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Off-the-radar: Manolo Lucena, Granada's match delegate

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Sarthak Kumar talks about the player who most represents Granada - both the city and the club

Aitor Alcalde/Getty Images
In light of Barcelona's upcoming fixture against Granada, this is a story about a former captain of Granada.

This is a story about Granada's match delegate.

As the 2012-13 season came to an end, there were emotional goodbyes - Eric Abidal, Andrés Palop, Manuel Pellegrini, and Juan Carlos Valerón.

But one goodbye went under-the-radar, and that was Granada's captain and center-back Manolo Lucena, who had played for the club in all four levels of Spanish football - the Tercera, Segunda B, Segunda and La Liga.

Manuel 'Manolo' Lucena was born in Granada, and after a year at Imperio Albolote, he joined Arenas Armilla in 2001. A year later, he joined hometown's Granada CF, at the time in the Tercera.

In 2002-03, Granada depended on itself to get promoted to the Segunda B, but an unfortunate own goal by Juanjo against Quintanar del Rey at home tore the dream to shreds. The following season was excellent, but in the play-offs, a theoretically inferior rival - La Roda - would eliminate them. In that year, players, including Manuel, were forced to lock themselves in the stadium as a protest for not receiving their wages.

So after two years as a starter, in 2004, he would sign for Marino de Luanco in Segunda División B, being first-choice in his only season as the Asturias club narrowly avoided relegation. In the 2005 summer Lucena moved to Sporting de Gijón, in Segunda División. In January of the following year, after only three league appearances - seven minutes in total - he returned to Granada, being an essential part of the team - even scoring five goals - as the team was promoted from the fourth level.

And good thing that happened, since at the time Granada was in the worst sporting and economic position in its history. Lorenzo Sanz arrived and acquired the club, relegating the presidency to his son Paco Sanz. The promotion to the Segunda B was gained after winning against Guadalajara 3-0 in a Los Cármenes packed with 18,000 angry fans.

In the following three division three campaigns Lucena remained a key player for Granada, never appearing in less than 32 league games and occasionally pitching in at defensive midfielder, for which he was dubbed "el 'controller' rojiblanco".

But the economic problems at the club began to resurface, and the club couldn't pay its players again. And on January 25, 2009, at the beginning of a match against Melilla, the players showed T-shirts with the slogan "Paco Sanz, you need to pay now". Sanz resigned and a new management board was formed.

In 2009, Gino Pozzo arrived, along with his partners Quique Pina and Juan Carlos Cordero. The Italian, owner of Udinese, took over the debt and convert Granada CF into an SAD. The economic situation cooincided with a great season for the club. Overcoming the play-off against Alcorcón, the team would return 22 years later to the Segunda. And team captain Manolo Lucena was the center of it all.

In late June 2011, after a second consecutive promotion for Granada, after defeating Celta and Elche in play-offs, and with him as the club's only player from the region of Granada, Lucena renewed his contract for a further two seasons. He made his La Liga debut on 27 August in a 0–1 home loss against Real Betis, but featured in only nine official contests over the course of two seasons combined, serving more as an experiences member in the dressing room.

Lucena retired at the end of the 2013–14 campaign at the age of 31, after 12 competitive appearances with CD Mirandés in the second level. In February 2015 he returned to Granada, as match delegate.

Lucena achieving three promotions with Granada in itself is amazing. But what makes the feat even better is that he was from Granada - not since Pepe Millán in the 1930’s and 1940’s has a local boy played at every level of the league for Granada.

Manolo Lucena stayed at the club when the players were not being paid. He stayed at the club when they reached La Liga even though he knew he would only be a backup player. He stayed at the club even when every other player from Granada left.

And he still hasn't left his home-town club. As match delegate, Los Cármenes will always be honored with his presence.


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