For all the praise lavished upon Jose Mourinho for his so called ‘shrewd’ signings this summer, it should not be forgotten that there were other coaches around who did a little more than use the World Cup as a scouting guide. Take Esteban Vigo for example. Whilst Madrid and Barcelona were off spending their millions, Vigo was trying to decide which players he could realistically bring to newly-promoted Hercules to keep extend their stay in La Primera past just one season. The three main names he chose were as follows:
- David Trezeguet – a 33-year-old striker who, for all his former glories, managed just eleven goals in his last 39 appearances for Juventus.
- Royston Drenthe – signed by Real Madrid as a star of the future, Drenthe became almost an outcast at the Bernabeu and presumably was gladly loaned out to Hercules in the summer.
- Nelson Valdez – in 113 games for Borussia Dortmund, Valdez found the net just 16 times.
Did Vigo know something that no-one else did? On paper these were three players who, despite having a purple patch at some stage of their career, appeared now to be on the decline and were unable to reproduce their best form. Fast forward seven matches into the season and how things have changed.
Hercules find themselves not languishing in the bottom-three as many people might have predicted, instead they are sitting comfortably in mid-table and have already caused the upset of the season, if not the century. When Vigo took his men to the Camp Nou, Barcelona had not been beaten for over a year at home, they had won their last eleven matches and they were defending an undefeated run of 17 games. Ninety minutes after kick-off and all the records were all ended as two goals from Nelson Valdez gave Hercules their third successive win over the Catalans.
A couple of weeks later and it was the turn of Sevilla to take on the newly promoted team, the result – exactly the same, although this time it was Trezeguet who grabbed the brace of goals. Finally, and most recently, Hercules welcomed the potential league leaders Villarreal to the Jose Rico Perez, and in an enthralling encounter the home side took the lead twice before eventually being pegged back and held to a draw by the visitors.
All in all, not a bad start to the season for Vigo and Hercules, especially considering the fact that it has been nearly fifteen years since the club has played in the Spanish top flight. In between their relegation in the 1996/1997 season and their promotion last year they have experienced both life in Segunda and also Segunda B; a league where one can now find the B teams of Atletico Madrid, Getafe and Deportivo La Coruna. Now they are back amongst the big time it appears they are determined to stay, although to make sure of doing so they might have to improve their record against the teams out of the top seven, which currently reads; played three (Athletic Bilbao, Getafe and Real Zaragoza), lost two and drawn one.
Whilst Trezeguet and Valdez have been making all the headlines in the wins against Barcelona and Sevilla there is one man whose signing Vigo is likely to be just as pleased with, if not more so, and that is Royston Drenthe. After three years out in the wilderness at Madrid and with his star rapidly fading, Drenthe is taking his chance at Hercules and is showing why los Blancos splashed out €14 million for him. On the list of ‘most successful passes made’ in La Primera, the Dutchman currently sits in sixth and it is fair to say that without him Trezeguet and Valdez would not have scored all the goals they have.
Unfortunately it looks as though Drenthe will miss the match with his parent club in two weeks time, unless Hercules shell out a reported €2 million, but Valdez and Trezeguet should be ready to lead the line for Vigo. Mourinho is likely to bring his star-studded team to the Jose Rico Perez as league leaders and with an undefeated record, although whether they will leave with both statistics intact will remain to be seen…