‘Gudeljmania’ fills Vigo
After a horrendous 1989-1990 season, where Celta only managed to win 5 matches and faced relegation to Second division, the 1990-1991 season presented itself with imperative need to promote to First division. Celta’s fate was in the hands of a group of players signed to contribute to better team play and whose skills helped make the difference. Of all those players signed and the veterans already on the team a key name stands out: Vladimir Gudelj.
Vlado Gudelj arrived from Velez Mostar willing to score many goals for Celta as he promised on the day of his presentation. Said and done; that football name, sometimes unpronounceable, made itself room in the Spanish football landscape: Celta was leading Second division and man called Gudelj was wreaking havoc in rival defenses, including several hat-tricks. His trademark goals, his well-mannered and shy personality, and his commitment from his debut to RC Celta and the objective of promoting, turned him into a fan favorite. Very soon the ‘Gudeljmanía’ was unleashed in Vigo.
His goals made Celta promote and win the Second división. His goals were also decisive to consolidate the club in First division. Gudelj crowned himself as one of the top strikers in the Spanish league. The respect earned as top scorer in Second division was backed in the next seasons in the First division of that era, a prelude to the “Liga de las Estrellas” (League of the Stars).
Second Copa del Rey final in history
In the 1993-1994 season, Celta showed two very different faces. They struggled in the league, and Vlado Gudelj was the team’s leading scorer. They avoided relegation on the last matchday after drawing against Real Valladolid at Zorrilla (0-0). However, in Copa del Rey they displayed a completely different face playing for the second time in history a Copa final, against Real Zaragoza. Celta played better but was not able to score, drawing after fulltime. In extra-time Celta absolutely dominated the ball on the pitch. Zaragoza was one man down after the referee booked Aragon with a red card and they still managed to defend their goal, taking the game to a penalty shootout. The first four penalty kicks were scored by both squads, reaching the 5th and final penalty kick, where Celta eventually lost the title. Alejo missed and Higuera scored his, giving the cup to Zaragoza.
The starting line-up was the following: Cañizares; Dadie, Alejo, P.Salinas, Otero, Salva, Vicente, Ratkovic, Gudelj Engonga, Andrijasevic.
The bank guarantees crisis
One of the most important facts in this stage occurs in the month of August 1995, when Celta was relegated to Second Division B along with Sevilla for a few administrative errors. This decision benefited Real Valladolid and Albacete, who saw how they were going to get administratively what they lost on the pitch.
Several mass demonstrations were held in Vigo, Seville and Madrid, as well as in Valladolid and Albacete. It was a complicated situation and a very hard decision to make because there was a conflict of interests. In the end, the Liga allowed all teams to stay in First Division, in what is known as “The league of the 22 teams”. Celta, Sevilla, Valladolid and Albacete all played in the top division that 1995-1996 season.
Second European qualification in history (97-98)
After several years where Celta tried to establish itself among the “chosen teams” of Spanish football, the club focused on building greater Celta. In 1996 quality players such as Mazinho, Mostovoi, Revivo and Dutruel landed in Vigo, and in 1997 Djorovic, Ito, Karpin, Dan Eggen, Cadete, Bruno Caires and Oskar Vales were signed, and Michel Salgado also returned to Vigo.
This new player signing policy showed good results in the 97-98 season, when Celta gained access to UEFA Cup lead by manager Javier Irureta, finishing 6th in Liga. Celta clinched the European spot by defeating Merida 2-0 in Balaidos. Moises and Gudelj scored the two goals. The players dedicated the feat to the fans, which supported the team relentlessly all season long.
In the social field of the Club, it is important to highlight the birth of the Celta de Vigo Foundation on the 03/04/1997, in an event celebrated in the city of Vigo. It was created to promote sport and manage the club’s youth teams among other purposes. The first honor member was the then president of the Xunta de Galicia, D. Manuel Fraga Iribarne.
Celta seduces Europe
The 98-99 Euro-Celta signed good reinforcements to face three competitions: Liga, Copa del Rey and UEFA. Starting with the manager, when Victor Fernandez accepts taking charge of the team’s technical direction. The new signings were: Caceres, Tomás, Pinto, Penev, Makelele, and Jordi Cruyff who came in the middle of the season to strengthen the team for the last stretch of the league.
Celta had an impressive performance in Liga, staying in the top four positions of the standings for most of the season, losing a spot for Champions League in the last match. Still it made it to UEFA Cup for the following season. Its second European adventure after 25 years would cause a strong impact on the whole continent, becoming a favorite to reach the finals in Moscow. Celta thrashed teams and played superbly. It debuted in Pitesti (Romania) against Argia Dacia Pitesti, winning 1-0. That match was very emotive since it marked Celta’s return to a European competition. It qualified for the next round after playing at Balaidos, two weeks later, with a historical result: 7-0.
The following victim of this European windstorm was Aston Vila (England) which complicated the pass for Celta by winning in Balaidos 0-1. 15 days later Celta proved that the first leg match was a mirage. At Vila Park, Celta had the Vila team against the ropes from the first minute, beating them in front of their home crowd with not much margin but still resounding: 1-2. This was the first great European result since Celta had left a dangerous rival behind, like any team in the Premiere league usually is.
Celta’s next rival was an ex-European champion: Liverpool. The Red Devils were sunk by a glorious Celta. In the first leg match, played at Balaidos, Celta won 3-1. The score seemed a bit tight to face the second leg match with strong probabilities of passing, but superb play and Celta’s out of the ordinary composure made the team come out victorious, as they cornered the local team and beat them in front of their fans.
Celta’s playing style surprised Europe. Olympique Marseille would put an end to Celta’s European dream. The first match was played at the Velodrome at Marseille, Olympique won 2-1, in a very hostile atmosphere. The goal conceded by Marseille allowed room for some to reach the semifinals. In the second leg match, only bad luck prevented Celta from reaching the semifinal. Olympique played a very defensive match in mid-field and held their ground refusing to attack. The score was unfair: 0-0.
The 99-00 season presented a very irregular Celta throughout the whole league, although Celta earned European play by winning the Intertoto Cup. The team started well in Liga, and lead the standings for several stages, but a slump before Christmas made team hesitate and would remain in UEFA positions during the rest of the league.
Meanwhile, the 99-00 UEFA Cup left a very good impression among supporters who got used to Celta’s continental metamorphosis. The squad was already in the round of 16 and “cinderella teams” were scarce in the draw. Portuguese Benfica, a classic European champion, was the team drawn to face Celta. Thousands of Portuguese neighbors came to Balaidos and witnessed the biggest defeat suffered by its team in history: 7-0. The second leg match in Lisbon was a mere formality for Celta’s non-starters which ended in a draw on an extremely cold night.
With the credit gained after thrashing Benfica, the sky-blue team would face the “Vechia Signora”, leader of the Italian Serie; Juventus Turin. Ancelotti’s disciples faced the leg with confidence, which increased after defeating Celta 1-0 in Delle Alpi. However, a hostile and sold-out Balaidos awaited, and Juventus was thrashed in an embarrassing 4-0.
Eventually the French team Lens left Celta feeling they had failed after drawing in Vigo (0-0) and losing in the final minutes by 2-1 at Felix Bollaert Stadium.