Getafe gets its allure back

Getafe's Djené Dakonam Ortega (L) vies with Valencia's Santi Mina.
Getafe's Djené Dakonam Ortega (L) vies with Valencia's Santi Mina. / AFP
  • The 'unloved' football club is sitting just behind the big three in La Liga

It really is the story of football's own Ugly Duckling; Getafe was a club where people struggled to see any redeeming feature but is about to flourish into a thing of beauty.

It's a distinct possibility that the team you must work hard to locate on a map of Madrid will soon be on a map of Europe's elite football clubs.

Just a couple of years ago they lost the annual scrap against relegation and when they passed there wasn't much of a wake.

A stadium squeezed between the motorway and apartments on the outskirts of the capital lacked any soul, the standard of football was poor, and Getafe was possibly the most unattractive club in La Liga.

They embraced the 'unloved' moniker and bounced back in unique style. To bring romance back they introduced romance. The club launched a Tinder-style app with the intention of promoting dates at the Coliseum Alfonso Pérez. You could snuggle up on the back row; in fact times were so difficult you could have a row to yourself.

Three years after relegation, love is in the air: Everyone is learning to love Getafe.

They sit just behind the big three in La Liga and Champions League football is becoming a distinct possibility next season.

It's quite a story and European football should brace itself for a club like no other. It's a collection of characters with unique stories.

The team is led by a player who is reported to be even richer than Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo! Mathieu Flamini invested his money wisely from a fine career that took in the likes of Arsenal and ended at Crystal Palace. His biochemical company thrived so well he could offer to play for Getafe for pin money.

There are no real stars, but the leading scorer has just been called up for Spain. Jaime Mata epitomises the club. He's knocked around the lower leagues for most of his career and now he's been given a chance in the top league by Getafe at the age of 30, he's the leading Spanish scorer in the top flight. The national team coach stopped just short of selecting his strike partner Jorge Molina, who turns 37 next month.

The team has been assembled on the tightest of budgets. They invested, €2.5 million, most of their annual budget, into Djené Dakonam Ortega in 2017; quite a gamble on a Togo international recruited from a Belgian club. Week in and week out, we singled him out in commentary for individual praise but the recruiters at the leading clubs scoffed at a 5'8 centre half.

Now statistics back our hunch that he is an outstanding defender. Getafe have the third best defence in La Liga, better than Barcelona and Real Madrid!

Suddenly representative of the best clubs in Europe are reserving seats to give Djene the once over before deciding what to bid for his talents. The same clubs could well be returning next season to play Champions League games against the team from the suburbs.

Getafe did have adventures a decade ago when Bernd Schuster took the club to a Spanish Cup final and Michael Laudrup led them to the UEFA Cup quarters. It looked like they'd peaked and those were the glory years.

Now the allure is back, and fans are preparing for date nights with the beautiful people and in-crowd of European football.