Team Spotlight: Racing Santander and their European adventureApril 28, 2018
Racing Santander have spent much of their time either in the Segunda Division or in the bottom half of La Liga.
Their title challenge in 1930 was a fluke more than a precursor of more to come, while they have managed to reach the semi-finals of the Copa del Rey on two occasions, in 2007/08 and 2009/10 seasons.
Since then, they have dropped two tiers and struggle to get past the first round, if they can enter at all.
But sandwiched between their two campaigns in the last four of the Spanish Cup, there was history for the club and moments that are high unlikely to happen again.
Racing Santander off to Europe
Making any headway in domestic competitions is a considered a successful term for Santander, yet reaching European tournaments had eluded them prior to 2009.
During the 2007/08 season, along with their adventures in the Copa del Rey, they managed to finish sixth in the La Liga, their highest placing in 73 years.
It also booked Racing a slot in the following campaign’s UEFA Cup, their first endeavour into to Europe and they certainly left a mark.
Makelele, Neuer, Rakitic, Kezman…
The first round saw the Asturian outfit face Finnish side Honka in a two-legged tie. A 1-0 home victory was followed by the same scoreline in Scandinavia to see them progress to the group stages.
Drawn in Group A with Santander was a Claude Makelele-led Paris Saint-Germain, Dutch club FC Twente, a youthful Schalke 04 from Germany and Manchester City, who had recently been by mega-rich Sheikh Mansour.
But they did not get off to a great start, going down 1-0 in Holland to Steve McClaren’s men, before being held at home by a German side that had youngsters including Manuel Neuer, Benedikt Howedes and Ivan Rakitic amongst its ranks.
A trip to France saw Santander come back from 2-0 down to draw to PSG, who had former Chelsea and Atletico Madrid striker Mateja Kezman on their books.
Beating mega-rich Man City
Yet, they saved the best to last. Manchester City, thanks to their new wealthy investors, had splashed out over £70 million on signings in the summer, including Real Madrid starlet Robinho.
But it was the Spaniards who ran out 3-1 victors, thanks to goals from Jonathan, Oscar Serrano and Juan Valera.
It put them on five points, level with PSG, but thanks to the French side’s 4-0 win over Twente, Santander were beaten by one goal difference.
Despite their underdog status, the Asturians put up a fight, but one that ended in another near-miss, just like their previous La Liga title challenge.
With Man City and PSG now both powerhouses and among the most lethal sides in the world, Santander’s chances of being able to compete with them now are slim and it could be some time before they get another shot in Europe.
For now, promotion to the Segunda Division is the target.