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“The most competitive and exciting division in the world”. An often-uttered phrase to describe a noteworthy football league in England which is not the Premier League. Yes, this famous annual description is firmly applied to describe the EFL Championship, English football’s second tier. Despite not being a top flight league, many consider it European football’s unofficial sixth best league owing to its competitiveness, list of famous club participants and amount of money spent by its member clubs.
Spain’s second tier Segunda Division lags considerably behind the Championship when it comes to the spending power of its participants. However, in terms of famous club members, being a battle royal marathon where promotion to the top flight is well-earned and excitement, the 2020/21 edition of Segunda could be one of its best ever. Here are several reasons why you should follow it.
Espanyol in Segunda
The most noteworthy story of Segunda Division in 2020/21 is the presence of RCD Espanyol. Hugh Grant, Andie MacDowell, Kristin Scott Thomas and John Hannah all famously starred in Four Weddings and a Funeral. A 2019/20 Espanyol reproduction of the famous 1994 British film saw David Gallego, Pablo Machin, Abelardo and Francisco Rufete as the cast. All four names managed the Barcelona-based club throughout the season, with the former three all being sacked at some point throughout and the latter fourth not staying on into 2020/21. Unsurprisingly, Periquitos (Budgerigars) were relegated at season’s end. Four Divorces and a Funeral perhaps a more apt description.
2020/21 is the first time since 1993/94 that Espanyol will play in Segunda Division. Despite the 2000 Copa del Rey being Espanyol’s last major trophy, what might surprise many is Espanyol’s historic ranking. Despite never having won La Liga in its 89 seasons of existence, the club is ranked 7th historically in La Liga using criteria such as seasons spent in the top flight and number of 2nd to 6th placed finishes during a club’s history. Espanyol’s 85 seasons spent in La Liga makes them tied joint fourth with Valencia for most seasons spent in La Liga. A tally surpassed by only Real Madrid, Barcelona and Athletic Bilbao. A comparative scenario in England would be Everton playing in the Championship.
After the annus horribilis of 2019/20, Espanyol and their Hong Kong-based 99.3% majority owners Rastar Group have made bold moves for a swift return to La Liga in 2020/21. Vicente Moreno, who took Real Mallorca from the third tier to La Liga in two seasons before failing to keep them up in 2019/20 was recently announced as new manager. Some of Espanyol’s star players, such as Marc Roca, Raul de Tomas and Leandro Cabrera could depart the club for sizeable transfer fees.
Whatever money raised from these sales will be added to relegation parachute payments that like relegated clubs from the Premier League, Espanyol are entitled to receive. Spain distributes its parachute payments for relegated clubs differently to England. In Spain, the amount given to each relegated club takes into account how long a club had been in La Liga prior to relegation and the broadcasting revenue amounts it had been making in La Liga.
A recent article reported that taking into account these factors, Espanyol will receive €30 million in parachute payment money. A fortune compared to fellow relegated La Liga clubs Leganes and Mallorca who receive €18 and €13 million respectively. Nothing is a guarantee in football, however, based on all the aforementioned information, Espanyol have to be an early favourite to win Segunda Division in 2020/21.
A nice variety of stories and strategies amongst Segunda’s promotion contenders in what should be a tight promotion race.
However, despite Espanyol having favourable conditions, recent trends do give the chasing pack hope that the Barcelona club will not run away with the Segunda championship. Nor are parachute payments dished out to La Liga’s three relegated clubs in 2019/20 a guarantee of an instant return to the big time. In both the 2017/18 and 2018/19 Segunda seasons, none of the three relegated La Liga clubs from the season prior won promotion back to the top flight. In the 2019/20 Segunda season, only SD Huesca, who were relegated from the 2018/19 La Liga managed to return to the top flight at the first attempt.
Equally, despite their status as favourites, there is a strong support cast to give Espanyol a run for their money. Most noteworthy, all of these contenders field a strong variety of different stories and strategies. Real Zaragoza are like the Leeds United of Segunda based on their historical performances and their average attendance of 21,911 for 2019/20. Having looked so good for automatic promotion for much of 2019/20, Zaragoza collapsed in the home straight and lost to eventually-promoted Elche in the play-offs. New manager Ruben Baraja will hope to lead the Aragonese, who boast Shinji Kagawa amongst their ranks back to the top flight in 2020/21.
The other two beaten sides in last-season’s play-offs Girona FC and UD Almeria should both be up challenging for promotion once more. Girona of course are part of City Football Group and narrowly missed out on an instant return to La Liga after losing in the play-off final to Elche. Almeria are owned by Saudi Arabian billionaire Turki Al-Sheikh and have already outspent everyone else in the league on new transfers with nearly €6 million worth of new signings so far. However, having gone through four managers in 2019/20 in an unsuccessful attempt to reach Spain’s top flight, current managerial incumbent Jose Gomes is in a very hot seat for 2020/21.
