Getafe tear Valencia apart and rip up the cliches as they climb ever higher | Sid Lowe | Football

“Mission accomplished,” José Bordalás said. It was six o’clock on Saturday 8 February and Getafe’s manager reckoned they had reached their target. “Not mathematically,” he conceded, sitting there at the Coliseum where another team had been thrown to the lions, “but virtually.” Outside, 13,070 supporters had spent the afternoon serenading him, singing “Bordalás, I love you” as Getafe beat Valencia, the club whose centre forward cost twice as much as their entire starting XI. And no wonder: two goals from Jorge Molina and one from Jaime Mata took them to 42 points, securing another season in primera for the team he took over in the relegation zone, second bottom.

Of segunda.

Up from the second, into the first, staying there twice and safe again with 15 matches still to go, time for some other target then. They won’t say so, not publicly at least, but it’s not just the league Getafe aspire to be in next season; it’s the Champions League too. And while they have been here before – last year, they missed out on the final day, 22 minutes of which they spent in fourth – this time they’re even better placed than before. More importantly, it’s still absurd. Just doing what they did to Valencia is pretty silly.

Valencia-Getafe is a very modern rivalry and a startlingly bitter one too, built on recriminations and swiftly it has been deeply embraced – probably more than really makes sense. There has been fighting talk and actual fighting. Last season’s Copa del Rey tie, won in the last minute by Valencia, turned into full-on battle where there genuinely was blood, sweat and tears, and when Getafe lost that last Champions League place it was to Valencia. Yet Bordalás insisted that didn’t make Saturday’s win taste better – although for the fans it probably did – and nor is that why Valencia manager Albert Celades referred to Getafe as “direct rivals”. Instead, it was because this was third against fifth, two points apart, making it a match of huge significance. “We’re competing for the same thing,” Celades said.

They shouldn’t be. Valencia’s salary cap, set by the league (the total amount they are allowed to spend on their playing staff, transfers and wages included), is €170m. Getafe’s is €56m. Eleven teams have a bigger budget; Barcelona and Madrid’s annual revenue is 16 times theirs. The 14 men who played on Saturday cost €16.2m. Maxi López cost €30m. So did Rodrigo Moreno. Getafe’s most expensive player is Nemanja Maksimovic, who Valencia didn’t want. In the winter window they lost their first-choice centre-back to bottom-placed Espanyol, for goodness sake.

“I tell my players that they should believe, that they should set their own limits, not let anyone else do that for them; I try to get them to see that they have talent, that they can do it, tell them that players at big clubs are no better than them,” Bordalás said. But they’re supposed to be.

Getafe’s real, original rivalry is with Leganés, built on gravel pitches in regional football to the south of Madrid and somehow established in primera. Coming up to 38, officially the captain is older than the club he plays for: when Molina signed, at 34, seemingly on the way down, he thought he’d never reach the first division again. His strike partner, Mata, scoring goals as a student but never really seeing this as a career, didn’t think he would ever get there at all. The other striker, Ángel, was 30 when he signed, unexpectedly getting the chance to go back. The year before Damián Suárez joined, he was relegated with Elche and in his first year at Getafe was relegated again. When Xabi Exteita signed this summer, it was from relegation with Huesca. Allan Nyom had just gone down with West Brom. And on it goes: 28 relegations the squad have endured between them.

And yet on Saturday – on any given Sunday, in fact – Bordalás was right. They are no worse than players at bigger clubs. In fact, they are better. In the case of Valencia, miles better. At the end of Saturday’s game, standing at the touchline having been beaten, it took Valencia defender Gabriel five or six seconds to say anything, the silence deafening, a lost look in his eyes, like a broken man. “I can’t say anything …” he eventually mumbled, trying to bite his tongue. When at last he did, he said: “It was shit, all of it. Everything was shit.” Which was true, but that’s what Getafe do to a lot of teams.

Besides, if everything Valencia did was shit, everything Getafe did was brilliant. They didn’t just defeat Valencia, they took them to pieces; in doing so, they took the cliches to pieces too.

José Bordalás

Getafe manager José Bordalás, right, has taken his side from the second division to a position above Atlético Madrid and Sevilla in the top flight. Photograph: Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

It finished 3-0. It could have been four, five, six or more. “Bish, bash, bosh” read the headline in AS, which summed it up quite nicely, Valencia beaten to a pulp, except it was more subtle than that. “Boring,” “dirty,” defensive Getafe, the “anti-football” team who actually spend more time in the opposition half than anyone else in Spain, had 22 shots. They had 10 on target and nine corners. Valencia didn’t have any of either. They had more of the ball, more passes, more crosses, more dribbles, more everything except fouls. They’re tough it’s true, and at times maybe it isn’t easy on the eye, skilled at the “other football”, but they can play, like Bordalás says. Last week at Athletic, Damián Suárez turned all Leo Messi. This week, Molina turned all Denis Bergkamp. Turned all the Valencia defence too, leaving them in a cartoon knot, knees facing backwards, legs wrapped round each other.

