I must admit this kinda feels like cursing in Church, like confessing to your wife you had an affair. I feel dirty about it (but that’s a good thing, no?).
Back in 2003-2004, I was already a self-proclaimed Giallorosso. Capello at the helm, Panucci, Samuel, Chivu, Emerson, Tommasi, Totti, Cassano, Montella, those were the days, my friend. Roma even finished second in Serie A that season, they rocked an amazing jersey and Totti scored 20+ goals, what’s not to love?
Although I adored everything red and yellow, there was also a particular shade of blue that caught my eye. And I don’t mean the other side of Rome, aw hell no, I’m not a fool.
About 2200 km from Rome, there’s the lovely region of Galicia, in the Northwest part of Spain. One of the biggest cities there is A Coruña, with its big port and mild winters. The most common color in the region of Galicia and A Coruña is blue so it’s no surprise its most famous football club, Deportivo La Coruña, wears blue as well. Blue and white stripes to be exact.
And it’s those same blue and white stripes that amazed me during the 2003-2004 season.
Just like Roma, Deportivo were flying high in the early 2000s. Led by mastermind Javier Irureta, Depor won the La Liga title in 2000, were runner-up in 2001 and 2002, won the Spanish Cup and Supercup in 2002. They were finally one of the big boys alongside Barcelona and Real Madrid. Also, their stadium has one of the coolest names ever on the planet: Riazor. Admit it, that’s an awesome name and I would crap my pants if I had to play in that stadium as a player.
Deportivo was a well-oiled machine around 2003 with lots of players who were already part of the club for many years. A steady, experienced keeper like Molina, tough defenders like Capdevilla, Naybet, Andrade and Manuel Pablo. A deadly hitman like Pandiani. Work horses Sergio and Duscher. Brazilian flair with Djalminha and Mauro Silva. The midfield magicians Victor, Luque and Fran. Diego Tristan, my personal favorite. Hell, they even had their own Francesco Totti in the body of Juan Carlos Valeron, one of the best creative midfielders of all time. Those names bring back so many good memories. And to think their star and top scorer Roy Makaay just left for Bayern Munich.
If Roma could have somehow tempted Valeron to create magic next to Totti and Cassano. perhaps that was the final piece of the puzzle that was missing for another Scudetto. Pandiani, Tristan, Andrade, Capdevilla...I would welcome them all at Roma really.
One special game from 2003-2004 will always stay in my mind. The clash vs AC Milan in the Champions League quarter-final. After losing 4-1 in Italy, Depor simply turned it around at the Riazor, winning 4-0 and going through to the semi-final.
It was a historic AC Milan side, a star studded team including Maldini, Cafu, Nesta, Dida, Seedorf, Gattusso, Pirlo, Kaka, Inzaghi, Sheva etc. Not the mediocre Milan of recently. The Rossoneri were the current CL title holders and not one person believed in Deportivo’s chances after the first leg. But after 45min in the return leg, Depor were already up 3-0 after goals from Pandiani, Valeron and Luque. Milan fans were in shock and didn’t know what hit them.
Ultimately Depor won 4-0 and the guy who gambled on that score would be as rich as Jeff Bezos right now. The game was live on Belgian television and up until today remains one of the most impressive matches I ever saw.
Sadly, Deportivo wouldn’t go on to win the CL. They would narrowly lose the semis against future champions FC Porto, led by a young Jose Mourinho. However, they were responsible for one of the most magical evenings on the European stage with that comeback and they will have a special place in my football heart. Thank God Roma followed in their footsteps with the crazy 3-0 win vs Barcelona 2 years ago.
Sadly 2.0 this won’t be a happy ending. The growth of Depor was stagnating and the Galician side eventually dropped to second division twice in the span of three years, in 2011 and 2013. However, they also quickly returned to La Liga twice after one season in hell and narrowly avoided relegation in 2015, it was only a matter of time Depor would break.
In 2018, they once again dropped to Segunda Division and after doing some more research, I found out they didn’t even survive that league and are now playing in Segunda Divison B, which is basically third tier of Spanish football. How the mighty have fallen, it seems that sentence was invented especially for Deportivo La Coruña.
I hope they return to the top flight real soon. A club with that much history simply needs to be in La Liga, beating Real Madrid and Barcelona and making young kids dream like it’s 2004. Now excuse me while I’ll go on YouTube to search for some more highlights.
The Riazor is waiting.