It’s part four of the Pride Of Galicia and after a successful first season that saw us finish in third place and qualify for the Champions League it was now time to put last season behind us and focus on the season ahead that will be undoubtedly difficult for us to repeat last seasons performance.
The board offered me a new 3 year contract at the end of last season which I signed without hesitation and during the negotiations we talked about the boards vision and club culture and this is what the board would like us to achieve:
- Sign Players Under the age of 23
- Play Attacking Football
- Play Possession Football
- Continue To Improve The Cantera
Five Year Plan
- 20-21 Top Half Finish / Group Stages Champions League
- 21-22 Top Half Finish
- 22-23 Top Half Finish
- 23-24 Top Half Finish
- 24-25 Top Half Finish
So as it stands the board are not looking to increase their expectations which is nice because sometimes a clubs board will turn up the anti on the back of one good season. I am very happy that the board are not putting the pressure on straight away which gives me more time to build the club in to a top 6 club year on year.
I know it’s a massive job to challenge Real Madrid and FC Barecelona year on year and that is not my ultimate goal. I am aiming to make Celta a top 6 club and by that I am not saying I don’t want to challenge the top two but you have to be realistic.
I wanted to do our business in the transfer window early and that’s what I thought we had done by bringing in Goalkeeper Arnau Tenas on a free from FC Barcelona, Defender Jesus Vallejo for €5m from Real Madrid, Midfielder Lucas Robertone from Velez Sarsfield for €6.5m and Midfielder Nicolas Capaldo from Boca Juniors for €5.25m.
So I thought we have got the squad together and apart from a bid from Tottenham for Hugo Mallo we had not had any offers for any of our 1st team squad and then on the final day of the window Borussia Dortmund drop a bid in for Midfielder Okay Yokuslu which I rejected but Yokuslu wanted to talk to the German club so when a 2nd bid came in I started negotiations and came to an agreement for a deal worth €34m and a 30% sell on fee, so Yokuslu agreed terms and off he went leaving us a bit short in depth in the central midfield strata.
We had hours left until the deadline so it was a case of not pressing continue and going through my shortlist of Midfielders to see what we could do at this late stage. I noticed one of the shortlisted players was available for loan and still at his club.
Carlos Alena was the player in question so I negotiated a season long loan but with an option to buy that stood at €17m payable to FC Barcelona and with Alena looking a talent and a wedge of money available from the Yokuslu sale I made a move and we signed Alena on a permanent deal which I believe is a great signing for the club.
I also decided to make central defender Jorge Sáenz loan deal permanent paying €7m to Valencia so our squad for the forthcoming season looks like this :
- Ruben Blanco
- Arnau Tenas
- Hugo Mallo
- Lucas Olaza (Uraguey)
- Diego Pampin
- Jesus Vallejo
- Jorge Sáenz
- Hector Araujo (Mexico)
- Joseph Aidoo (Ghana)
- Fran Beltran
- Carlos Alena
- Nicolas Capaldo (Argentina)
- Lucas Robertone (Argentina)
Attacking Midfield / Wingers
- Brais Mendez
- Denis Suarez
- Pione Sisto (Denmark)
- Iago Aspas
- Miguel Rodrigues
- Santi Mina
- Gabriel Fernandez (Uraguey)
- Jordi Escobar
Copa del Rey 20/21
Our first goal of this year’s competition was scored by one of our own Galician born Denis Suarez who opened the scoring in a 3-0 win against minnows Europa in the first round played in December. Almost 4 months to the day Denis Suarez scores the last goal in this year’s competition in the 92nd minute of the Final against FC Barcelona in front of 80,000 fans in the Santiago Bernabèu which turned out to be the last gasp winner that gives the club their first ever Spanish Cup title.
On the way to the final we had looked convincing with wins against the aforementioned Europa, Caudal Deportiva, Osasuna, Granada, Rayo Vallecano before a 7-1 aggregate win in the Semi Final against Real Betis.
We went in to the final against Messi and Co in good form but knowing the dangers of what FC Barcelona have in their ranks but we have come all this way now playing our way and this is how we approached the game.
