De Tomás finds his place at Espanyol and reminds Madrid what they let go
Famous win was a moment of redemption for Espanyol, whose resurgence is being driven by a former ufabet Madridista.
his time there was no apology and no regret, and nor should there be. Raúl de Tomás joined Real Madrid at seven and didn’t finally walk away for 17 years. He left having played just quarter of an hour for the club he always hoped would become home but at least destiny decided it was at the place that actually would be. In October 2014, aged 20, he came on for 15 uneventful minutes against Cornellà, the tiny third-tier team from literally next door who borrowed Espanyol’s ground for the second leg of their Copa del Rey tie with Madrid. In October 2021, aged 27 and now an idol in that same stadium, he led Espanyol to victory against his team – for only the second time in a quarter of a century.
It was a moment’s redemption for them all, arrival announced, their return complete. That day, the coach who gave De Tomás his only minutes as a Madridista was Carlo Ancelotti and as he came on Karim Benzema came off. On Sunday night, he helped ensure the Italian wouldn’t sleep, which Ancelotti admitted this week happens whenever he loses, by scoring the first, skidding to his knees and opening his arms in celebration before Aleix Vidal added a superb second, bursting through, nutmegging Nacho and bending beyond Thibaut Courtois. As for Benzema, he scored a beautiful goal but it wasn’t enough and at the end of a richly deserved 2-1 home win most fans weren’t listening when Espanyol’s manager, Vicente Moreno, insisted no one should “go mad.”
Not least because actually they should and, aware of where they have come from, the man who brought them back to the first division this summer following relegation in 2019, Moreno knows that. Now they had only gone and beaten Madrid, something that he did with newly promoted Mallorca this time two years ago but that they had only done once this century. Espanyol fans went 26 years without seeing their team in the second division and they still haven’t, going down and back again in the time gates were closed because of the pandemic, their season in the second division played in silence. But good timing didn’t make them good times. Now, they might be.
De Tomás had joined Espanyol in January 2020, along with Leandro Cabrera and Adrián Embarba. After loans at Valladolid, Córdoba and Rayo, the year before he had finally walked away from Madrid and joined Benfica that summer but he had played just seven league games and not scored, getting three in his 16 games overall. He needed a way back, and so did they. Struggling at the foot of the table, in the relegation zone since September and desperate now, Espanyol had to try something. He was the most expensive player in the club’s history at €22.5m, while Cabrera cost €9m and Embarba €10m, both more than anyone else in the squad, but it was money well spent – or it would be if they could keep them up.