Following on from the shock of a seventh place finish in 2020/21, Osasuna were braced for the return of European football to El Sadar – even if it was the Europa League qualifiers. But that was after they had to try and stop the vultures circling their big names…
What a season we’d just had. The loosening of the reins on the pitch saw a drastic upturn in form and we’d made it into Europe just about. It was a remarkable achievement for a club that only five seasons previously avoided relegation into the third tier with a last minute goal from a full back. The money was flowing now, we’d never been so well off since I’d arrived in the summer of 2015 and it was a chance to take a step back and put pieces in place for the future – both immediate and long-term. This was to be a season of change and new blood. A season of consistent inconsistency as a unit but consistent excellence as individuals. A season of famous and embarrassing results. And the season legends were crowned.
First off, don’t be alarmed by the sheer number of ins on that screenshot. Everyone signed in August below Luis Henrique was signed as a B team specific player as I was trying to get them into the third tier to make it useful for player development instead of relying on loan spells. The thinking was that our young talents would become well versed in our system meaning they would be ready to plug into the first team whenever. So, most of these players are talents that were playing third tier football anyway and a couple are actually OK. Ibai Soto is a promising young centre back snapped up from our affiliates Pena Sport while midfielders Mario Salinas and Juan Domenech look to be decent. Italian striker Mario Romano is a great finisher but needs a lot of work.
They’re not important though. Let’s tackle the main dealings starting with a couple I mentioned were arriving last time – Benito Cascallar from Deportivo and Ivan Godovanyi from Chornomorets in Ukraine. Cascallar is our new permanent left back at 20 years old and with no top flight experience. Worried? Not at all. He’d played 86 league games in the second tier for Deportivo before his 21st birthday and was a key part of their promotion winning campaign. At £3.8 million, it’s a good deal. Godovanyi excited me most as he was a free transfer at 19 and deemed a wonderkid. Capable of playing in midfield, I planned on using him as the false nine in my system because his stats lent themselves to that role. An undoubted steal.
Also arriving on 1st July was a returning face – Kuki. That’s right. I brought Kuki back. His two seasons since his three year loan spell ended with us had been miserable – injuries and a struggling Malaga meant his confidence was shot but the ability was there. £3 million was a decent price for him and we beat out Aston Villa to sign him.
I then set out to improve the squad for Europe and I looked to youth. In first was 18 year old Mexican Martin del Palacio Langer from Chivas for a then record £6.25 million. That might seem steep for a teenager that’s never played in Europe but he was already a full international and looked excellent. That was usurped by striker Cesar Iglesias who cost us £6.75 million from Sporting Gijon in the second tier. He was actually suggested by my coaching staff at a meeting and I thought he was *spoiler* the ideal replacement for the departed William Burgos.
Finally, the loan signing of Luis Henrique was a necessity after Aitor Bunuel picked up a nasty injury in pre-season which ruled him out until mid-September.
Sad news – William Burgos was gone almost instantly after the season finished. That £15 million release clause was a bargain and Liverpool were the team to grab it first and before I knew it our Paraguayan hero was gone. Farewell William. Do great things on Merseyside (second spoiler – they barely played him and I’m eyeing up a return if I can afford it).
The most surprising out of the summer though was Carlos Vigaray who was gone before Burgos. Norwich wanted him and we eventually cut a straight £4 million deal which I was very pleased about. He might have had our highest average rating but I was never fully sold on Vigaray. Men on the periphery Ignacio Abeledo and Felipe Pardo were each sold for £700,000 to Dijon and Deportivo respectively while the only senior player released was 20 year old youth product Juan Manuel Ibanez who was decent but not quite at our level. He might return if he continues to develop as he is. Another youngster that left on a free was highly rated defender Igor Lopez whose lack of progress annoyed me to the point I let him go to Sabadell for nothing. He’s now decided to kick on so he may also return.
Notable names to leave on loan include Pedro Jose Miguel to Albacete, new contract getter Pablo Herrera to Real Union, Igor Vera to Genk (an error in hindsight), Gorka Perez to Fulham and Andoni Martin to OHL.
The Europa League was our first port of call this season and we actually got a nice draw – Beroe of Bulgaria in the Third Qualifying Round. We were expected to win but, in the most frustrating fashion, crashed out on penalties. Our finishing was awful, the team had to be bodged together and Beroe were clinical. It was a harsh and humiliating lesson in European football. You live and learn.
So, how did we respond in the league? Inconsistently. It was a rough first half of the league season with incredible highs and some annoying lows. An open brace of wins over Rayo and Tenerife sat us atop the table with the highlight being Godovanyi’s hat trick on his debut including a ridiculous thirty yard screamer. Iglesias scored a brace off the bench to win us the Tenerife game too which was pleasing. We followed that with two disappointing draws then three annoying defeats. The Valencia loss rankles still because we shot ourselves in the foot defensively thrice. The derby defeat to Athletic was the third so we naturally followed that up by smashing champions Barcelona 3-0 at home. Guess who scored all the goals? Mohamed Yattara.
