But Depor would only flirt with Europe’s loftiest heights before coming crashing back to earth. After 2004, their form became increasingly inconsistent. Star players left in tandem, and future investments failed to pay dividends. The €11 million signing of Paraguayan center midfielder Roberto Acuna was particularly burdensome. As he struggled with injuries and form, he was loaned out multiple times, only playing 14 times for Depor between 2002 and 2006.
During this time, Lendoiro took massive gambles by using advance television rights money to finance other purchases with the expectation that the revenue would remain the same. When the TV market crashed, however, Depor found themselves stuck with impossibly high wages, unpaid transfer fees and unsustainable running costs. The club banked too much on their current success, and without a viable long-term plan, they eventually suffered the consequences.
The decline was gradual until Deportivo were relegated in 2011. In Segunda, the problems remained, as Depor’s debt continued to rise without Primera Divison money to offset their costs. Soon, the club once affectionately called “Super Depor” would enter administration, and Lendoiro would eventually resign, ending his 25-year reign at the helm.
Depor would bounce between the first and second division for a few years, returning to the top flight again last year. It was disaster of a campaign , though, with humiliating 2-8 loss to Real Madrid summing up their woeful performance. Once a club sitting at the pinnacle of Spanish and European soccer, Depor’d become a ragtag group compiled of old warhorses and loanees. The club barely survived, finishing in 16th position, just three points clear of the drop.
This season however under Victor Sanchez, who guided the team to safety after taking over with eight games to go last season, Depor have solidified. And one man in particular has been leading the charge.
The Prodigal Son
A La Coruña native Lucas Perez left his family at 16 because he wasn’t good enough to play for his beloved Depor. He became a journeyman in his teens, moving from Deportivo Alaves to Atletico Madrid and Rayo Vallecano before jetting off to Ukraine and Greece. Last year, he finally achieved his dream when Deportivo took him on loan. His storybook return began with a goal in his debut, with Perez kissing the badge in front of the adoring fans.
Perez was signed full time after the season, and in this campaign he’s taken his game a step further, becoming the de facto talisman of the squad. He’s been responsible for 13 goals thus season, scoring 11 while assisting on another two.