Not for the first time, a football club in Madrid is conquering the headlines in Spain.
But this time it’s not just the “white giants” of Real del Bernabeu, nor the irritating younger brother who is Diego Simeone’s Atletico to receive all the attention.
About 15 kilometers from the city’s iconic Puerta del Sol landmark is Getafe, a municipality probably best described as being in Madrid as Croydon is in London.
Efficient, unfashionable, unpretentious and unpretentious are the adjectives that come to mind – not only on the area, but also on his football team, and in particular the club manager, Jose Bordalas, who is turning the world on his head rarefied of the highest flight in Spain.
Getafe, the club with the twelfth largest budget in the Liga of 52 million euros (£ 43.3 million), sits loud and proud in third place and is currently the second best team in Madrid.
Before Getafe tackles Barcelona on Saturday (15:00 GMT kick-off), Bordalas talks about his struggles to enter the top flight, his work with the Madrid fish and his passion for the Roman empire.
Where does Bordalas come from?
On May 29, 2016, after a 2-0 win over Numancia, Bordalas brought Alaves back to La Liga for the first time in 10 years.
But then on June 21, just 23 days after getting the promotion, he was fired.
For their coach, he should have heralded the start of a new chapter in his life – a life that had hitherto consisted of an unimaginative playful career and a 23-year coaching career at all levels except top.
Alaves would say essentially that he was not, in their view, good enough to face a first division team. Time would have denied them.
“It was unexpected and disappointing, but it also encouraged me to recover, keep growing and that was one of my virtues – never being down for too long,” says Bordalas.
“What hurt me is not that they didn’t want me, but that they left me until the last minute to tell me. When I received the offer from Getafe there were already eight or nine games in the campaign and in the places of relegation. “
Getafe had been demoted in the previous season, but had immediately returned to the highest level thanks to the play-offs of the first Bordalas campaign. They decided to go down immediately and surprised everyone by finishing eighth, and then the following season came fifth, losing only one place in the Champions League in the last game.
Now third in mid-season, and in the last 32 of the Europa League, Bordalas and Getafe continue to confuse criticism.
‘The purchase of my first pair of jeans was a luxury’
Bordalas was born the eighth of 10 children and grew up in one of those parts of Alicante not present in the must-see itineraries of the numerous tourists arriving in the region.
“I never felt alone and I always felt protected in a house where hard work and effort were the key. I have nothing but beautiful and captivating memories of my childhood,” he says.
“Living with many people taught me that I had to share household chores, show respect, work hard.
“I worked all my life so that I could afford to pay my way and get the occasional luxury because my parents couldn’t. I would like to wash the dishes, deliver documents and collect melons from the fields. For me, being able to buy too my first pair of jeans was a luxury “.
From an early age he developed a love of football, but curiously he was the only member of his family apart from an older brother who did it.
And his obsession with the importance of leadership is demonstrated by his passion for learning all he can about the history of the Roman Empire.
“Out of nowhere appeared the most powerful empire on earth. The power and conquest of this empire left their mark all over the world and led to the creation of the greatest architects and wisest teachers,” he says.
“Whenever I had free time I traveled to Rome to get to know him better because it is immense.
“My intention has always been to create good groups. A football team should be like a family, probably because that’s what I’ve always lived.”
What is its secret?
Getafe’s ranks are made up of many players from the lower leagues, and some were considering quitting the sport and getting day jobs.
Jorge Molina was on the verge of applying for physical education as a teacher, while colleague Jaime Mata was ready to start working as a customs officer when Getafe stepped in to save their careers.
Canary Island Angel Rodriguez joined after being immediately rejected by Zaragoza for publicly declaring that he wanted his club to lose against Tenerife, his hometown. Barcelona, if the Spanish federation permits, are seriously considering signing it as a replacement for the injured Luis Suarez.
This season, these three players have scored 22 of Getafe’s 35 goals – making them the third best scoring trident in La Liga – and none of them cost anything.
“Having experienced ups and downs during their career could make a player a little more responsible and more grateful for what he has, but that doesn’t mean we specifically look for that type of player,” says Bodalas.
“When you can’t get a player to sign from a financial point, then you have to try to get him on a professional level, with what it can bring to the team and how it can grow here.”
Don’t play the “Spanish way”
Common Getafe rank 14th in terms of average shots per game in La Liga (10.6), 15th in average possession (43.1%) and bottom on average passing accuracy (61.7%).
But their real strength comes from being a formidable unit that depends more on the collective than on any star. They have conceded only 20 goals throughout the season. Only Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid and Athletic Bilbao let in less.
They play in their opponent’s half more often than any other team, have the highest defensive line, play much more often than the others and also have the fifth best attack. They are more of a long ball team.
I am not, however, everyone’s cup of sangria. No one suffered more free kicks (416) and no team received more yellow cards (71). Quique Setien, who will face Bordalas this weekend in Barcelona, was a particularly severe critic who returns to his time as a Lugo manager when Bordalas was in Alcorcon.
“This is not football,” said Setien. “It’s something else and it makes my blood boil.”
Bordalas is not sorry for a style of play that many believe is contrary to the archetype of the “Spanish way”.
“You must never forget that we are a humble side, an unequipped side to sit among the best and that only two and a half years ago we were in the second division,” he says.
“We are a side that financially cannot compete with many teams and, consequently, I think things are going quite well here.”
The financial reality that affects clubs like Getafe on a regular basis is summarized by Leandro Cabrera who starts in January at the bottom of the Espanyol table, who asked the Uruguayan defender what he was gaining and instantly doubled.
Bordalas is learning English and, when asked if he can imagine working in the Premier League in the future, he answers without hesitation: “Yes. It is something that I have always had in mind and, as a professional, I would like.
“It would go well with my understanding of football and I am absolutely sure that I will have so much fun.”
Bordalas is truly a breath of fresh air. With Getafe or another team, it can be assumed that we haven’t heard the last one, not with a long chalk.