Teammates carrying Lucas Perez. Source: RC Deportivo
Teammates carrying Lucas Perez. Source: RC Deportivo

The football star paid half a million out of his own pocket to help his childhood club back to the top

Football OlyBet 30.05.2024

It just had to be him. Lucaz Perez, who left the Spanish Premier League a year and a half ago and paid half a million euros out of his own pocket, helped his childhood club Deportivo La Coruña end four years of suffering when he lifted them to the Spanish Premier League for the new season with his wonderful free kick.

The now 35-year-old Perez’s football journey started in ACoruña, but he didn’t manage to stay put in the northern Spanish coastal city of 250,000 inhabitants for too long. Life simply demanded otherwise. To make ends meet, his fisherman father worked 18-hour days, and little Lucas grew up largely with his grandparents.

That’s how football became his best friend, which quickly became an obsession. However, realizing that he really wanted to become a professional player, he had to leave A Coruña. So, Perez moved to the Basque country as a teenager, where, bouncing between the systems of three different football clubs, he finally caught the eye of Atletico Madrid.

First homecoming

The red and white jersey did not give him a chance among the adults, but the chance came in another Premier League club, Rayo Vallecano, for whom he made his debut in the 2010/11 season. However, as it was difficult to get a foot in the door in Spain, Perez decided to look elsewhere, so he moved on to Ukraine and Greece.

In the 2014/15 season, however, he returned home to A Coruña. Perez had to miss the lion’s share of that good year, but he was still on the field in the decisive games of the season and scored the goal that kept Deportivo in the top league at FC Barcelona’s home stadium Camp Nou.

A year later, Perez was already scoring 17 goals in 36 games for Deportivo, after which London Arsenal came knocking on the door.

Second homecoming

However, the Spaniard did not manage to prove himself as a real gunner, because after one mediocre season – 21 games and 7 goals – he returned to Deportivo on loan. However, since he was able to support his team with only 9 hits, the club was relegated to the Premier League.

As a player at a mature age, Perez did not go with his favorites, but instead returned to England, where he put on the shirt of West Ham United.

However, realizing that the style of the Spanish league suits him better, he returned to his homeland in the 2019/20 season, joining Alaves. The result was a decent 34 games and 11 goals.

After that, the momentum of Perez, who turned 30, waned. The following year, he scored just four times, after which he moved on to Elche. But even there it was more or less the same: 19 games and 2 goals.

In the 2021/22 season, the attacker ended up in Cadiz, where he accepted the status of mentor and substitute. Although he continued to enjoy playing, he did not enjoy what was happening at the same time with Deportivo La Coruña.

His childhood club had meanwhile been relegated to Spain’s third division and was struggling there too. Perez’s heart was dripping with blood and he decided: I must go help them!

The third homecoming

When the president of the Deportivo club heard about it, he was overjoyed. What could they have against the return of their own guy, the man who has top football experience under his belt? But things were not so simple.

Namely, Perez had a valid contract with Cadiz, and seeing that the Spaniard was ready for essentially anything to return to his childhood club, they hardened their hearts, put their emotions aside and stated: a million euros, please! Even though just a year before, they had paid Elche themselves just 200,000 euros for Perez’s playing rights.

Understandably, Deportivo, playing in the third league, did not have that kind of money. But then Perez intervened in the negotiations and stated: I will pay half of it myself!

493,000 euros from Perez, the same amount from Deportivo, and the transfer was completed. From January 1, 2023, the Spaniard again became a player of the club of the city of A Coruña.

In his return game, eight days later, Perez promptly scored two goals against Unionistas CF. Finally, half a season in, he scored 8 goals in 19 games for Deportivo, helping the club finish fourth at the end of the season.

A damn painful playoff

A nerve-wracking playoff followed. The opening game of the semi-final against Castellon at the home Riazorista Stadium was won 1-0, but in the replay, the fans’ nerves were put to a test for quite a long time, until everyone burst into tears.

Deportivo was down 0-2 after half an hour of play but managed to fight for a draw in the 59th minute. When the 89 minutes ticked by, everything was still good, but in the last minute of the match, Iago Indias managed to beat Castelloni’s goal 3:2. And the game went to overtime.

In the fifth minute, Deportivo’s goalkeeper Ian Mackay lost his temper and hit Indias with his elbow. A red card was issued, and a penalty followed, which Castellon player Pablo Hernander missed!

Deportivo fans were biting their nails because they knew that in case of a draw, Castellon would advance – in the third division of Spain, extra time is no longer followed by a penalty shootout, but in this case, the one who finished the regular season higher will advance.

However, in the 98th minute, Kuki Zalazar scored, and Deportivo fans roared!

This joyous party lasted only ten minutes because then Castelloni’s fourth was scored by David Cubillas and that’s how the match ended. Castellon won the replay 4:3 and, thanks to a strange rule, advanced to the playoff final with a 4:4 draw.

A honey-sweet triumph

When it’s done poorly, do it again. Deportivo continued to try, with the support of Lucas Perez, to get into the Spanish Premier League, and this year they succeeded. At the same time, it was Perez who became the hero of the club!

Not only has he scored – and that number could increase with two rounds to go – 12 goals and is on course for 17 – but it’s the timing of those goals that matters!

Four rounds before the end, Deportivo led Group I of Spain’s third league, from which only the winner automatically advances to the premier league, but the Barcelona B team was behind them by just four points. But then…

4th of May. Matchup with Sestao River. It’s the 71st minute and the score is still 0:0. But then Lucas Perez earns a penalty and uses it to give Deportivo a sweet victory.

12th of May. A matchup with main rival Barcelona B. It’s the 56th minute and the score is still 0:0. But then Deportivo earns a free kick from near the penalty box and Lucaz Perez gets to the ball. He takes the momentum, puts his foot down, whips… and scores. Thus, securing Deportivo not only the game and the league win but also promotion to the Spanish Premier League.

“I came here to help. I am extremely happy to see the city of A Coruña like this. When I returned home, I dreamed that something like this could happen. It’s wonderful to see this atmosphere and to bring this joy to the people here,” said Perez after the triumph, recalling that when he left Cadiz, he told his teammates that helping the 2000 Spanish champions back up would be the most important challenge of his career.

“It’s just such a difficult challenge because I understood very well how bad a situation Depor was in and how difficult it was for them athletically. They played at the league level, where they don’t really belong, and I just had to help them out of there,” said the hero of the day, who succeeded in his dream.

However, he was not alone in his stardom, he also gave kudos to head coach Imanol Idiakezi after his promotion. “He is actually the most important person in this dressing room and this club. We love him so much. He has behaved extremely honestly with us, thanks to which we trust each other to great length,” said Perez and confirmed that he intends to continue at Deportivo next year as well.

Because where else should a hometown hero go…


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