We got off to the best possible start when Jesus Vallejo headed home in the 18th minute with an assist from former Barca midfielder Carles Aleňà who was in scintillating form since his move from Camp Nou. We went in at the break a goal to the good but we knew that Barca would take advantage of any complacency in our second half performance.
Just when we thought we had done enough a certain Lionel Messi latched on to a long ball over our defence from keeper Ter-Stegan and within 3 strides the mercurial Argentinian unleashed a thunderous shot that left our keeper helpless with the ball hitting the back of the net in the 90th minute, Barca were level and we looked like facing Extra Time.
The fourth official signalled that we would have 3 minutes of time added on and I was preparing for the extra 30 minutes but the Galician born ex Barcelona player Denis Suarez had a different idea when two minutes in to time added on he clinched the winner with a shot that went in off the upright to give the club their first ever Spanish Cup title.
Champions League 20/21
When the draw was made my initial thoughts was that a third place finish would be a good achievement after being drawn against experienced European campaigners Ajax, Internazionale and Shakhtar Donetsk.
Our campaign started with an incredible game in the Balaídos against Internazionale which ended in a 3-3 draw which saw The Galician brothers Suarez and Aspas amongst the scorers.
We backed ourselves to take the bull by its horns when we visited Amsterdam for matchday 2 against Ajax who must have thought like myself that a draw was on the cards going in to the dieing minutes of the game however we stunned our Dutch hosts with two late goals from Iago Aspas and Pione Sisto to go along with a Santi Mina 8th minute goal to give us a 3-1 victory.
We had started to believe that we could progress out of the group which was backed up with two victories in our double header with Shakhtar Donetsk firstly with a 2-0 win in the Ukraine thanks to goals from Lucas Robertone and Denis Suarez.
And then a resounding 4-0 win in the Balaídos with goals from Lucas Olaza, Pione Sisto and double from Gabriel Fernandez which put us on the cusp of qualifying for the knockout rounds.
Although we lost to Internazionale on Matchday 5 in Milano news had filtered through that a late goal in Amsterdam to end the tie between Ajax and Shakhtar in a 1-1 draw meaning we had qualified for the 1st knockout round to the delight of both the Celta supporters and the Celta board.
Matchday 6 saw the visit of Ajax to the Balaídos and a chance for me to give some game time to a few of the younger players and it was one of the youngsters who scored the only goal of the game giving us a 1-0 win. Mikel Expósito with a 50th minute goal Expósito became the youngest goalscorer in the clubs history but more than that he proved to me that a short term loan until the end of the season will do him the World of good and Championship club Newcastle United became the club that the young Galician would continue his development.
With great anticipation the Celta side of Galicia awaited the draw for the knockout rounds and once the draw was underway they did not have long to wait when Ruud Gullit pulled the first ball out of the pot and opened it up to announce Celta de Vigo. We were the first club out of the draw and it was now down to Alessandro Del Piero to choose our opponents and once the ball was opened he announced the club that we would face in the 1st knockout round, Paris Saint Germain. “Thanks Alessandro”.
The 1st leg at the Balaidos saw the Parisian club roll in to town with their cast of superstars but there was no way that we would be star struck by a club doing opposite to what we are doing, and what we are doing is:
Playing by our own rules.
Champions League 1st Knockout Round 1st Leg
Celta de Vigo 3-3 Paris Saint Germain
We fought fire with fire and after just 3 minutes we were 1-0 up after a superb strike from Fran Beltran who’s first time strike rattled the upright before crossing the line. We were putting the French Champions under pressure and when Thiago Silva up ended Santi Mina the referee had no choice to point to the spot and give us the chance to go 2-0 up which Iago Aspas needed no invitation dispatching the penalty with a cool head. Half Time Celta de Vigo 2-0 Paris Saint Germain.
The Parisian club came out guns blazing in the 2nd half and before we knew it they had levelled the scores at 2-2 but we didn’t roll over for them and just after the hour Santi Mina put us back in from which we held out until the 86th minute when the impressive Mauro Icardi levelled the game. A 3-3 draw to take in to the 2nd leg of the tie but more than that we can be proud of going up against one of the games big spenders.
