Bournemouth’s loss is Liga’s win as Íñigo Pérez’s Rayo hold off Real Madrid | LaLiga

Iñigo Pérez had nothing to offer the Premier League, they said, so he returned to Spain and instead revived La Liga and a people. The man from Navarre with the soft voice, privileged spirit and impeccable manners should have been on the Bournemouth bench at St James Park this weekend to face Newcastle United – trophies since 1955: nil – but the Home Office and an FA Panel declared him invalidly unfit to compete, a man unable to contribute to English football even as an assistant. So he spent it again in the Barriothe new Head Coach of Rayo Vallecano, who takes on Real Madrid – trophies since 1955: 85 – and equals them too, making this place a better place for everyone.

“There Is a league,” read the front page of one of the country’s sports newspapers Monday morning, an old favorite dusted off for the day. Maybe it was exaggerated, maybe it was only 24 hours and it was “just” a draw, but if so, then it is thanks to Pérez’s Rayo team, who pulled it off on Sunday afternoon, his first in the job Do what only Atlético Madrid have done in 2024 – get something from Carlo Ancelotti’s side. In the other Madrid derby, out in the east of the city, where worlds collide and the best seats in the house are available are really in the houseRaúl de Tomás equalized Joselu’s opening goal and left Madrid Only six points ahead. With Girona playing on Monday, there will be a title race again, a week after there wasn’t one, or so it goes.

“The league is waking up,” was the AS headline. “Rayo keeps the league alive with Inigo Pérez’s debut,” claimed Diario de Navarra. Most importantly, Rayo kept themselves alive and finally brought some sunshine to Vallecas. They had needed it: Rayo had only won once at home, and that was back in September, although Vallecas is said to be a difficult place to get into, with its narrow stands, narrower pitch, bumpy surface and wall at one end can reach. The team that was once rock ‘n’ roll, complete organized chaos and the most fun you can have in Spanish football, had only outclassed Cádiz throughout the game Primera. Worse still, they were beaten three weeks in a row and six times in eight games, after winning just once in 14 games they began to slip towards relegation and pessimism took hold. So they fired Francisco Rodríguez in midweek and brought in Pérez, the former assistant, who now took over.

There was “sadness,” Pérez said; it was his job to change that. It just wasn’t a job he planned.

At the age of 36, two years younger than Radamel Falcao, who finished the game at the top for him, and less than two years after his last appearance as a player, Pérez’s first game as head coach was his 1,324th. by Ancelotti. Pérez only had three days to prepare, even though he had been preparing for years. He had seen his team go from behind after three minutes but win a victory that changed everything. At least that’s what De Tomás said afterwards, although the Freudian slip said it all. “This win – er, draw – will be good for us,” emphasized the striker, who scored his first goal of the season, and a smile returned to Vallecas. Of course it was only the first day, even just a draw, but it was a start. Something unpredictable, but in the end it was right.

It shouldn’t be like that. Pérez shouldn’t have been here at all. He was assistant coach to former Rayo coach Andoni Iraola and had every intention of continuing in that role. When Iraola left for Bournemouth, Rayo had offered him the position of head coach, but he did not feel “ethically comfortable” accepting the role, believing it was not what he should take or what he wanted, and declined away. He planned to remain part of Iraola’s staff, and Iraola wanted that too. In fact, Pérez was everything the Bournemouth manager wanted. Instead of taking half a dozen men with him, Iraola chose two: Pérez and fitness trainer Pablo de la Torre.

At least that was the plan. But Pérez did not meet the home office criteria required for a work permit as an assistant coach: he had not been on duty for two years and did not have the UEFA Pro license. If this judgment was expected, what followed was not automatic. Pérez’s case, like most cases, was presented, and usually successfully, to an exceptional panel led by a lawyer and two former players. Hearings were held in June, July and August. Bournemouth argued that its qualification for the Royal Spanish Football Association was equivalent to the UEFA Pro qualifier Title of superior sports technique in footballrequires more than twice as many hours of classroom and practical training – and provided references from figures from Marseille, Osasuna and Seville. Rayo confirmed that they had wanted him as head coach, not to mention his assistant. Iraola wrote why he was so important.

