-1-2 system that got us promoted. I need to sensibly change a few things though. Namely:

  1. Sacrifice the poacher in favour of a pressing forward, ideally a nasty Diego Costa-esque bastard who will chase every ball and kick defenders. I think I’ve recruited one. More on that in a minute.
  2. Sacrifice the creativity of a central regista in favour of a half-back who drops much deeper to help alongside the two centre backs. With my rigid commitment to fielding an inventive number 10, which I will continue to do, I think it would be daft to play two playmakers when we are bound to be up against a potential battering, week in-week out.
The new ‘palanca’ tactical variation.

As well as Leonardo Ulloa and Beb茅 already having left in January and those 19 players exiting at the end of their contracts in June, I also moved on inconsistent attacking midfielder Isi Palaz贸n to Real Zaragoza for 拢1.1million. This breathing room allowed me to sign 11 new players in total, not including the crucial renewal of striker Anto帽铆n’s loan deal for another year.

This is a number of incoming bodies wildly higher than I have ever really signed in one window before for any club, and I definitely won’t be looking to repeat it in future. A necessary evil, in this case.

The opposite of Rayo Vallecano.

Only three of the incoming players cost actual money.

High-performing Rayo loanees Iv谩n Martos (Almer铆a) and Fran Garc铆谩 (Real Madrid) make their moves permanent for 拢850k and 拢350k respectively. A Swedish striker Astrit Selmani joins from Varbergs BoIS in Sweden for 拢240k. He is going to be my “nasty bastard” striker, and the exceptionally eagle-eyed among you may recognise him from the very early days of my European Journeyman save last year, where he was a talismanic forward for my Varbergs side back in FM20. Click to open any of the images up fullscreen, then click ‘back’ to return to the article.

Two impressive loanees and a familiar face.

The other eight players arrive on free transfers and are pictured below. Key to highlight are Bulgarian midfielder Yanis Karabelyov, who was recommended to me by fellow angry Scotsman, FM Pressure, 27 year old Argentinian striker Jonathan Calleri, experienced Brazilian defender Rodrigo Ely and 23 year old defensive midfielder Juli谩n Chicco, all the way from my beloved Boca Juniors.

I wanted to improve our squad depth, specifically with players with some bite and guile . I think I have managed that.
The final four new joiners, including controversial penalty miss hero Javi Mu帽oz, and longtime Teixid贸 target Dari贸 Poveda.

Please let me know on Twitter any thoughts you have on the absurd end to the season, Rayo’s prospects in LaLiga next year, or any feedback or predictions about the host of new faces who have joined this summer.

It’s time for me to go, meet and integrate the new look squad, play some friendlies and instil some tactical familiarity with our new, more cautious approach ahead of season two. I’ll leave you with FM21’s neat new end of season review feature and a few extra screenshots. Click on the first image below and you can flick through it, if you so desire.

See you in season two!

Thanks for reading.

FM Stag