Think back to the 1999-2000 season and Deportivo wrote the most incredible chapter in their history books after taking the LaLiga title for the first time.
By the turn of the millennium, ‘Super Depor’, as they were then called, had proclaimed itself on the biggest stage in Europe, taking five consecutive top-three finishes in LaLiga between 2000-2004.
It was a time in history to cherish for their fan base, who were lucky enough to witness an exciting team led by veteran manager Javier Irureta who had talent in abundance.
Deportivo, once supreme in Spain, now faces the threat of fourth-level football
Worrying times are passing for Deportivo, who has dropped from Spain’s highest table
Irureta had a slew of star-studded names at his disposal, including Diego Tristan, Albert Luque, Roy Makaay, Djalminha, Jorge Andrade, and Juan Carlos Valeron to name a few.
Having established itself as one of Spain’s dominant teams, Deportivo was also a fixture in European football – making it to the Champions League semi-finals in 2004.
Their biggest European night ever will be remembered with pleasure by every football fan except those who support the Italian giants AC Milan.
Deportivo sent AC out of the Champions League in an incredible way in 2004, netting a three-goal deficit in the first leg to go 5-4 at home.
The Spaniards seemed all but out of the elite European league before producing the comeback of all comebacks, winning 4-0 thanks to goals from Walter Pandiani, Valeron and Luque before Gonzalez Fran put the icing on the cake.
Deportivo had joined Monaco, Chelsea and Porto in the semifinals, but it was at this stage that their remarkable campaign came to an end and narrowly lost to Jose Mourinho’s eventual champion from Portugal.
Deportivo has endured a massive fall from grace as he used to be European regulars
Juan Carlos Valeron (R) was one of the many star-studded names who used to play for Deportivo
Deportivo revealed they were there to stay, but what followed has turned into the worst possible nightmare.
Those heady days now seem to last a lifetime after years of off-field negligence and financial struggles.
Fast forward to the present, and Deportivo is ruining the missed opportunity to return to the second division and the fallen giants of Spanish football now face a hectic period to avoid sinking to even lower depths.
Last year, Deportivo fell into the dreaded regionalized third tier (Segunda Division B) for the first time since 1981 and this season went an astonishing 628 minutes without scoring a goal.
This poignant form put them in real danger of an unimaginable relegation to the FIFTH level of Spanish football as a result of the federation’s radical reorganization of the lower leagues – which will take effect the next campaign.
Fortunately, a late rally from Deportivo avoided that dreaded fate and despite three victories on the trot in their last three games of the season, they were only able to finish fourth in their 10-team division.
Los blanquiazules missed the play-offs by one point, but just as painfully the club placed themselves behind the reserve team of hated local rivals Celta Vigo.
But now things are getting serious. Deportivo will be placed in a four-team mini-league and must finish in the top two to reach the RFEF Primera – which will be the third tier of Spanish football from the 2021-2022 season.
Deportivo enjoyed a famous Champions League night against AC Milan when they cleared a three-goal deficit in the second leg of their 2004 quarter-final.
Deportivo fans have remained enthusiastic about their team, which won the LaLiga crown in 2000
If they don’t finish in the top two, a fourth tier place – RFEF Segunda – beckons for the once great Spanish club.
‘The reality is that we have to lift ourselves right away. We may be disappointed, but we don’t have time to grumble, ‘Deportivo coach Ruben de la Barrera said recently.
This sad demise will alert any club to the knowledge that years of negligence could lead to an almighty fall from grace.
After their stunning LaLiga exploits and European travels, a period of mid-table obscurity followed for Deportivo, with debts exceeding £ 85 million, until they were finally downgraded to the second division in 2011 – ending two decades in the top flight.
However, they then chased between the top two divisions, earning promotion to LaLiga for the second time in three years in 2014.
However, the team would continue in a negative spiral, and after nearly keeping its heads above water for the next three seasons, Deportivo was sent back to the second division at the end of the 2017-18 season.
And Deportivo has never recovered since, with the club’s financial situation continuing to deteriorate – leading to local bank Abanca taking ownership last year.
The early 2000s were a famous chapter in Deportivo’s long history
Deportivo awaits the potential threat of fourth-tier football if they’re not careful. and club captain Alex Bergantinos is focused on damage reduction after another chaotic 12 months.
“Football has no memory,” said Bergantinos, who joined the club in 2004 and experienced the downward spiral firsthand.
It’s hard to swallow, but given the course of the year, access to Primera RFEF would be a really important cushion for us.
At the start of the season, we would consider staying in the division a failure, given what people expect from Depor. But earlier in the season, when things were at their worst, we signed up to be where we are. ‘
But 17 years ago, Deportivo certainly wouldn’t have ‘signed up’ to be in the position they are in today.
These are harrowing times for the once European regulars. And if they fail to maintain their status in the third division, even more difficult times lie ahead.