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Girona, way out at the top of the Spanish League has a Guardiola in charge and the City Group owning the business
By Tony Attwood
It is not unknown for a surprise club to win the league. In fact across the years it used to be something of a habit. Every club it was said, will have its day – and then fade away.
Take Portsmouth, hardly a club you’d associate today with being champions, but they were in 1949 and 1950. But then they slipped back – a couple of seasons in the top half of the table, then down to the lower third, a mini-revival for one season until relegation just nine years after winning the title. By 1961 they were in the third division.
These sorts of patterns were what made the Football League Division 1 interesting. In 1977 Nottingham Forest got promotion from the second division, by coming third, and then in the next two seasons they won the league, the league cup (twice) and the European Cup (twice). And then they slipped back.
Of course some clubs charge up the tables quickly: Liverpool won the second division in 1962 and the first division in 1964 and 1966. And indeed from 1973 to 1990 they won the league 11 times. Although only once in the last 33 years.
Arsenal had their sudden ascent too. After finishing 14th in 1930 they won the league five times in eight years. Around the turn of the century Wenger took us to three titles and four FA Cup wins in seven seasons.
Until recently, Girona were in this camp too, as the Telegraph has noticed. They are in just their fourth season in the top flight, which they did not reach for the first time until 2017. The only semi-major honour in their 93-year history is winning the second tier in 2007.
And as a result of the general stasis in Spanish football, some otherwise-engaged European football fans have stopped paying much attention to La Liga. If you are in that camp please take a short break to look at the Spanish league table today.
We can also perhaps think of Leicester. They went from 14th to 1st to 12th in three seasons in the Premier League.
There are of course many, many more examples of sudden rises and falls but few can equal either Manchester City or Girona. Girona until 2022 were in second division in Spain. Last season having got promotion they came 10th in La Liga. Not bad. Especially as this season they are top
And this in a 14,000-capacity stadium., top of the pile in a country where only four times this century has any club other than Barcelona or Real Madrid won the league. (Atletico Madrid have won it twice and Valencia twice). So 18 wins for the big two, and two each for the little two.
So what is odd about Girona is they only joined the top league last season. Indeed they spent much of the early part of this century in the fourth and fifth tiers of Spain’s football.
But perhaps you would like to note that Girona’s chairman is Pep Guardiola’s brother. And the club is owned by City Football Group which owns… Mancheseter City.
Now to be quite clear, there don’t seem to be any allegations of anything amiss at Girona in terms of their spending. No accusations are made.
But that leaves us with something of a coincidence. A coincidence which says that this team that two years ago was sixth in division 2 is now top of division one.
Of course this is not impossible . In 1976/7 Nottingham Forest came third in the second division, and the following season won the First Division and the League Cup. The following season they won the European Cup.
But that was in the 1970s. And yes some teams had a lot more money than others, because they had bigger grounds that were always full (which was virtually the only source of income besides selling your best players, in those days), and a tradition of winning.
And yes Liverpool started their great run in 1972/3 being in the top two for eight consecutive years. But they didn’t quite come out of nowhere: they had after all won the league twice in the 1960s as well.
So Girona is different. No top flight tradition, tiny ground… and just one thing that links them with success: the Guardiola family now seemingly inexorably linked to the City Football Group. And here again we have a middle ranking club (one might even say a little club) suddenly shooting up to the top. Just like Manchester City who had not won the league in 43 years winning it five times in the last six.
Of course I don’t know if there is anything odd going on anywhere either with Manchester City or Girona – I can only follow the stories and wonder at sudden changes in fortune. And perhaps it is just a coincidence that the Guardiola family are involved in each club. Maybe the two men are utter geniuses. Maybe it has nothing to do with money.
But I would imagine Barclona and Real Madrid, who are both in enormous financial difficulties and who need regular title wins, are getting a bit agitated about the new kids on the block.
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