After so many years in the lower reaches of Spanish football, Granada finally returned to the top flight at the end of last season after winning the play-off final against Elche, and it has been a tough few decades for fans of the rojiblancos. During that time they have experienced relegation, empty stadiums and more than their fair share of corrupt owners. Yet things are certainly looking up for a side that last graced La Primera in 1976 and were playing in the fourth tier of Spanish football just six years ago.
However, when Granada faced Celta Vigo in the play-off semi-final at the end of last season six of the starting line-up did not belong to the club. In fact, 11 players of the players that made up last season’s squad were loan signings. This peculiar state of affairs came about as Granada is effectively under the ownership of another club – Udinese.
The Italian side’s owner, Giampaolo Pozzo, bought the Andalusian outfit in 2009 and consequently saved Granada from bankruptcy. At the same time a deal was brokered that would allow player-sharing between the two squads. This puts Granada in the interesting position of being in the top division of Spanish football whilst effectively living as Udinese’s feeder team.
Several other clubs in Spain already work in a similar fashion, with both Barcelona and Real Madrid having ‘B’ teams. Nevertheless, different squads owned by the same club are not allowed to play in the same division so this means Barca or Real Madrid ‘B’ will never be promoted to La Liga. In actual fact, Barcelona ‘B’ finished above Granada last season but were not allowed to participate in the play-offs because of their association with the Catalan giants.
Questions may be raised over the ethical nature of a deal that allows a Spanish club to take advantage of the players and infrastructure of another club (and vice-versa), although it is certainly a deal that Granada supporters have been quick to embrace. On the other hand, a poor start to the season has served to magnify the complex nature of the club to the wider public.
While life among the big boys has undoubtedly been far from easy thus far, even with just two games of the season played, if truth be told Granada have struggled. With the controversy surrounding the last few seasons at the club yet to abate, it remains to be seen if those fans will be quite as euphoric if that meteoric rise comes to an abrupt end after a painful La Liga season.