Granada loses hope, fans and La Liga end up in a predicted football death

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Carlo Ancelotti had the cool cat glasses and the big cigar, but this was not the time, not yet. The Real Madrid side, the manager go to the microphoneand the dance floor, a conga line forms around the most famous fountain in the city, would have to wait a little longer; first they had to go to a funeral. On Sunday morning, the champions boarded an open-top bus past the Castellana and a staircase to Cibeles, the goddess of fertility. But not before heading to Los Carmenes to take on Granada on Saturday evening – a week after winning the league, three days after reaching the European Cup final, and two hours and 38 minutes after Granada were relegated.

The calendar and contrast were brutal, and it could have been worse. When Madrid lifted the title last Saturday – two hours after beating Cádiz, the title was finally confirmed as the players watched together as Barcelona were defeated by Girona – the federation announced that they would hand over the trophy before their next match . That might have made sense, had it not been for the fact that the next match was away against someone who was almost certainly going to go down, and Madrid said no, give it to us the next morning, and the cup was finally presented behind closed doors in silence and then was carried into town where thousands waited. They certainly went dancing, but not on Granada’s grave.

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A win in Madrid would have relegated Granada, and it wouldn’t do to parade around the pitch with a cup as they snuck off and into second. So instead, Madrid showed up, played and hurriedly went home. They won too, and they do, but in the end they didn’t even have to: it was over before the game even started. By the time the Granada team left their hotel, they were already downstairs. They had just watched Real Mallorca beat Las Palmas 1-0 in the 2pm kick-off, their relegation confirmed with four games to miss.

Especially this one, the pain was still raw even though they knew this was coming, the opponents were a “predator” according to their coach, José Ramón Sandoval. “You can have the day in your mind, imagine it, but when it comes…” Captain Carlos Neva said afterward, all they could do to get through it somehow. “It was the hardest team conversation I’ve ever had,” Sandoval said. “Today was not an easy day. There were already crying players on the bus.”

When the Granada team bus arrived, it was kicked a few times and fireworks were hit on the roof. As the players came out, a whistle blew. In the 31st minute of each half – Granada was founded in 1931 – supporters demanded the resignation of the board. Handkerchiefs were waved, that classic protest. There was the equally classic accusation that players were mercenaries, men who literally risked their lives. And when the Granada team reached the middle at the end, they were met with chants of “Off! Out!” Usually, however, they were received with a kind of indifference and silence. Like a crematorium waiting room, as El País put it.

The fact that it wasn’t worse almost made it worse, somehow more fitting: a symbol of how long ago they lost hope. Granada had stated this Dia del club, a criminal habit that many have where even season ticket holders have to buy their seats. In a city with many Madrid fans, at a time when their team is down, asking the supporters for an extra effort is an insult. The result was a stadium painted white. But this went deeper, a reflection of the resignation, a feeling of powerlessness that then took place on the field, a predicted football death; no resistance, nothing left to hold on to. “There’s nothing we can say,” Neva said. “Just thanks and sorry.”

A few weeks ago, Sandoval, who watches too many Westerns, claimed his team was “like the Indians: hard to kill.” After they beat Osasuna 3-0 in week 33, he insisted: “We were not dead; We were still alive, we just needed a blood transfusion.” A great, big emotional bear of a man with enthusiasm as the default setting, you wondered for a moment if he could be right: that was their second win in three, the other came against Alavés, and they had drawn at Athletic. The problem was that those two wins in three were as many as Granada had won in the previous thirty, and time was running out.

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The season started poorly and never really got better until it was too late. This is the seventh relegation in Granada’s history, the third since they were bought by Chinese owners Wuhan DDMC for 37 million euros in 2016. It is probably the worst, not least because the lessons have not been learned. Someone has to go down. Granada lasted 36 years before returning to first in 2011, slipped all the way there tercera even regional in the meantime. And they are not giants. But seven teams have a smaller budget and it’s one thing to fall, but another to barely fight that fate. Granada slipped into the relegation zone in week five and never came out.