“We tried everything,” Pérez admitted this week. They even tried to apply for him to coach the youth team, which didn’t work – or go down particularly well. Perhaps another club in a different context could have achieved a different result, but this time the panel didn’t budge an inch, dissatisfied that Mr. Soto, as they called him, “was of the highest quality and capable of contributing significantly.” contribute to development”. of the game at the highest level in England”.

In his first game as coach, Íñigo Pérez faced the familiar shadow of Carlo Ancelotti. Photo: Denis Doyle/Getty Images

Pérez, the son of a fruit seller, was always a little different and organized everything as a child. But there is a lightness, a calmness in this leadership, something that doesn’t exactly have football in it. He made his debut for Athletic in 2009 – against Rayo – but when Marcelo Bielsa took over he was one of eight players immediately ruled out. Pérez regained his place, he and Bielsa were close together and the Argentine’s influence was enormous. This also applied to Ernesto Valverde. And then there was Jagoba Arrasate, under whom he played for seven years in Numancia and Osasuna.

When Pérez left his loan spell at Mallorca to return to Athletic in 2014, aged 26, Valverde says it was more for his own sake than theirs: he was struggling with stress. On the day of his retirement, still only 33, he published a stunningly honest, poetic open letter, a reflection of an awareness and sensitivity that characterize him. An Athletic Club employee recalls that the first time he met him, unbeknownst to him, was not the first time at all. Íñigo immediately thanked him – a former substitute teacher – for a course he had taught eight years earlier. When asked for an opinion on Pérez this weekend, a man who has worked with him replies, “He’s the best.” Another adds that “no one can say a bad word about him,” and that is confirmed. Try this: “The nicest guy I ever met,” “a phenomenon, so bright; You will never find anyone more polite.

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La Liga results


illarreal 1:1 Getafe, Valencia 0:0 Sevilla, Celta Vigo 1:2 Barcelona, ​​​​Osasuna 2:0 Cádiz, Atlético Madrid 5:0 Las Palmas, Real Betis 0:0 Alavés, Real Mallorca 1:2 Real Sociedad, Granada 1 -1 Almeria, Rayo Vallecano 1-1 Rea Madrid

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In that letter, Pérez said he left “without pity and without glory,” both “grateful and ashamed” for taking more than he deserved. A panel of experts would give it 5.7 out of 10, which now seems quite prophetic, he said. And yet, he noted, there was something there, a role in the locker room — which, he admitted, is the kind of thing “that tends to be valued when the actual goals you’re signing a player for aren’t being met.” “become” and what. Nevertheless, it was true. One day Arrasate asked him to give the team talk; it stayed with everyone.

“When he speaks, everyone listens,” says one participant. “He has a great ability to communicate and reach people. He wrote everything down, analyzed everything: every session, every exercise. He’s super intelligent; he sees things differently, analyzes opponents; He has a passion for football and does everything naturally. It’s a calling. He understands the game like few others and is absolutely capable: he has everything it takes to be a great coach.”

Those who saw him saw it. When he retired, Bielsa wanted him as an assistant coach. Osasuna also opened the door. Perez joined Iraola instead. A colleague describes him like this: “analytical, reflexive, an excellent emotion manager, a profound knowledge of the game.” Intelligent, empathetic, an excellent communicator.” They were a successful partnership until they were finally forced to separate in the summer, even if there was resistance for a while. At some Bournemouth games he could be seen sitting in the stands behind the bench and he and Iraola would often chat, almost as if he were an on-call consultant. But it wasn’t the same. And as home results dwindled and the pressure mounted on Rayo, the coach sacked the players and pushed. They just wanted one man, and that was him.

And so he was this weekend: Íñigo Pérez was back in Madrid and not on Tyneside, a contribution that needed to be made against the biggest club of them all. “Sometimes life brings things you never imagined,” he said. “I was excited about working with Andoni: we tried, but it didn’t work. You find yourself here and then this opportunity arises. It’s a testament to the fact that you have to look at life with joy and be prepared for whatever comes your way.”

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