RCD Espanyol has been accused of many things by fans of city rivals FC Barcelona, who like to think of themselves as a sort of Catalan national team. While I’m not sure where Messi, Suárez, Neymar, Iniesta, Ronaldinho, Eto’o, Rivaldo, Stoichkov or Cruyff would fit into such a team, it is true that they wave a lot of flags while tourists happily sing along to chants of “independència” at the Camp Nou. It is also true that the same chants will not be heard at RCDE stadium, and the name of the club, which translates as “Royal Spanish Sporting Club” does seem to convict them of whatever it is they are being accused of. Even worse, this alleged Spanish-ness has led to Kevin Bridges-esque suggestions that their fans are nothing more than misplaced Madrid fans. If Kilmarnock fans are Rangers fans without the bus fare, they would have it that Espanyolistas are Madrid fans without a spare 100 euros for the AVE (high-speed train). In other words, that Espanyol are tainted with the white of Madrid.
(Incidentally, sporting director Rufete and midfielder Víctor Sánchez are both ex-Barça players, but that doesn’t quite fit the narrative. And if football fans love one thing, it’s a good narrative.)
The reality is probably simpler: Madrid and Espanyol share a rivalry with Barça, and your enemy’s enemies are your friends. In addition, clubs such as Espanyol occasionally rely on loaning players from one of the big two. Barça fans may not take kindly to a young player moving across town for a year, so naturally deals are easier to reach with Madrid.
In recent years, madridistas Lucas Vázquez and Marco Asensio have made this switch, with Asensio in particular catching the eye during his time with the pericos. There are no such loan deals in place this year, but there are two current Espanyol players with a history at the Bernabeu.
Probably best remembered for being the man who took Iker Casillas’ place in the team when Mourinho was in his traditional final-year meltdown with los merengues. This will be his fourth season with Espanyol and at 37 years old he will be the undisputed number one this campaign. Known as Superlópez, after a Spanish comic book character, he stands out for his reach and superb reflexes.
Like López, Esteban Granero was also a product of the Real Madrid youth system, and went on to play for the first team under Mourinho. He won la Liga and the Copa del Rey during his time in Madrid, before moving on to bigger and better things at QPR.
He has now recovered from that ordeal and Espanyol will benefit from his cool presence and passing ability in midfield again this year.
That’s all for now. Tomorrow will mark 10 years since the sudden death of former Espanyol captain Dani Jarque. We will take the opportunity to look back on a little bit of the club’s recent history in the morning. There is also A GAME OF FOOTBALL tomorrow evening. The squad are on the plane to Switzerland right now, where they will take on FC Luzern in the third round of Europa League qualifiers.
We’ll have updates on team news for that at some point tomorrow. Cheers.