Champions League 1st Knockout Round 2nd Leg
Paris Saint Germain 2-2 Celta de Vigo (Aggregate 5-5) PSG win on away goals
Going a goal down in the Parc de Princes after 20 minutes we would either crumble or come out firing and Pione Sisto was the beneficiary after Fran Beltran split the PSG defence in half with a through ball for the Winger to cease upon to equalise in the 37th minute.
With the scores all level at the break we had 45 minutes left to get a result and when the game entered the last 10 minutes PSG were leading 2-1 on the night and 5-4 on aggregate I was thinking it was all over but then in the 85th minute Santi Mina made it 2-2 on the night and gave us 5 minutes plus time added on to get a winner but it was not to be in fact it was the hosts who had the ball in the back of the net only for it to be ruled out before the referee brought the game to an end.
Ok so we got knocked out on the away goals rule but it as been an experience for the squad who excelled in the competition giving them the desire to go one better next time, but before there can be a next time we needed to qualify so it was over to our League performance.
La Liga 20/21
We kicked off our 2nd season together with three draws from our opening three games Real Betis 1-1, Leganes 1-1 and Real Madrid 2-2 but then back to back wins against Granada 4-0 and Athletic Club 4-1 gave us a little more to cheer about.
In fact our form over the first half of the season was a little stop,start and I think it was purely down to competing in 3 competitions forcing us in to prioritising certain games and squad rotation.
In the 18 League games before the end of the year we had recorded 7 wins against Granada, Athletic Club, Girona, Villarreal, Eibar, Mallorca and Espanyol. 7 draws against Real Betis, Leganes, Real Madrid, Osasuna, FC Barcelona, Atletico Madrid and Sevilla and 4 defeats against Rayo Vallecano, Levante, Valencia and Real Sociedad.
From the 18 games we had scored 29 goals and conceded 19 keeping 5 clean sheets which had become a little bit of a worry for me firstly because our forwards were struggling to find the net and secondly our backline did not look as comfortable as last season.
Watching the games we were playing good football but I just felt that we were lacking a cutting edge.
So ahead of the second half of the season I decided to make a small adjustment to our formation. In the first half of the season we had used our 4231 and 442 formations which to be honest are not that bad but I felt like we needed a bit of tweak and decided that for the rest of the season we would use our 4-2-4 formation.
The results were fantastic and from our last 20 matches in the League our record was 14 Wins, 6 Draws and 0 Defeats scoring 56 goals whilst conceding 14 and keeping 10 clean sheets.
The unbeaten run had took us in to 4th position in the table meaning that we had qualified for the Champions League for the second consecutive season which is fantastic for the club.
La Liga 20/21 Final Table
Carles Alena was voted our player of the season finishing the season with an average rating of 7.56 over the season contributing with 17 Assists and 6 Goals.
Iago Aspas was the clubs leading goalscorer with 26 Goals ahead of Denis Suarez with 15 Goals, Santi Mina with 14 Goals, Pione Sisto with 12 Goals and both Gabriel Fernandez and Fran Beltran with 11 Goals.
Carles Alena is our assist king with 17 Assists ahead of Lucas Olaza with 11 and both Iago Aspas and Hugo Mallo with 10 each.
Our B Team had a successful season by winning the League and then winning the promotion playoff which means our B team will be competing in the Liga Smartbank which is the Spanish 2nd tier which will now give our development system a boost by giving our development squad the opportunity to play at an higher level to aid their development.
The Under 19 squad came top of the table but lost to FC Barcelona Under 19’s in the Championship Title game.
I think we can be pleased with the season with a 4th place finish in the League and winning the Copa del Rey (Spanish Cup) for the first time in the clubs history and a good showing in the Champions League after qualifying for the 1st knockout round narrowly losing to Paris Saint Germain on the away goals rule.
Looking forward to next season I will be looking to bring a few faces in to the first team squad but not via the transfer market. The players will come in to our squad from our B team which in return will see a number of players move in to the B team from our Under 19 squad which keeps the development pathway rolling and gives all the players within the club sufficient game time across all of our squads.