This time there was no apology and no remorse, and nor ought to there be. Raúl de Tomás joined Actual Madrid at seven and didn’t lastly stroll away for 17 years. He left having performed simply quarter of an hour for the membership he at all times hoped would grow to be dwelling however not less than future determined it was on the place that really could be. In October 2014, aged 20, he got here on for 15 uneventful minutes towards Cornellà, the tiny third-tier staff from actually subsequent door who borrowed Espanyol’s floor for the second leg of their Copa del Rey tie with Madrid. In October 2021, aged 27 and now an idol in that very same stadium, he led Espanyol to victory towards his staff – for under the second time in 1 / 4 of a century.
It was a second’s redemption for all of them, arrival introduced, their return full. That day, the coach who gave De Tomás his solely minutes as a Madridista was Carlo Ancelotti and as he got here on Karim Benzema got here off. On Sunday evening, he helped make sure the Italian wouldn’t sleep, which Ancelotti admitted this week occurs at any time when he loses, by scoring the primary, skidding to his knees and opening his arms in celebration earlier than Aleix Vidal added an excellent second, bursting via, nutmegging Nacho and bending past Thibaut Courtois. As for Benzema, he scored a gorgeous purpose nevertheless it wasn’t sufficient and on the finish of a well-deserved 2-1 dwelling win most followers weren’t listening when Espanyol’s supervisor, Vicente Moreno, insisted nobody ought to “go mad.”
Not least as a result of truly they need to and, conscious of the place they’ve come from, the person who introduced them again to the primary division this summer season following relegation in 2019, Moreno is aware of that. Now they’d solely gone and overwhelmed Madrid, one thing that he did with newly promoted Mallorca this time two years in the past however that they’d solely carried out as soon as this century. Espanyol followers went 26 years with out seeing their staff within the second division they usually nonetheless haven’t, taking place and again once more within the time gates had been closed due to the pandemic, their season within the second division performed in silence. However good timing didn’t make them good occasions. Now, they could be.
De Tomás had joined Espanyol in January 2020, together with Leandro Cabrera and Adrián Embarba. After loans at Valladolid, Córdoba and Rayo, the yr earlier than he had lastly walked away from Madrid and joined Benfica that summer season however he had performed simply seven league video games and never scored, getting three in his 16 video games general. He wanted a method again, and so did they. Struggling on the foot of the desk, within the relegation zone since September and determined now, Espanyol needed to attempt one thing. He was the costliest participant within the membership’s historical past at €22.5m, whereas Cabrera price €9m and Embarba €10m, each greater than anybody else within the squad, nevertheless it was cash properly spent – or it will be if they might preserve them up.
4 objectives in 14 adopted for De Tomás which weren’t sufficient so relegation adopted too, cruelly confirmed towards Barcelona. That they had been via 4 managers who between them had managedonly 5 wins, and issues may need been worse. Few thought they might preserve De Tomás, relegation and a pandemic making for a harmful mixture. They had been, David López mentioned, “sunk”, in a darkish place with “black clouds of pessimism” looming, and reductions needed to be made throughout the board.
However, whereas initially reluctant to play within the second division, De Tomás finally stayed, and so did the remainder. It was good for them. Adjustments had been made within the mannequin, however the squad was maintained, gamers staying slightly than transferring for first division soccer. Helped by the parachute fee, Espanyol had the most important funds within the division – at €45m their wage mass was twice the dimensions of anybody else, actually – a youth system that was producing gamers who would show very important, and finally the supervisor they wished. Mallorca resisted due to how irritated they had been at how his departure was dealt with by him and his representatives but every week earlier than the season began, Espanyol lastly obtained Moreno.
There could even have been one thing in regards to the relegation that helped. In an enchanting interview with El Mundo final week, Sergi Darder mentioned how he struggled mentally all through his profession, how each participant in entrance of him all of a sudden grew to become the perfect on the earth and each thought was unfavorable, soccer a sport for “different folks” that he was not ok to play and definitely to not take pleasure in, just for taking place to assist elevate him up once more. “At first of 2019-20 I didn’t think about us within the second division however we obtained on a really dangerous run and I obtained the concept into my head. I ready psychologically with somebody who helped me. I used to be in a nasty method, earlier than the relegation, and I believe taking place helped me break via that psychological block.”
