Dépor of the rovers

Lendoiro (right) and his millions led Dépor to great heights.
Lendoiro (right) and his millions led Dépor to great heights. / EFE
  • opinion

  • The Galician side are fighting for their lives; but it hasn't always been like this

It's so sad to see the demise of Deportivo La Coruña, now a shell of the club who were possibly the most exciting Iberian footballing enterprise of the nineties and noughties - Spain's very own Blackburn Rovers!

There are so many parallels between Dépor and Rovers, the highs and, sadly more recently, the lows. The modern fans wouldn't believe the excitement these two clubs gave us all back in the day.

Unfashionable Galician businessman Augusto Lendoiro pumped millions of pesetas into his local club bringing in Brazilian superstars like Bebeto, Mauro Silva, Rivaldo, Djalminha and Donato.

At the same time Jack Walker was splashing the cash to take Alan Shearer, Chris Sutton and Graeme Le Saux to Lancashire, Tim Flowers was the must-have goalkeeper in the Premier League, Paco Liano won the Zamora in La Liga.

It was an age when a small club with a big benefactor could challenge the establishment. Dépor were top all season until the summer of 1993 when they slipped behind Barcelona and Real Madrid. The following season they missed out on the final day and a year after they won the Copa del Rey, and finished as championship runners-up.

Over at Ewood Park Kenny Dalglish was replicating his success with Liverpool at Ewood Park. The footage of Blackburn taking the Premiership title on a sunny day at Anfield is some of the most emotive in the formative days of the new 'loadsa money' league.

Rovers did peak there but managed to qualify for Europe three times in five years, won the League Cup in 2002 with record signing Andy Cole leading the line.

La Coruña's equivalent was Roy Makaay whose goals inspired the winning of the title in the year 2000. In the same year that Blackburn won the League Cup, Dépor gatecrashed the Copa del Rey final to beat Real Madrid at their own stadium in a game stage-managed to celebrate the centenary cup final at the Bernabéu. One assumes the grand plan was for Real to win it?

It was like lottery winners taking over football. The problem was that they then became part of the institution and the romance began to wane.

Blackburn's story is well documented, Sir Jack Walker passed away and there's little left of his legacy. They're on the way back from the third tier and now Deportivo face a similar soul-searching period.

The Lendoiro glory days are long gone. The gamble he took with finances left the fans with some incredible memories, a modern stadium but a horrible reality.

The club has been operating on a budget. They tried employing Spain's footballing fireman to save them, however Pepe Mel departed in the autumn. Cristóbal Parralo was their equivalent of Tony Parkes, the likeable coach promoted from within; he barely lasted the winter.

The last gamble was Clarence Seedorf, footballing royalty, who was asked to work with less than ordinary footballers during spring. They were already doomed.

Once it was champagne and the finest threads in the boardrooms of both clubs. These days they are quaffing the left-overs from the elite establishments and buying 'vintage' or borrowing in most cases.