The other two relegated clubs alongside Espanyol should be competitive, however, whether they will join the promotion battle will remain open for debate. After veteran Mexican manager Javier Aguirre left Leganes after their narrow relegation from La Liga, the Madrid region club appointed Jose Luis Marti as his successor. Young 23 year-old defensive midfielder Luis Perea is Lega’s big signing so far, arriving from Osasuna for a fee of €3 million. However, the departure of influential midfielder Oscar Rodriguez, who struck 9 goals in 32 games for the club will need plugging. Mallorca, owned by Phoenix Suns owner Robert Sarver will have to adapt quickly to Segunda. The big blow is the departure of manager Vicente Moreno to fellow relegated outfit Espanyol. New incumbent 47 year-old manager Luis Garcia, very much a journeyman based on his managerial career so far will have big boots to fill at Estadi de Son Moix.
Other intriguing stories to follow should be how each of the other three Madrid or Madrid region-based sides with the exception of Leganes do. These three sides being Rayo Vallecano, a club with several recent seasons experience in La Liga, Alcorcon, now owned by Crystal Palace’s American co-owners David Blitzer and Josh Harris and Fuenlabrada, who narrowly missed out on the play-offs in 2019/20, their first ever season in Segunda. Finally, Tenerife and Las Palmas are always two sides whose progress is worth tracking. Especially as both are based in the biggest population centres of the Canary Islands and both have potential to win promotion to the top flight and establish themselves as steady La Liga clubs.
A nice geographical spread of clubs
Segunda’s representatives for 2020/21 have a nice and wide geographical spread, giving a feeling the whole of the nation is represented in the division. All but 4 (Cantabria, Basque Country, Navarre and Extremadura) of Spain’s 17 Autonomous Communities have a participating club in Segunda Division for 2020/21.
The strongest represented region is the Madrid Region (Comunidad de Madrid) with 4 clubs. Catalonia has 3 clubs. Andalusia, Asturias, Canary Islands and Castille & Leon each have 2 representatives. Finally, 1 club represents Aragon, Balearic Islands, Castille-La-Mancha, La Rioja, Murcia, Valencian Community and Galicia. The latter of these being responsible for a historic statistic. Galicia’s sole representative in Segunda, CD Lugo for the first time in their history are in a higher division than Deportivo de la Coruna, after the 1999/00 La Liga champions were relegated to Spain’s third tier for 2020/21.
Two clubs 25 years old or younger just one step from La Liga
Another noteworthy thing about Segunda in 2020/21 is that two of its participants are clubs either 25 years of age or under. FC Cartagena, founded in 1995 have spent the majority of their existence in Spain’s third tier and won promotion back to the second tier for 2020/21, ending an eight season absence from the second tier.
UD Logrones, another club who won promotion this summer to Segunda on the other hand were only founded in 2009 and their existence is a source of controversy. The old club to represent the region of La Rioja, CD Logrones, folded in the summer of 2009 due to heavy accumulated debts. A club from the same region in the same summer, CD Varea were just celebrating winning promotion to the Spanish third tier. However, just after Varea celebrated, La Rioja-based businessman Felix Revuelta bought the licence of Varea, formed the current UD Logrones club and took Varea’s place in the Spanish third tier.
These incidents in the summer of 2009 meant CD Varea started again back down at the bottom of the Spanish pyramid. Some fans of the old defunct CD Logrones were also dissatisfied with the situation and formed a supporter-owned club SD Logrones, who have ascended the leagues and will play in Spain’s third tier for the first time in 2020/21. Like them or loathe them, however, UD Logrones, in just their 12th season of existence are just one promotion away from the top tier.
It must be stressed that both Cartagena or UD Logrones are expected to be down near the bottom of the standings and promotion to La Liga would be a very long shot for either. However, as Eibar’s ascension to and survival in La Liga has shown, anything truly is possible.
Finally, international breaks do not stop play
Finally, unlike in England’s Championship, which takes a week off when there are international breaks, Spain’s Segunda continues play. Full compliments of match days with no postponements offer football fans in Spain something to watch at certain times of the weekend when the national team are not playing. Equally, Segunda matches on an international break weekends are music to the ears of those who despise the continuous break-up of the club football season between September and November for the breaks.
As all aforementioned and much more demonstrates, Segunda Division 2020/21 is a league which you should keep an eye on and one which you can do without paying for a subscription. Yes, all regular Segunda Division fixtures are broadcast free of charge on YouTube for viewers in the UK and over 155 other countries. Check out Segunda when you can and you will discover a division which just like England’s Championship offers intrigue and stories in abundance.