There was less than a week before the start of the campaign that Espanyol was going to face for the fifth time in their history in the Second Division, and their bench was still empty. But Rufete, the club’s sporting director, was clear about who was going to be the leader of the project to return the team to the elite: Vicente Moreno, the coach who on his resume had three promotions, one with Nàstic and two with Mallorca. “I had to get in this car. I want to be in that resurgence of Espanyol, because by doing things well there is enormous potential, “said Moreno on the day of his presentation. The 46-year-old Valencian coach signed for three seasons and sent a message: his future was not tied to the Second.
“The main key to the promotion has been the coach,” emphasizes captain David López; “I had a very difficult role. We were a sunken team, with a gray cloud on top of a lot of negativity ”. The preseason was not easy for Moreno. Not only did he have to pump up locker room morale, but he didn’t even know which players he was going to count on. “We had to make a mix of experienced and young footballers, plus Vicente’s ambition and work. It was a formula that was going to work, ”explains Rufete. The sports director was questioned about the configuration of the squad that fell, but no one doubts his merit by betting on Moreno and convincing the old guard to stay in Cornellà. “We analyzed and understood the errors. Not only did you have to have ambition, it was also important to be humble in order to return to First Division, ”he says. Espanyol had a wage bill of 45.34 million, the highest in the category, above that of Mallorca (second in the ranking, 19.05), Almería (third, 27.58) and Leganés (fourth, 26.70).
Money that allowed him to preserve his spine: Diego López (39 years old), David López (31), Darder (27), Embarba (29) and Raúl de Tomás (26). “There is no better proof of the confidence that the footballer feels than when he enters the field and everything comes out. Vicente improved the level of all those who were last year. Darder’s case was the most relevant, ”says David López. The midfielder, a substitute in the first two games, has been fundamental in the promotion. Add six goals and three assists. “The quarry was also important. Players like Puado, Melamed and Pedrosa. Not only did they participate, but they were consolidated ”, says Rufete. Puado has played 33 games and has 11 goals and eight assists; Melamed, 28 games, with five targets and three goal passes; Pedrosa, defender, 28 games, one goal and four assists.
“Nobody expected anything from these guys and there you have them. This is also Vicente’s merit ”, insists David López. The dressing room recognizes his treatment with the homegrown players as well as his hand to involve a difficult player like Raúl de Tomás. “Love with RDT is reciprocal,” reveals Moreno. Far from walking through Second in an idyllic campaign, Espanyol had to overcome doubts about the team when between matchday 22 and 29, the team got off the direct promotion because it only added 10 points out of 24 possible.
“Now we are going to win all the games,” predicted Moreno after the draw against Mirandés on matchday 29. Since then, Espanyol won seven of the last nine games and sealed the promotion against Zaragoza on Saturday. “You have to highlight the players. David’s talk before the game was very emotional, “explained the coach. “It was my first year as first captain. It was not easy to take so much responsibility and keep the locker room together in a year in which meetings could not be held. We managed to play games in training sessions and look for activities to make pineapple, ”says López. The captain did not fail, neither did Rufete to make the group, much less Vicente Moreno. Espanyol returned to Primera and celebrated it yesterday in Cornellà with some 1,800 fans who came to pay tribute to the players from outside the RCDE Stadium.