Being a yo-yo club is hard work. One day you’re the best team in the Segunda, the next you’re one of the worst teams in the top flight. It’s like a featherweight who just felt the euphoria of winning a title only to be told his next fight is against Evander Holyfield in his pomp. The odds are piled against you and you have no chance of winning but if you’re agile enough and think smart, you might land a punch or two on your way to a decision.
That’s the situation Rayo Vallecano find themselves in this year without the funds to make an assault on the middle of the table. If they think outside the box though, which it looks like they’re doing, they might be able to stay on their feet next season.
Rayo have been linked with a handful of names in recent weeks that suggests they are knocking on doors, looking under rocks and surfing the deep web in search of a player who can make a difference for them next season.
Being a club constantly fighting relegation or chasing promotion also means premature departures and losing your best players. A player whose career is in the ascendency can mean bids and interest: both signs of good things in the present and bad things to come. Rayo felt the loss of Fran Beltran particularly badly recently despite knowing little about it. “You either have education or you don’t,” said Raul Martin Presa when speaking about Celta Vigo paying his €8 million buyout clause. The club had the chance and had planned to up that clause to €30 million but put it on the long finger before it was cut off at the knuckle.
Rayo Vallecano’s manager, Míchel, said when he spoke to Fran Beltran about his move to Celta Vigo, that the teenager couldn’t stop crying. The 18-year-old ‘promise’ is a massive loss to the newly-promoted side ahead of the season. But David Cobeño, the former goalkeeper turned sporting director, is doing plenty of work behind to scenes to bring in as many as eight players.
When Fran broke into the team, it felt natural. He looked natural at the base of midfield and Rayo fans were adjusting to seeing his little frame moving around the field in Vallecas for years to come. The only chance they’ll have to see him now will be when Celta Vigo come to visit the barrio.
Back to Rayo’s precarious situation as a newly-promoted club. They have €13 million from sales after Johan Mojica left for Girona this summer for €5 million followed be Fran’s exit. That is an unprecedented amount of money in and while not all of it will go into the signing of new players, you expect Rayo to expand their search for the new Diego Costa or Michu – both players who helped to keep them afloat and were considered risky at the time.
The risk, and more worryingly, the uncertainty, that comes with wheeling and dealing in this fashion can be mitigated somewhat by pushing their ability to pay higher wages north. Alvaro Negredo might be impossible according to his agent but Hatem Ben Arfa is being considered and other names seem to be popping up almost daily with Jordi Amat close to sealing a move to Vallecas too as Michel’s defence takes shape. Alvaro Medran, the former Real Madrid and Valencia midfielder has also joined as the replacement for Fran.
Rayo will buy duds this summer but this is the nature of a club who have to take a lot of risks in order to be rewarded even a little. There will be players with sketchy injury histories and questionable behaviour patterns. There will be players who have never played in LaLiga and others on the wrong side of 30. They won’t be rewarded by making Europe and the season will be long. But all they need is for one or two of the players they bring in to stick and make an impact and the chances taken will be worth it.