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Acknowledging Rayo Vallecano's achievements

AS AS 21/04/2014 Alfredo Relaño

Rayo Vallecano reached 40 points yesterday to all but seal safety, thanks to a phenomenal second half of the season. All credit to them. They have the smallest budget, are facing up to their payments under the Insolvency Act, and started the campaign very badly. But Martín Presa kept faith in Paco Jémez when things weren't going well, and Jémez kept faith in his playing philosophy: build the play from the back. He kept faith, despite the wealth of reasoned criticism he received. Not every team can play like Barça, he was told. Doing so with players of a lower level is not recommended and is an absurd ambition, it was even said.

They shipped goals and fell back in the table. But they stuck firmly to the same philosophy as the previous year. Then, the team had been kept together. This time it was more difficult, because the squad was decimated out of financial need, and they had to start again with other players. But they stuck firm, and it worked. Now Rayo have twelve league wins, there’s no doubt they’ll stay up and, on top of that, they play attractive football that’s beyond expectations. ‘Kick everything that moves and don’t let the ball touch the ground’; the old recipe seen as the only possible avenue for modest outfits is making way for a better brand of football. Modest, but also good.

And it’s not as if that recipe of agricultural football guaranteed anything, by the way. There have always been and always will be teams that finish at the bottom and get relegated. And those who don’t have such good players are more likely to go down than other teams. Well, now it turns out that trying to play stylish football, cultured football if you will, is not only aesthetically-pleasing but also practical. The idea that pragmatism and aesthetics are mutually exclusive always was nonsense. There are a number of ways to play winning football, but history shows that you win more by playing better stuff, with the ball as your ally. This Rayo side is yet another example of that.

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