surinenglish

The Aspas Arena

Iago Aspas with Huesca’s forward Ezequiel Ávila.
Iago Aspas with Huesca’s forward Ezequiel Ávila. / EFE
  • a look at la liga

  • The man who lied about his age to get a trial is almost single-handedly responsible for Celta Vigo's modern La Liga existence

Sometime soon they need to rename the Celta Vigo stadium after their saviour Iago Aspas.

Bear in mind that Getafe play their games at the Estadio Coliseum Alfonso Pérez (in honour of a player who was born in the area but never actually played for the club), Aspas is almost single-handedly responsible for the club's modern La Liga existence. He's as important to the town of Vigo as Alan Shearer is to Newcastle or Matt Le Tissier to Southampton. He is the essence of the club.

His teammate Brais Méndez went as far as exclaiming this week that he's "as important for us as Messi is for Barcelona".

Yes, this is the same footballer who is remembered at Liverpool as the man who took one of the worst corners in the history of Anfield in a vital match against Chelsea. He soon vacated the number nine shirt after a single goal against Oldham in 15 appearances.

There is always a Scouser who somehow manages to single me out when I'm at the stadium to chastise me about my prediction on Liverpool's club TV station that Aspas could be one of the club's most astute signings.

But back in Vigo he's a footballing god. He earned his move to the Premier League after his 23 goals won promotion for Celta in 2012 and he kept them up with his prolific scoring the next season.

He returned in 2015 via a loan to Sevilla and it was if he'd never been away. It was one of the great comebacks. His goals earned him a Spain call-up and he scored the equaliser on his debut at Wembley with a backheel. The English ghost was exercised.

He's been the top Spaniard in La Liga for the previous two campaigns. Last season only Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Luis Suárez recorded more goals in La Liga.

This season he's once more the leading Spanish scorer but has missed half the season and his club have suffered in his absence.

Last week he returned in a blaze of glory and a flood of tears. Celta were two goals down in a vital relegation battle with Villarreal when he took a grip of the game with a brace of goals. His second was a penalty to win the game with four minutes remaining. He kept his cool but was an emotional wreck at the end of the game.

The man who lied about his age as an eight-year-old boy to get a trial at the club is Celta's best bet of remaining in the top flight. When he was injured for three months, they lost 10 out of 12 games; the fightback really started once he returned to a team that had dropped into the bottom three. He scored the two against Villarreal and followed it up with a goal and two assists at Huesca.

On Merseyside, there is talk of preserving the corner flag in the club museum. Now he's back in his hometown, if they do stay up, the whole stadium should be named in his honour.