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Off-the-radar: La conexión alcoyana - Jorge Molina and Juli

Sarthak Kumar narrates the contrasting stories of two footballers from Alcoy.

Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

They come in pairs.

One is unusually short, the other unusually tall. One wields the ball to create magic, the other uses the ball to destroy opponents. One looks radiant as always, the other looks hardened by the realities of life.

But only one of them is a legend - a success. History, with its infinite power, will forget the other.

They both came from Alcoy. They signed for teams together - thrice. They both were superb footballers.

They had "la conexión alcoyana" - the Alcoyano connection.

It is said that behind every successful person there is a painful story.

This is that story.

Juli was born in 1981 in Alcoy and progressed through the youth team ranks of Alcoyano. He played with them in the Tercera till the age of 20, and moved up a division, playing with Alicante till 23 and Castellón till 24. He achieved promotion with them but stayed in the Segunda B, playing for Benidorm for two years. In his second year, he scored eight goals in 33 games, which earned him a move to Segunda outfit Poli Ejido.

In the 2007–08 campaign, at the age of 26, Juli made his Segunda División debut with Polideportivo Ejido. He only missed only one league match out of 42 in his first year, and netted on five occasions, but the Andalusians were relegated. Despite the relegation, he stayed with the club, and stellar performances earned him a Segunda return, signing for Elche.

Jorge Molina's path was no different - he was born in 1982 in Alcoyano, played with the club till the age of 20, played in the Tercera for Benidorm till 22 and Gandía till 23. Thereafter, Juli and Jorge Molina played together at Benidorm, Poli Ejido and Elche. They both were the stars of the clubs they played together for. They both got to experience seven coaches in two years at Benidorm**. In fact, when Poli Ejido beat Villarreal 5-0 in a historic Copa del Rey tie in October 2008, and Jorge Molina scored a hat-trick, it was Juli who ran the show, picking up two of the assists of Jorge's goals.

Career paths of Jorge Molina and Juli

But it was one stellar performance that put Jorge Molina on the map, even if every time Jorge shone Juli wasn't always recognized

It was 19th June, 2010, and Elche had nothing left to play for. They were safe and Real Sociedad were champions, and were given a guard of honor at the Estadio Manuel Martínez Valero.

In the 38th minute, a cross came in from the left. Molina took it down on his chest, swerved a full 180 degrees and placed the ball cleanly in the bottom right hand corner of the goal. In the 47th minute, on the counter attack, he received a pass and hit it first time, this time in the bottom left hand corner. In the 61st minute, he shot with his left foot and then, with his right, powered the parried shot into the empty net. And in the 88th minute, he took down another cross on his chest and placed the ball in the bottom right hand corner.

Four goals. Boring ones, but the ones a poacher makes. Jorge Molina, 28, was playing only his second professional season and had won the Pichichi Trophy, having scoring 26 goals.

In the grand scheme of things, the match didn’t mean much.

But for Jorge Molina, it meant a €1.6 million move to Real Betis, a La Liga debut in 2011 at the age of 29, playing in Europe in 2013, and a place in Betis folklore.

For Juli, it meant nothing.

He would subsequently play for Rayo, where he played just 894 minutes the whole season as the club clinched promotion under Sandoval. He would then play for Asteras Tripoli on loan, where he suffered the same problem of lack of game time.

He would also then play two seasons for Alcorcón, signed by Jose Bordalás* (who coached Juli at Elche), and another two seasons at Deportivo Alavés, where he would achieve another promotion to the top flight in 2016, being an ever-present figure with 40 appearances and four goals. He now plays for Córdoba.

Juli's career is that of any Segunda player - bouncing around from club to club in the division. But even at the age of 35 he is tearing up the division - very few can take the ball of him and, in addition to racking up assists, he regularly scores goals too.

It's a shame that his talents never graced La Liga, and probably never will.

Jorge Molina would go on to score in double digits in his first season, in spite of losing nearly three months of action with a knee injury. On 19 January 2011, in the Copa del Rey, he netted twice against FC Barcelona in a 3–1 home win (3–6 aggregate loss), and ended Barcelona's unbeaten streak at 28 games. And in the league, Jorge Molina, along with Rubén Castro and Achille Emaná combined for more than 50 league goals as Betis returned to La Liga.

Jorge Molina, at the age of 29 years, four months and five days, made his La Liga debut. His first La Liga goal was against Real Madrid. He scored Betis' 2000th goal in La Liga. Along with Castro, he led Betis to Europe after a seven year absence. He, like many others, showed that nothing, not even age, can come in the way of success.

And yet, as his friend can attest to, sadly luck can.

*In fact, Jose Bordalás coached Juli at Alicante in the 2001-02 season and Alavés in the 2015-16 season, and is currently coaching Jorge Molina at Getafe,

**Toni Aparicio, Julián Manuel Victoria Sierra, Ángel Vico Hernández, Ángel Pedraza, Fernando Muro González, Ángel Puchades Bru and Manuel Jiménez González

This article is reproduced from a series on the faces of Spanish football. You can read it here.

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