Number One: Jose Bordalas, Getafe

Words By Blair Newman Illustration by Philippe Fenner
August 31, 2018
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NO.1: JOSE BORDALAS (GETAFE)

Win percentage: 4 Position change: 12 Position to value: 11 Knockout points: 0

Points: 27

Getafe have become somewhat of a managerial launch pad in recent years. Several coaches have used their time in charge of the club as a means to progress up the career ladder, including Quique Sanchez Flores, Bernd Schuster, Michael Laudrup and Michel. Sanchez Flores left Getafe for Valencia before moving on to Benfica and then Atletico Madrid; Schuster left for Real Madrid; Laudrup went on to the Premier League with Swansea City; and Michel would go on to manage Sevilla and Marseille.

However, none of the managers on this impressive list achieved with Getafe what Jose Bordalas did last season. Bordalas led the club to eighth place in La Liga in 2017/18, having won promotion with them the previous year. Of the four mentioned above, only Michel took the club to a higher league position, and it’s worth mentioning that he did so with an established squad featuring budding stars such as Dani Parejo, Pedro Leon and Roberto Soldado.

Bordalas did something entirely different with Getafe. He took them from relegation frontrunners to top-half material. Along the way, thrashings were handed out to Villarreal and Celta Vigo, and a double was completed over Valencia. Only once in the club’s history have they won more top-flight games in one season than the 15 they recorded last term. To summarise: under Bordalas, Getafe enjoyed an historic campaign.

With his glasses, scarves and suits, there are times when Bordalas looks vaguely professorial. But make no mistake: this coach has bite. He began training football teams in the early 1990s while still in his 20s after a playing career spent predominantly at regional level. To get from there to where he is now, he occasionally had to break some eggs. Markel Bergara, a 32-year-old central midfielder, said he had never trained as hard in his career as he had done under Bordalas in 2017/18. Defender Juan Cala told Sid Lowe that, “You sometimes wonder if he’s going to hit you.”

Evidently, the 54-year-old takes few prisoners in the dressing room, and that aggression has been transmitted onto the pitch. His Getafe side were one of the most impressive pressing sides in Spain last season, ruffling feathers in a manner not dissimilar to Sam Allardyce’s Bolton of the early 2000s. However, like Big Sam’s Bolton, those feathers were generally ruffled not because of the style of play itself, but because the style worked.

“Getafe are a team that make you uncomfortable, they squeeze you in with their pressing.” Those were the words of Barcelona boss Ernesto Valverde in February after his side drew 0-0 draw at home to Bordalas’ men. That was the only league game in which Barcelona failed to find the net all season. This defensive resolve was one of the main reasons Getafe not only stayed up, but almost qualified for Europe.

No team in La Liga averaged less possession than Getafe’s 42.3 per cent. But keeping the ball was never a particularly important part of the plan. “I train a small team and the soccer you have to perform depends on the players,” Bordalas said recently. “I cannot play like Barcelona.” Rather, Getafe defended exceptionally, conceding just 33 league goals. For context, only Diego Simeone’s Atletico and Valverde’s Barcelona conceded fewer.

An organised 4-4-2 unit was the primary source of success for Bordalas and his players, though some individuals stood out. Djene Dakonam, a centre-back brought in from Belgium, proved himself to be an assertive all-rounder at the heart of the back four; goalkeeper Vicente Guaita showed enough dependability to earn a summer move to Crystal Palace; and veteran forward Angel Rodriguez hit double figures in La Liga for the first time at the age of 31.

All of this was done without major financial backing. Getafe were the third team to come up in 2017, but finished ahead of their fellow newbies, Girona and Levante, in the final table. They were also the only newly-promoted team to finish with a positive goal difference, courtesy of their formidable defensive game. It’s also worth noting that they had the lowest wage bill in La Liga. Sevilla, who finished just three points above them in the final Europa League qualifying spot, spent over five times as much as Getafe on wages.

There are so many reasons why Bordalas is 2018’s Misters Awards winner: He took a team into La Liga and kept them there, he got them to overachieve massively, and he did so despite a glaring financial disparity. But none of that is likely to stop him from asking for further progress in 2018/19. “[Staying up] is not enough,” he said in a recent interview with Marca. “You have to demand more each day.”

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