Publish date:

How Getafe Went From Segunda División B to the Brink of the Champions League

Getafe cementing a berth in the Champions League would be one of the most improbable and unexpected developments in Europe this season.

Getafe CF is hardly what one might consider a household name in the world of football, a club that is little known beyond the limits of Spanish football.

Hailing from the southern part of the Madrid metropolitan area, Getafe - the team against whom Lionel Messi scored his famous Diego Maradona-esque solo goal for Barcelona in 2007 - is firmly in the shadows of neighbors Real and Atletico.

But this season, Los Azulones could finish just one place behind Real in La Liga. What's more, doing so would see them automatically qualify for next season's Champions League group stage, a truly monumental achievement when considering the club's size and history.

Compared to the illustrious sides around them, Getafe's record transfer is no more than €5m; they have just six internationals in their current squad; the team that started their last La Liga game was assembled for €19m, less than Real Madrid paid for Mariano; their Coliseum Alfonso Perez stadium has a capacity of just 17,000 and rarely draws crowds of more than 12,000.

Getafe has been in La Liga for most of the 21st century, usually finishing in the reassuring obscurity of mid-table. To most outside Spain, whose interest in La Liga extends to Real, Barça and little else, it has been just another team on the fixture list of the country's wealthy giants.

The club has had some notable highs. It reached Copa del Rey finals in both 2007 and 2008, losing against Sevilla and then Valencia. It also finished as high as sixth during the 2009/10 La Liga season to qualify for the Europa League.

Prior to the 2004/05 season, Getafe had never previously played in Spain's top flight. It was only formed in 1983 and spent its early years rising through the regional ranks of the Spanish football pyramid to enter Segunda Division B, the third tier, by 1987.

By 1994, the club had reached the second-tier Segunda Division for the first time. There was some yo-yoing as it initially struggled to get to grips with the higher level, but Getafe was out of the third tier for good in 2002 and enjoyed its highest league finish in 2002/03, 11th in the Segunda. It then followed that up with second place and promotion in 2003/04.

Getafe enjoyed 12 unbroken years in La Liga after that, usually finishing between ninth and 16th, barring a relegation near miss in 2008/09 and the aforementioned sixth place a year later.

SI Recommends

That top-flight stint finally ended in 2016 when the club finished 19th and was relegated. And things threatened to become very difficult for Getafe at that time. It won just one of their opening eight Segunda games of 2016/17 and was 21st of 22 by early October.

Coach Juan Esnaider was sacked the day after a 2-0 home defeat at the hands of Girona, with the club then turning to experienced lower league coach Pepe Bordalas.

The new boss oversaw a 0-0 draw away against Tenerife in his first game in charge, followed by back-to-back wins against Murcia and Lugo. Getafe would finish the season in third place in the Segunda table, narrowly missing automatic promotion but securing a route back to the promised land of La Liga after beating Huesca and Tenerife in the playoffs.

For Bordalas to then take a club that had been in danger of relegation to the third tier of Spanish football for the first time since 2002 when he first took over, to the brink of Champions League qualification in the space of a little over two-and-a-half years is nothing short of incredible.

Getafe had impressively finished eighth on its return to La Liga in 2017/18. But rather than fall away this season, as was the case the year after its most recent two top-half finishes in La Liga - dropping from sixth to 16th in 2010/11 and from 10th to 13th in 2013/14 - Getafe has kicked on to the point where Champions League football is a genuine possibility.

Jaime Mata, Nemanja Maksimovic, Leandro Cabrera, David Soria, Francisco Portillo and Djene, all bought since promotion from the Segunda in 2017, have made huge impacts.

With five games of the 2018/19 La Liga season to play, Getafe are fourth in the table. It had lost just one of their last 12 league fixtures and made the jump into the top four by beating Sevilla 3-0, completing a league double over the five-time Europa League winners, last time out.

Holding onto that Champions League place won't be easy as it is a three-way fight between Getafe, Sevilla and Valencia, all separated by just two points.

Getafe has only been beaten by clubs outside the top three on three occasions this season, but its run-in is the most difficult as it includes games against both Real Madrid and Barcelona. Its best hope is that Real has an off-day once more in the final stages of a disastrous season and that Barça start taking it easy after wrapping up the title with games to spare.

But with winnable games against Real Sociedad, Girona and Villarreal to come in the others, contests from which Getafe has already taken seven points from nine this season, the dream could still come true. At the very least, it will be fighting for every last inch until the finish line.