Deportivo La Coruña

Title-winners, four-times runners-up, twice cup winners and Champions League semi-finalists all in one decade, Deportivo La Coruña have twice since sank into the Segunda, coming straight back up both times.

The most recent rebound came in 2013-14, when long-term captain Manuel Pablo, the last vestige of the Super Depor team of title-winning vintage, led the Brancoazuis back to La Liga.

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La Brigantia

The Blue and Whites first made the top flight in 1941, having lost out on promotion the year before at the hands of eternal rivals Celta Vigo. The club had been founded in 1906, and a member of the Segunda since its inaugural year of 1929.

Depor’s first golden era started in the 1940s. Building their current home of the Riazor in 1944, the club came close to the Spanish title in 1950. With a team including iconic goalkeeper Juan Acuña and, later, Luis Suárez, both locally born, plus Uruguayan forward Dagoberto Moll, Depor stayed in the top flight until 1957.

It took three decades before the top scorer that fateful season of 1956-57, Galician-born Arsenio Iglesias, created a side greater than that of 1950.

Promoted in 1991, a team featuring former Barça defender López Rekarte, ex-Atlético man Donato and fellow midfielder Fran overcame a tricky first season to gain a European place in the second. Joined by Brazilian star Bebeto, Depor then pushed Johan Cruyff’s Barcelona to the wire in 1994.

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El Rompeolas/Peterjon Cresswell

But it was Bebeto, soon to raise the World Cup, who ducked out of taking a crucial last-minute penalty in the last game against Valencia. Its conversion would have gained Depor the title. Instead, Serbian defender Miroslav Djukic took the fateful kick, a poor effort that kept the score at 0-0 – and the title in Barcelona.

Runners-up again but cup winners in 1995, Depor were now Super Depor, serious regular challengers to Barça and Real. Under Basque coach Javier Irureta, grit was added to guile, with prolific Dutchman Roy Makaay joining long-term regulars Fran, Donato and Mauro Silva.

In 1999-2000, Depor, Super Depor, won the title with five points to spare, prompting wild scenes around the Riazor.

Bringing in striker Diego Tristán and Canarian Juán Carlos Valerón, who would push out title-winning lynchpin Djalminha, Depor achieved four consecutive top-three finishes to become Champions League regulars.

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Depor Tienda/Peterjon Cresswell

In 2004, an improbable 4-0 win over Milan – to reverse a 4-1 first-leg defeat – set Depor up for a semi-final with near neighbours Porto. A 0-0 draw over the border put Depor within 90 minutes of a final appearance. It wasn’t to be. A cynical if effective display by José Mourinho’s side saw the tie decided by a solitary penalty, and the Riazor fall silent. It was the end of an era.

Depor descended into mediocrity, then into the Segunda. First manager José Luis Oltra pulled them out of it in 2011-12 then, in 2013-14, Fernando Vázquez, a former assistant to Depor legend Iglesias at the Galician national set-up.

Budgetary restrictions at the cash-strapped club forced Vázquez out pre-season but with their strong fan base, La Coruña battled to stay up – and provided the visiting neutral with a top-flight weekend to remember.

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Estadio de Riazor/Peterjon Cresswell

Stadium

Depor have always been based at Riazor beach, although a proper stadium wasn’t built here until 1944, over the road from the basic original pitch.

Of sufficient standard that it hosted a Spanish Cup final three years afterwards, the Riazor was a simple open bowl of 30,000-plus capacity.

Completely rebuilt with four new stands for the 1982 World Cup, for which it staged three games, the Riazor was further modernised during the glory years of the 1990s.

The club hasn’t forgotten the past, though, retaining the Marathon tower and giving prominence to a statue of goalkeeper Juan Acuña, both of the Franco era.

Set in two tiers, the stadium comprises the Fondo Pabellón end nearest the sea, and the Fondo Marathon end under the tower, as well as the Tribuna Delantera on Calle Manuel Murguía and the Preferencia with VIP seats on Avenida de la Habana. Away fans are generally few and far between in this far corner of Galicia, a corner of the Pabellón and the Preferencia, sector 20 usually allocated. Current capacity is 34,600.

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Deportivo La Coruña transport/Peterjon Cresswell

Transport

Bus stops line Calle Manuel Murguía by the stadium, serving routes No.3A, 4 and 7 from Plaza de España in town, as well as No.1 from focal Plaza de María Pita. Journey time is 15-20min.

There’s no direct service from the train station – the No.14 from nearby Sardiñeira runs to Ronda Outeiro, 304, a 8-10min walk up to the roundabout and right down Calle Manuel Murguía.

If you’re in town, it’s a pleasant stroll along the seafront to Riazor, perhaps 20-25min from the city centre.

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Deportivo La Coruña tickets/Peterjon Cresswell

Tickets

Tickets are distributed in advance at the main office (Mon-Fri 10am-2pm, 4-7pm) between gates 15 and 16 on Avenida de la Habana, or on the day at the ticket windows at the Palacio de Deportes facing the sea. There are no online sales for non-members.

Prices are set around €40-50 in the Fondo Marathon or Pabellón, rising to €50-60 in the Preferencia and €80-plus in the Tribuna Superior on Manuel Murguía. Prices rise around 20% for the visits of Real Madrid, Barça and Celta Vigo.

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Depor Tienda/Peterjon Cresswell

Shop & museum

The rather chic Depor Tienda (Mon-Sat 10.30am-2pm, 5-8.30pm, match days) near the Acuña statue on Calle Manuel Murguía stocks a range of equally chic retro clothing. It also doubles up as a mini museum, with a trophy cabinet (including the 2000 Spanish title) in a raised area at the entrance.

Bars

Few stadia, not even Valencia’s or Bilbao’s, are surrounded by as many bars as Depor’s. Most line Calle Manuel Murguía, from the popular Estadio on the seafront corner, past Sieiro with its quality Serrano ham sandwiches and on to Brigantia. El Rompeolas features an outstanding display of classic Depor moments in black and white, from Franco-era line-ups to Bebeto’s tears and beyond.

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O'Norte

The Taberna Riazor/Pulpeira specialises in octopus, as its name suggests, Blanco y Azul in blue and white. The traditional Stollen is sport-oriented, though that sport is hockey.

On the other side of the ground, on Avenida de la Habana, Chiquitín, near a nicer and bigger corner grill restaurant Gonzaba, is bafflingly popular. Just beyond, O’Norte (Avendia de Peruleiro 3) is also popular.

Finally, on the beach itself, the formerly unsurpassable Playa Club is now a contemporary lounge bar with nightspot touches. The sea view, though, cannot be beat.


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