The one distinction in divisions, Darder mentioned, was that “you go from constitution planes to travelling by bus”. And but Espanyol flew. Moreno had taken Mallorca up, now he did the identical with Espanyol. Darder, liberated, was on the coronary heart of every little thing within the center, alongside David López. Embarba and Cabrera performed 38 occasions. Youth-team merchandise Adrià Pedrosa, Óscar Melendo and, particularly, Javi Puado and Nico Melamed, performed key roles. Melamed scored 5 occasions and gave three assists, Puado scored 12 and supplied eight. After which there was Raúl de Tomas, R dot D dot T dot on the again of his shirt, turning into a hero within the supporters’ absence, the person whose supervisor insisted on Sunday: “When he places his thoughts to it, he has no ceiling: hopefully he can preserve making us this glad.”
Raised in Algete to the north-east of Madrid, the son of driving instructors, his father had performed within the Second Division B, and De Tomás had at all times been a Madrid fan. A socio at Rayo too, enjoying close to Barajas, he was noticed early and at all times stood out within the Madrid youth system – probably the most gifted participant of his era.
He would later admit that rising up he hadn’t at all times stored the perfect firm, the membership recommending that he board at a non-public faculty within the metropolis. Seen as a sort of Mini Cristiano, together with by the precise Cristiano, he was additionally conscious that folks noticed a heavy trace of vanity, a cockiness that he mentioned wasn’t true. It was extra a sort of shyness, nearly a vulnerability, a eager consciousness of how merciless folks might be and the way uncovered footballers usually are. On some degree, that sensitivity might be seen throughout lockdown when he took up drawing. “I did it with such enthusiasm after which it was an actual downer after I noticed everybody laughing at me, however I later laughed on the tweets,” he informed AS, joking: “Individuals have made certain I’ll by no means choose up a pen in my life.” Fortunately, he added, he has two horses, one known as Lord Sunshine, “they usually give me peace”.
Alternatives at Madrid had been restricted which was pure however didn’t make it harm much less, and there was at all times a touch that he felt he had let folks down – Zinedine Zidane had seen one thing in him that didn’t fairly come to the floor. The loans weren’t at all times a number of enjoyable both, though they served a operate. At Córdoba in 2015-16, aged 21, he recalled being whistled by followers, going dwelling and locking himself in his room, crying. That, although, was a part of what pushed him to grow to be ultra-serious, dwelling together with his private coach.
He obtained six objectives at Córdoba, then 14 at Valladolid, then exploded at Rayo scoring 24 to carry them up from the second division. The 14 he obtained in primera the subsequent yr weren’t sufficient to avoid wasting them from relegation and though Julen Lopetegui wished him to remain at Madrid he was not satisfied there could be minutes. Involved that he would waste a yr he determined it was time to go his personal method, lastly severing the ties. Benfica, although, was dangerous. Which was when Espanyol got here in, the membership he says he’ll now help till the day he dies. As a result of if he couldn’t revive them they usually couldn’t totally revive him that first season, struggling relegation, final yr they might.
Final season he obtained 23 objectives, prime scorer within the second division, as Espanyol gained the title, returning him and them to primera collectively 304 days later. The place on Sunday, having gained only one in seven, De Tomás scoring twice and watching three dominated out by the VAR, they took Actual Madrid to items. They did so on the primary weekend that restrictions had been lifted throughout Spain, if not but in Catalonia, and in entrance of 23,377 followers – greater than at any time within the final 18 months and the entire level of all of it – any doubts that that is the place R.D.T. and Espanyol belong blown away as he slipped to his knees, opened his arms and everybody went wild. No holding again, and no apology, simply appreciation. The way in which it’s purported to be. He had in spite of everything discovered his place and himself. “I take into account myself a Madridista however I give my life for my staff,” he mentioned.