In a season typically dominated by the likes of Real Madrid and Barcelona, a surprising challenger has emerged at the top of La Liga—Girona. Despite only being in its fourth top-flight season, Girona has defied expectations, currently leading the league table, one point ahead of Real Madrid, although the latter has a game in hand.
Founded in 1930, Girona spent much of its history in the third tier and below, returning to the second division in 2008 after a 49-year absence. While previously promoted to La Liga in 2017, experiencing only two seasons before relegation, Girona’s current campaign suggests it may establish a more enduring presence.
The team’s success draws parallels with Leicester City’s unexpected triumph in the Premier League, and Spanish football expert Semra Hunter believes these comparisons are valid. With a considerable lead over Barcelona, this season appears poised for a two-horse race between Real and Girona.
Hunter expresses optimism about Girona’s title chances, citing victories over strong contenders like Atlético Madrid and Barcelona. The absence of European football further aids Girona, as Real’s focus might shift during the Champions League knockout stage. Girona’s CEO, Ignasi Mas-Bagà, credits their recent success to manager Miguel Ángel Sánchez Muñoz, known as Míchel.
Míchel, a Madrid native and iconic figure at Rayo Vallecano, took charge of Girona in 2021, securing promotion in his first season and finishing 10th in the subsequent one. Hunter describes Míchel’s impact, highlighting his adaptability to the Catalan lifestyle, linguistic acumen in learning Catalan, and attention to detail.
Despite the ownership by the City Football Group (CFG), which owns Manchester City, Girona operates on a relatively small budget. The club’s recruitment strategy involves being resourceful and smart in scouting and signing players. Girona’s success this season is not solely reliant on individual stars, as they function as a cohesive team.
The current standout, Ukrainian forward Artem Dovbyk, joined from SC Dnipro-1 in the summer, proving to be a potent goal threat. Míchel’s occasional discussions with Pep Guardiola, City’s manager, also contribute to Girona’s tactical understanding.
While Girona acknowledges the competition from a consistently successful Real Madrid, the club and its fans have earned the right to dream. Hunter characterizes Girona’s potential La Liga triumph as the “ultimate underdog story,” akin to David versus Goliath, marking a monumental achievement for a historically basketball-focused city.