A battling draw with Atletico at home was then followed by defeat to Deportivo then another to Real Madrid where we let them have a two goal head start in fifteen minutes then battered them for the rest of the game to lose 2-1. I was not happy and neither were the players (buoyed on by Amadou Sidibe’s complaining). When they challenged me, I simply said, “stop being s**t please” and they all accepted it. Mutiny over.
Mo Yattara got us back on track with a brace at Celta Vigo before more frustration followed with draws at home to Villarreal and Granada before individual errors helped us lose 3-2 at newly promoted Real Valladolid. Julio Castro’s two early Christmas presents are still giving me nightmares. How do we follow that? Spank title challenging Sevilla 3-0 at home. Obviously. A 1-0 win at Betis would end 2021 with a rare Drazen Begic goal.
We also cruised past third tier Alcoyano in the Fourth Round of the cup with Cali Daniel scoring a hat trick in the second leg. That set up a Fifth Round tie with… Barcelona. F**k.
This January was very quiet once again. The real notable out came in November when I remebered Juraj Kucka was still at the club and I released him along with a youth player who kept complaining training was too hard for him (he was doing nothing extra). A few loanees left and we only signed one player – Sammarinese midfielder Filippo Berti was bought from San Marino (the actual club side) and he’s a decent youngster. Could be good. Could be s**t.
And that was that. But our old friends the Germans decided their window should last a few days more and Bayern looked at Jerome Boateng and thought, “f**k, you’re old” and wanted our Japanese centre back Shintaro Tasaka. Luckily he wanted a new deal in October and that bumped his release clause up to £3 million, a fee Bayern didn’t want to initially pay. But after much arm twisting, they relented and I snuck in a little sell on clause too because I’m cheeky like that and we lost another defender.
2022 started poorly. Real Sociedad left El Sadar with all three points before our first leg Cup tie with Barcelona. Which we naturally won 2-0 because we only turn up for the big games. My theory was proven correct when bloody Getafe showed up with Mario Mandzukic and won 3-1 at our place. Furious. Then we lost 3-0 in the last minute to go out of the Cup at the Nou Camp. Luis Suarez scored the winner from a deliberate shot from the right wing. Not a cross that floated over the keeper, a f**king shot. Mario was dropped instantly.
We of course followed that up with four wins on the bounce where we scored 13 goals. All very impressive stuff and then we lost two on the bounce. Those two defeats on the bounce were very annoying because the Valencia defeat was caused by Mario (who I decided to give a chance) and the Oviedo defeat was caused by Oviedo being c**ts on this save. Guess how we followed that up? A win in the derby with Iglesias getting a brace. Yeah. Showing up for the big games.
We managed to get a good point at the Nou Camp before another damn defeat to Deportivo then a pummeling by Atletico. It was embarrassing. Another frustrating time against Real Madrid saw us only get a 1-1 draw (we will beat them soon) before Villarreal outplayed us 3-1. Mario was given another chance at Granada where we winning before he put it into his own net. He was subbed immediately and will be leaving this summer when his contract expires. We would win that game 2-1 thanks to a last minute Leandro Silva penalty.
We were firmly ensconced in mid-table now but another four consecutive wins over Celta, Valladolid, Sevilla and Betis set us up for a chance to steal a Europa League spot from Sevilla. And then we blew it by throwing away a lead at Getafe then just not showing up in Sociedad.
And so eighth was what it had to be in the end. An actually decent return for what has been a remarkably inconsistent season. The plus points have stood out hugely but there are some issues to be addressed against the lesser lights of the top flight. Only Real Madrid outscored us but we conceded way more than we should have. We conceded more than Granada who were 16th which is not a pretty sight. Still, it was a pleasing season in the end and one to build on.
Mohamed Yattara – 40 appearances, 24 goals, 2 assists, 7.09
La Liga’s top goalscorer. I kid you not. Beating out Memphis and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang with 21 goals, our Guinean hero was top scorer and really picked up the scoring mantle this season. The hat trick against Barcelona was the clear highlight of his season but his consistency has been remarkable and his legend grows stronger by the game.
Leandro Silva – 40 appearances, 4 goals, 8 assists, 7.44
One of many who benefited from last season’s tactical switch, Silva is now far and away our number one midfielder. New deal was agreed during the season and at times was single handedly driving the team on from the middle of the park.
Drazen Begic – 42 appearances, 3 goals, 2 assists, 7.20
There were a few mistakes this season from our Croatian rock but his colossal games outweighed the errors tenfold. Still not an international for Croatia despite posting his best ever season for us – ever present in the league and poised to be named captain this summer.
Jesus Maria Martinez – 28 appearances, 7 clean sheets, 7.23
Clean sheets are a worry with Martinez but at 21, he has just had a breakthrough season. Kept us in a few games single handedly this season especially in the big games. The number one for the future will be joined by a new, experienced competitor this summer.
Mario – 17 appearances, 3 clean sheets, 7.01
“Why?” you may ask. It’s simple – the mistakes are far too frequent and far too costly to see this season as anything but a bust. A solid, wonderful servant for us but after over 200 league games and five seasons, it’s time to move on from Mario. We’ll remember the good times but it’s a farewell to the 34 year old.