Molina’s second goal was superb, “a work of art” Bordalás said, a mess of Valencia defenders sent out for cigarettes: a shift one way, yoo-hoo, bye, a shift the other, and it was in the net. But it wasn’t about that; it was about everything. It was that while the first dropped to him from a rebound, he had made the opportunity in the first place, the third he had made in five minutes; that while it might have been a potty-mouthed guiri, or foreigner, who called him “so fucking good” on the radio, far from reproach the line, the presenter repeated it. Molina stops the clock, master of time and space, magically appearing around him. Hold, wait, apply the pause and then the pass, something from nothing. There is no better slow-motion dribbler, defenders lulled then defeated, so smooth, almost silent, no better way out.

“He’s like El CID, everyone follows him,” Bordalás said, making Molina blush. “The feeling is reciprocated,” Molina said, smiling softly. Everything is and it is all of them. Just look at the forwards: Molina has been wonderful; Mata got a Spain call-up; this week, the talk in Getafe was that Barcelona were coming for Ángel. Cucurella, Arambarri, Maksimovic, Djené, Soria and stop there … it wouldn’t be fair to keep going and leave anyone out.

Bordalás certainly won’t. He was quick to highlight Ángel’s role in the third. Getafe’s top scorer on nine goals, eight of them off the bench, Ángel had the chance to get another but instead rolled it across for Mata to score. There was something in that, a portrait of his team, just as there was something in the fact that most of his players actually ran the other way to celebrate with Kenedy – another substitute and the man whose tackle, not exactly the thing he is known for, had started it all off. “This team is super-generous; I appreciate the work, the attitude, the solidarity. We’re a family. This team is an example of generosity, an example of football,” Bordalás said.

It is his example, his obsession. When Bordalás arrived just over three years ago, Getafe were near the foot of the second division. He took them to promotion, then to eighth, then fifth. Now, they’re safe again with 15 weeks to go. Intense, demanding, a little mad but with method, once seen as unsuited to the first division, too unsubtle for the top flight, what he has done is extraordinary. He has revived them all, moulding what might seem to be a motley crew into a hugely impressive football team, achieving beyond their wildest dreams.

Getafe CF’s Jaime Mata scores the third goal after some fine work from Ángel in the buildup.

Getafe CF’s Jaime Mata scores the third goal after some fine work from Ángel in the buildup. Photograph: Rodrigo Jimenez/EPA

Between them, his players have played more seasons in the second division than first and have experienced more relegations than they have winners’ medals, three times as many as they have league titles – and none of those are in Europe’s five biggest leagues. Only two of them are even in Europe, in fact: there’s an apertura and a clausura with River Plate, a Cameroonian title with Cotton Sport, two leagues with Dynamo Kyiv, two in Kazakhstan and that’s that. Yet here they are, third: ahead of Atlético and Sevilla, now five points and an unassailable head-to-head record ahead of Valencia, their 21st century rivals for whom, like most first division teams, they should be no match

Saturday’s starting XI has played just seven Champions League games ever, but that could change. As Molina put it: “it’s not chance.” If they might not be the third best team in Spain right night, it might only be because they’re the second. They have won four in a row without conceding a goal and although Barcelona and Sevilla are up next, plus Ajax in the Europa League, although there is a long way to go, safety has been secured for another season, leaving something greater before them. It will be hard, but if Getafe are anything it is hard, built to do what they can’t.

“We don’t talk about that, day to day,” Bordalás said. “But you always dream, grow, improve, try to achieve big things. Today we played a team with a budget that is far, far greater than out own and we won with authority. I tell them: let’s enjoy this, keep working, because as soon as you stop, it ends, and see what happens next. There’s a very long way to go. We’re on a crossing, swimming. We’ve passed the equator and we can see the beach now. Don’t give up yet; keep on swimming until you reach the shore.”

Alavés 2–1 Eibar, Levante 2–0 Leganés, Getafe 3–0 Valencia, Valladolid 1–1 Villarreal, Atlético 1–0 Granada, Espanyol 1–0 Mallorca, Real Sociedad 2–1 Athletic, Osasuna 1–4 Madrid, Celta 2–1 Sevilla, Betis 2–3 Barcelona

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