“No it can’t happen again. Fairy tales are meant for books and movies, not for football. At least not so frequently.” This is what football fans must be thinking all over the world after witnessing Girona FC’s massive strides in La Liga.
Seven years ago, the football community experienced mass hysteria of sorts as Leicester City, against the odds of 5000-1, won the Premier League ahead of usual suspects like Manchester City, Manchester United, Chelsea etc. Their maiden triumph in their 132-year history at the time!
Girona FC appear to be going the same path. The Catalan club, formed in 1930, is presently leading the La Liga table with their latest victory coming against Rayo Vallecano on Saturday. They are ahead of 35-time winner Real Madrid and 27-time winner Barcelona after 13 matches, having won 11 of these encounters.
This is no ordinary feat for a club which is featuring in the Spanish top-flight just for the fourth time. And their first time happened not long ago, in 2017-18. After two seasons in Spain’s top division they got relegated but they didn’t take long to be back. Three seasons later in 2022-23, they were back in the top flight. If not all, some of the credit for this turnaround can be owed to the UK-based City Football Group (CFG) which came on board after Girona earned their first-ever promotion to La Liga following their second-place finish in the second division in 2016-17.
CFG, in which the Abu Dhabi United Group has a majority share, owns reigning Premier League champions Manchester City and has telling stakes in multiple football clubs all over the world, including in Indian Super League’s Mumbai City FC who won the league just a season after they joined hands with CFG. Girona toured India in 2018 where they played Kerala Blasters in Kochi and needless to say, beat them comprehensively.
The CFG arrangement is such that all clubs under its wing are interconnected in one way or the other and feed off each other to flourish. Girona are no different and have been a massive beneficiary of CFG’s support. For example, teen Brazilian striker Savio, who scored against Rayo in a 2-1 win yesterday and in all has four goals and four assists to his name in the league, is on loan from French club Troyes which is a CFG-driven establishment.
So far this season Girona have tasted just one defeat and that came against Real Madrid. They lost rather badly at home as suggests a 0-3 score line at Estadi Montilivi – the smallest stadium in Spain with a crowd capacity under 15,000 – and they have not played against two other powerhouses yet, defending champions Barcelona and Atletico Madrid. Which means these five matches in particular are going to define their campaign. How many points they can salvage from the available 15 will decide how far they will go.
Be that as it may, there is no denying that they will back themselves to win and create history like Leicester. 13 matches is a good sample. They have scored 31 goals (2.38 goals per game), the highest in the league which kind of gives away the approach they have adopted to their 2023/24 campaign. No way are they going to blow this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Real and Barcelona fans may be a bit sceptical over the challenge posed by Michel-managed Girona, currently enjoying a narrow two-point lead over Real, but the fact of the matter is it’s not going to be an easy campaign for either legendary club in light of the drive and determination the young top-flight Catalan club has put on view. Yes, there are many a slip between the cup and the lip but so far Girona has shown they are on the right path. Neutrals the world over wouldn’t mind Girona doing a Leicester. If it happens, football will be richer for it.