The first relegation, in 2017, came when everything unraveled, a growing realization that what they had bought from Giampaolo Pozzo was virtually an empty shell, just a badge. (And an investigation is underway). A team with players borrowed from all over and Tony Adams taking over as coach was quickly eliminated. The second, in 2022, was a shock: under Diego Martínez they had been a revelation a season earlier, European quarter-finalists – which seems an even more monumental achievement now – and they thought they had secured survival, only to slump in the final day Hitchcock could have written. As for this, they had no intention of being there at all: in the summer DDMC had tried to sell it, but they never found a buyer. At least not for the club.

That paralysis contributed to the fact that 49 days elapsed between winning the second division and making the first signing. On the opening day, Samu Omorodion, a 19-year-old youth team striker, scored and made a big impression for Atlético, who immediately signed him for six million euros. The idea had been to loan him back to Granada, but the league rules did not allow that, so he left for Alavés, where he is the top scorer. Granada had Bryan Zaragoza, another B team player coming through, the most exciting finish first. At Christmas he was sold to Bayern Munich for fifteen million euros. His departure was brought forward six months compared to the original schedule, which meant he could hardly play. He is still Granada’s second top scorer.

At the same time, a dozen – yes, a dozen – players came in. Apart from goalkeeper Augusto Batalla and Facundo Pellistri, it is difficult to think of a significant contribution. By this time Granada were on their second coach. They were also hiring their second sporting director, Matteo Tognozzi to replace Nico Rodríguez. With Paco López, who had taken over when they were eighth in the second division and raised them, it had certainly been quite fun. This was not the case with Alexander Medina, a manager with no experience in Europe. But if the approach was different, the results were not. Granada achieved one win and seven points in 14 weeks under López and one win and seven points in 14 weeks under Medina. They were knocked out of the cup because they fielded an ineligible player.

And so, as in 2017 and 2022, Granada moved on to their third manager. Sandoval enters, unemployed since leaving Fuenlabrada two years earlier for the last-ditch roll of the dice. He came as a “fireman,” wrote Rafael Lamelas in El Ideal, “but when he arrived, the ranch had already burned to charcoal.” They were 13 points from safety – more than four points wins for a team that had two all season.

Real Betis 3-2 Almería, Valencia 0-0 Rayo Vallecano, Atlético Madrid 1-0 Celta Vigo, Cádiz 1-0 Getafe, Athletic Bilbao 2-2 Osasuna, Granada 0-4 Real Madrid, Villarreal 3-2 Sevilla, Mallorca 1 -0 Las Palmas, Alavés 2-2 Girona.

Monday Barcelona vs Real Sociedad.

Two more came, seven points from three games, a glimmer of hope. “At least we let the fans crunch the numbers and calculate our odds,” Sandoval said, but the numbers weren’t exactly legible, even for optimists like him. Together with Almería and Cádiz, Granada statistically makes up the worst bottom three in history. This century the last team to survive had 41, 39, 36, 37, 41, 43, 35, 39, 35, 40, 37, 42, 44, 37, 42, 43, 40, 40, 39, 42, 43, 42, 42 and 45 points. Granada’s relegation was confirmed on Saturday, June 29. They already went down there, gave the champions a guard of honor and lost 4-0. “If they had put their foot on the ground, the accident would have been much worse,” the coach admitted.

This was bad enough; it was from the beginning. “Granada belongs in the first division,” sang the Madrid fans spread across Los Carmenes, a pity that they attended the funeral. The home fans had cheered on Luka Modric, but now largely went into space, sunk weeks ago. Sandoval hugged Ancelotti and walked inside. “We tried. I can assure you that this has hurt my players; Now I would like to go through this mourning with my people,” he said. As for the Italian, dressed in a dark suit and tie, he had his respects paid; now he had a party, time for the sunglasses and the cigar.







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