The end of the road for Eibar: Eibar has been Relegated from LaLiga and why Eibar being in LaLiga was a miracle
So, Eibar were finally relegated in La Liga this season after their defeat to Valencia. For them to even be in LaLiga in the first place was a miracle. For them to be there for seven years was just continuously unbelievable.
The population of Eibar is 27,400 at the last count. That makes them the smallest ever club to reach Spain’s top division. You could put every Eibar resident in the Camp Nou and still have 72,000 or more seats left over.
For Eibar to even make it to LaLiga was unthinkable. They’d come close before, under Mendilibar in 04/05 season. But, as former president Alex Aranzabal said, the club’s natural place is the 3rd tier. But, in 2013/14, they won the Segunda with the lowest budget of the entire division.
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Their first LaLiga match was a derby against ‘big brothers’ Real Sociedad. They won 1-0, defeating the team that used to loan them players because they operated in different footballing universes.
On the pitch Eibar got better and better. They were lucky to stay up in 2014/15. They finished in the relegation zone (after Barcelona drew with Deportivo on the final day as they had a Xavi farewell party). But, Elche were demoted for financial regulations.
That Elche case went to court and made meeting the publishers’ deadlines… interesting. Because they’d been relegated on the pitch, promotion-winning Gaizka Garitano resigned as coach. Mendilibar came in and Eibar got a lot better, finishing 14th, 12th, 9th, 12th and then 14th.
Mendilibar was perfect for Eibar. No nonsense. Hard working. Good results. The fans had so many songs for him, the best obviously being their cover of Nicky Jam’s ‘El Perdón’ with the words “Sin ti, José Luis, dime quién puede ser feliz” which means “Without you, José Luis, tell me who can be happy” in English.
Fran Garagarza, the sporting director all this time, was key to the continued success. Always able to find bargains and good loan signings, after Eibar’s best players left each summer.
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Limiting Factor: The Lack of Fans
This year, in 2020/21, Eibar simply weren’t good enough and that’s why they’re being relegated. But, I do also think a part of it is the lack of fans. Eibar’s home crowd was usually the smallest in LaLiga, but the percentage occupancy was always one of the highest.