Joe Allen – 18 appearances, 2 assists, 6.89
Form and injuries have left the “Welsh Xavi” on this list but in truth his spell at Osasuna has been a disappointment. His amount earned does not reflect what he offers on the pitch and it’s noticeable in our performances when Joe plays. His constant moaning about game time has meant he’s leaving this summer on a free for Lens in France.
Yaw Yeboah – 25 appearances, 6.84
This one hurts. Yaw is a good footballer and has been a loyal servant to the club. His ability to change my mind through grafting and taking his chances saw him be a key man for the last two seasons. This one was a season too far though. His contribution has been minimal to the point that I don’t feel worried leaving him out now. Our team may have outgrown Yeboah.
Emyr Huws – 21 appearnces, 6.96
The same story as Yeboah. A great player, worked hard and helped us stay in the top flight. But as we get better Emyr has stagnated. Most of his appearances have come off the bench late in games and while he has tried and done well at times, he’s definitely dispensable.
Ivan Godovanyi – 33 appearances, 10 goals, 7 assists, 7.19
Hot start, a couple of injuries and a bit of a cool-off before finishing the season well. It’s a familiar story to the debut season of one Mr. Burgos. Godovanyi scored four in his first three then went on a long barren streak. Needs to get more involved in games because he has the ability to win things for us single handedly. A frightening talent who has shown glimpses of it but needs to do it consistently 7/10
Benito Cascallar – 41 appearances, 1 goals, 6 assists, 7.21
Overall, a good season. Definitely the number left back for the long-term and proved as much. When he played well, he was unbeatable with a particular highlight his dominance of Barcelona’s Alexis Sanchez in that 3-0 win. However, he did make the mistakes of youth but never got into a bad run from them which is a positive moving forward 8/10
Kuki – 25 appearances, 1 assist, 6.64
Kuki has the talent. We know this. Somewhere along the line since he left us, he’s lost the ability to apply that talent on the pitch. The worst player we had this season by a country mile and a horrendous transfer by me. His injuries were also an issues and he missed around a quarter of the season. Looks set to be one of those what ifs 1/10
Martin del Palacio Langer – 41 appearances, 1 goal, 6 assists, 7.55
I wasn’t 100% sold on Martin but I’m now a convert. The Fans Player of the Season and mine, it’s hard to remember that he’s just 19! Termed a wonderkid and with a huge release clause in his deal, he’s all set to become a superstar 9/10
Cesar Iglesias – 29 appearances, 7 goals, 8 assists, 7.06
Cesar is a slow burner. His initial spurt of goals were exciting but then he stopped scoring for a few months. The step up was initially hard for the young man and the pressure of his fee may not have helped either. Once he scored again though, he began to show why we’d paid so much for him with outstanding all-round performances a la Burgos. A ruptured Achilles ended his season early sadly 7/10
Luis Henrique – 22 appearances, 7 assists, 7.25
A cheap loan deal, Henrique actually proved to be a solid little player. His wage demands for a permanent move were extortionate but another year on loan works for me. Tailed off a little but a great squad player to have around 7/10
Exciting times for the academy. I replaced my Head of Youth Development with the guy I initially sacked a couple of years ago (top management there) and it paid dividends. Except that it had nothing to do with that everything to do with the fact my Director of Football brought the new intake in because I didn’t realise I has to change it back to the HoYD. Oops.
Still, Igor de la Fuente pulled out some right players including strikers Asier and Jon Sanchez who are amazing players. Centre back Iker Martin is the other stand-out player from this class.
The influx in money has been an exciting one and I reinvested in the infrastructure of the club. Upgraded youth facilities were immediately asked for and granted while a stadium expansion was also accepted as we’re nearly selling out every game at El Sadar. New training facilities were also granted after some arm twisting. We could afford it all and with the initial debt of the state loan almost gone I was excited at all the money we could have with no debts at all.
Then the board announced they took out a loan for the stadium expansion. It was going to cost £7 million which we had in the bank plus a bit more. I can run on a reduced budget for a year easy. But no, we now have debts to pay off for a decade now. Fan-f**king-tastic.
I’ve been busy for the future recruitment wise too. Look at all those transfers. All of those cheap deals are from regen scouting I’ve been doing during the season to get ahead of the big clubs while the two frees are very exciting. Romero is a Venezuelan midfielder I’ve wanted for a while. Excellent player at just 21 and was at one point a wonderkid. We’ve also got Ukranian striker Vladyslav Zorya coming in as well. A full international at 20, he has all the attributed to lead our line and provide more goals to our team.
Needs wise this summer, I’m looking for defensive reinforcement in the centre (we only have three centre backs) and a new goalkeeper to help and challenge Martinez for the next couple of years. Other than that, it’s going to be holding onto the key men – Martin, Godovanyi, Silva – and keeping them happy. Monaco are looking at Godovanyi but his big release clause is keeping me happy.
So, that’s all from this season of The Osasuna Adventure. I’ve been toying with the idea of releasing my tactic on Steam for people to try out and maybe even improve on. If you’re interested let me know and I will sort that out. Hopefully, you’ve enjoyed and if you have let me know here, on Twitter or over on Tifo.