The best season in Celta’s history
The 2000-2001 season turned out to be Celta’s greatest of all times. The club took part in four competitions: Liga, Copa, UEFA and Intertoto Cup. The Vigo team won the first European cup for a Galician team, the Intertoto Cup, granting Celta access to play the 2000-2001 edition of the UEFA Cup.
The beginnings were promising, with a championship on the stands, being qualified for UEFA Cups and 3 Liga points earned. Celta started out winning their first 3 league matches, and after some bad results, despite playing well, the team again began striving. Celta was the best team in the second leg of the Liga and in 12 matches obtained 7 wins, 4 draws and only one defeat. Celta held the 6th position until the end.
Celta of the new millennium (2001-2004)
In the new millennium, Celta was characterized for practicing a very appealing and fun to watch football, thanks to the class and leadership of Mostovoi, Karpin, Gustavo Lopez, Mazinho or Revivo, led by manager Victor Fernandez. Celta stood high in the league rankings, and had memorable performances in UEFA Cup against renown European squads such as Juventus, Liverpool, Aston Vila or Benfica.
Celta had again an opportunity to win its first trophy in a Copa del Rey final. The team was the favorite to take home the title, but would again lose a final against Zaragoza. Victor Fernandez left the Celta bench, giving way to Miguel Angel Lotina, a manager who from the beginning imposed a defensive, rugged style and which in the long run ended up being very practical. Even though the fans didn’t enjoy the playing style as much as in the previous years, they eventually celebrated a dream come true, qualifying for Champions League, after a historical season in which Celta finished 4th in Liga.
Celta had the chance to open a new chapter in its history, a memorable phase in which it could fight to grow and become equated to the top-level squads in the Spanish and European leagues. Unfortunately, too much euphoria and overconfidence led the team to horrible results in the first stages of the 2003-2004 season and the whole project became unstable. While Celta’s position in league was becoming more and more worrying, the squad responded favorably in Champions League, qualifying as second in its group behind AC Milan and ahead of Club Bruges and Ajax Amsterdam.
Despite this success, the embarrassingly emphatic defeats against the eternal rival, Deportivo (0-5) and against Real Sociedad (2-5) provoked an unsustainable situation which led to the dismissal of Miguel Angel Lotina. An experienced Radomir Antic was named substitute, and despite having a good start which foresaw a resurgence of the team, Celta was eliminated from Champions League against Arsenal in the round of 8. Defeat after defeat, Celta was free-falling straight to the hole of Second Division. Overwhelmed by the situation, Antic resigned.
The club, in a desperate move, gave the responsibility to two men linked to the club, Ramon Carnero and Rafael Saez. This tandem obtained very good results, but they were not enough to avoid an unexpected relegation into Second division.
From Second division to UEFA in record time
Many of the key players form previous projects left the squad. Led by manager Fernando Vazquez and renewed team with a mix of experienced players and homegrown ones, Celta set out to return to First division as soon as possible. Despite the first up and downs, the team adapted to Second division. After an overwhelming second leg in the championship, Celta achieved a promotion to First division which was deemed essential not without suspense due to the controversial Toni Moral case which delayed the promotion some weeks.
In its return to Spanish First division, Celta put together an interesting team on a very low budget. The team rose to the occasion and from the very first matches it remained in the first positions of the standings, reaching its objective to carry on in First division without struggling and unexpectedly clinching the 6th position in the league which granted access to Europe play.
From Europe to Second division, again
Celta did not change the squad greatly for the 2006-2007 season in which it went back to Europe. Despite Celta supporters were excited to be back in a European competition, they were aware that the team had overachieved and it would be difficult to repeat the feat. The club bet again for Fernando Vazquez as manager and signed players Gabriel Tamas and Nene to make up for the noticeable farewells of Sergio Fernandez and David Silva, respectively.
Celta began the season in an irregular fashion. Despite doing well on away games, as a home team it displayed vulnerabilities which made the squad lose many essential points. On the other hand, in the UEFA Cup it performed at a good level, defeating teams such as the Turkish Fenerbahce or the Russian Spartak Moscow. While playing very well against Werder Bremen, Celta was not able to defeat the German champion and put an end to its UEFA cup adventure in the round of 16.
Meanwhile, the position of the team in Liga was critical, since the squad hit a long streak in relegation positions in the standings. Fernando Vazquez’s continuity had been up in the air for some time, which caused a fracture among Celta supporters between those in favor and those against. The board of directors signed Hristo Stoichkov to serve as a catalyst and change the situation around. The Bulgarian made his debut with a victory over longtime rival Deportivo which gave the fans hopes of avoiding relegation. However, after this initial optimism, the team went on a losing streak making relegation unavoidable with three league matches left.
Down in the Second division hole and the commitment to junior players
For the 2007-2008 season, in Second division, Celta did away with several important players. Hristo Stoichov continued as manager, and an experienced assistant manager was hired, Antonio Lopez. There were also changes in the sports management position, Felix Carnero left and Ramon Martinez took his place, former sports manager of Real Madrid.
On the 31st of December of 2007 Hristo Stoickov was dismissed as Celta manager after the poor results obtained by the team in the beginning of the 2007-2008 season. Lopez Cairo took over the team. He did not get good results and was also dismissed a few matches away from the end of the season. Antonio Lopez, who had been assistant manager, was given the responsibility of leading the team. His results as manager were also disappointing, leaving the club on the edge of relegation. Finally, Alejandro Menendez, a youth player manager, was appointed manager with on clear objective: avoid relegation before the end of the season. RC Celta met this aim relatively easily, and finished the season in 16th position.
At the end of the 2007-2008 season, after a week of uncertainty regarding the continuity of Menendez or not, Pepe Murcia, who had obtained good results with Castellon, was signed. The team, under Act on Insolvency, started the season in an unsatisfactory fashion. On March 2nd Pepe Murcia is dismissed. His substitute, well known to the fans, is Eusebio Sacristan, ex Celta mid-field player in the 90’s. Finally, Celta ends the season in 17th place. At the end of the season Ramon Martinez leaves the club and Miguel Torrecilla is named new RC Celta sports manager.
Tras una nueva remodelación de la plantilla, el Celta apostó claramente por la cantera a partir de la temporada 2009/2010. Iago Aspas, Hugo Mallo, Toni o Túñez debutan con el primer equipo y comienzan a ganar protagonismo. En Liga el equipo realiza una actuación irregular, consumando la salvación matemática a falta de dos jornadas, en un partido imborrable para la memoria del celtismo: RC Celta – Alavés.
Con el partido empatado a ceros y a falta de diez minutos para el final, Sacristán apostó por dar entrada a Iago Aspas, que debutaba en el Estadio de Balaídos. El delantero moañés anotó el 1-0, pero la alegría duraría poco, ya que unos minutos después el Alavés empataba. Cuando todo parecía indicar que el Celta tendría que sufrir hasta la última jornada, Iago Aspas apareció de nuevo para, ya en el tiempo de descuento, anotar el 2-1 y asegurar la permanencia del club en la Segunda División.