Every season, players from Portugal arrive to A Coruña in the hopes of furthering their young careers or preserving their veteran ones.
Sometimes, these players become contemporary cult heroes: Pizzi and Bruno Gama. Other times, they become often-ridiculed items: Evaldo. 2014/15 was no different. There were heroes and there were, as the cliché tends to go, zeroes.
Depor expert Chris Moar runs the rule over the latest batch of ex Liga NOS footballers who pitched up in Galicia this past season.
The Portuguese left-back has spent two extremely strong years in Galicia since joining on a free from SL Benfica. In his first season, he shone in an advanced wing role – creating chances and offering a strong attacking output. This season, though, he cemented a regular spot at left-back.
His aggression hinders what is an excellent 1 vs 1 defensive ability and he often has to reduce all risk from his game after receiving early yellow cards. He picked up 10 yellow cards and one red (he was suspended three times). When he has no cards attributed to his game, he tends to excel. Last season in particular, his interceptions and tackles played a gigantic part in Deportivo’s 12 league clean-sheets. In fact, his interception rate was high enough to see him feature in La Liga’s top 10 for most defensive actions.
Luisinho amassed just one assist, though this was heavily due to Victor Fernandez’s restriction on full-backs – he insisted that they defend at all times.
Unfortunately, an error of hilarious proportions against archrivals Celta Vigo meant that many turned to disregard the full-back’s quality in both defensive and attacking situations.
Another loanee from Benfica; another cult hero. Sidnei worked his way into the heart of many a Blanquiazul with his powerful, bull-like runs through the centre and strong upper-body displays. He repelled forwards with his brutish demeanour and, while committing a few defensive errors, was by and far one of the most consistent and impressive performers of the season.
Sidnei was given creative freedom, despite operating as a centre-back. He was allowed to add variation to the attack by bursting and shrugging off opposition. One of his finest actions of the season was a mesmerising run from his own half, culminating in a nutmeg on Atletico Madrid’s Saul and subsequent assist. The 25-year-old picked up two assists from these signature runs.
Defensively, though, he was also revered. He attempted 72 tackles and won a whopping 54 of those. Despite not featuring in Benfica’s plans, it is surprising that he is not being kept around for back up. Deportivo cannot afford the €5m asking price, but rest assured another loan offer will be made. He is loved in A Coruña by the majority.
The Sporting Lisbon winger arrived for his fourth season with Deportivo – all on loan. But this time, it was different. He was still recovering from an ACL injury suffered in February at the same club. He was predicted to return in October but, once declared fit, he was shunned by Victor Fernandez and outright unused.
Up until Victor Sanchez’s arrival – with six league games to go – Salomão was out casted with claims that he was “unfit”. Meanwhile, close family friends revealed that he was perfectly fine. After that entire season-long storm settled, the 26-year-old played a pivotal part in the club’s survival. He was man-of-the-match against Levante in a 2-0 win and then scored the biggest goal in the club’s recent history: a 78th minute equaliser at the Camp Nou to secure survival.
Salomão did more in a handful of games than Isaac Cuenca did in 20+. Many have wondered what would have been of Depor’s season had he not been treated harshly. A fifth year could be likely for the forward. Sporting no longer necessitate him and he has carved an extremely strong bond with Depor.
Without a doubt the most underwhelming of the past season’s crop. He arrived with a lot of hype surrounding his technical ability and he did not disappoint in pre-season friendlies, either. But his lack of quality in competitive matches was clear to see after the 3rd league game.
His pressing from the front was quite handy, until the system was changed to something more defensive. When his role became that of creating and helping instigate attacks, he quickly cowered into his shell and ambled around on the pitch in a disinterested manner.
The 24-year-old is on the cusp of becoming an untapped talent – one of those that simply cannot grasp his chance when given to him. Benfica will not want to wait for him to come good, either.
Where do we start with a man who sees more bookings than goals most seasons? Jorge Mendes does an excellent job at finding him top-flight teams every single year, yet Postiga is nothing but a profligate journeyman.
Postiga offered very little other than sporadic strong displays of hold-up play. He notched just one goal in the league and one in the Copa del Rey. He was not without chances – both to start and score. But it was typical Postiga: unreliable, aggressive and slow in build-up.
He was signed to overtake Toche, but the veteran Spanish striker ended up scoring more goals from the bench than Postiga as a starter. Eventually, Postiga’s chances were cut short when Oriol Riera was acquired in January. Thankfully for all parties, Postiga’s contract lasted just one season.
Benfica seem to grab a metaphorical brush and sweep players over the border to A Coruña – sometimes excessively. Costa was a player who featured next-to-no times because the forward line was already stacked to the brim.
When he played, there was a clear youthfulness to his game: raw speed but no real end product or finality to his dribbles. He was clearly enthusiastic, but perhaps the loan should have been to a second division side.
The marmite of the Depor squad this season: you either loved his bullish runs, dribbles and constant pressing or you detested his profligacy in front of goal and tendency to hide. There was no middle ground in an already divisive fan base.
Personally, I thought Cavaleiro was a strong performer in patches. He created more chances than any other Deportivo player and registered the most assists. Furthermore, the arguments of him going incognito and underperforming were unfair. If he wasn’t creating chances, it was because Deportivo were pegged back. He is not the type of player to help out defensively beyond chasing loose balls – which he did very well.
If you judge him on an attacking basis alone, he was a fine performer. Add in all-round performances, and some questions marks can be thrown at him.
Regardless, his future is bright. Benfica would do well to hold onto him if there are some big departures to be witnessed in the forward areas. With the right harnessing of his potential and some more variety added to his attacking style, he could go very far.
By Chris Moar
For more from Chris follow him on twitter @MoarFootball.