It was not supposed to work out like this. The fairytale story of Granada is simply one for the ages; each spellbinding chapter has defied expectations at every twist and turn.
With each passing match week the LaLiga minnows have shaken off their shackles of mediocrity and banished the demons of past crises, resulting in them securing European football for the first time in their history.
Their 4-0 demolition of Athletic Club on the final day perfectly encapsulated the character which courses through the veins of the Andalusians – and the reward they have reaped is more than deserved.
Diego Martinez, the spry and sharp tactician at the helm of this incredible project, insisted at the start of the campaign that his only real objective had been to coach in the top flight with Granada. For a brief period, they had topped it.
His sights, understandably so, were set firmly on survival just months after leading their charge to the very top of the pyramid in Spain. He is the youngest manager in the league at the age of 38, and was tasked with unifying a group of players he described as having been ‘down in the mud’.
The resources at his disposal were nothing short of meagre. The club’s salary cap is just €35.46m, making them the 18th poorest outfit in the league. Their limit is an incredible 18 times lower than Barcelona’s.
But yet, in the first meeting between both those sides earlier in the season, it was once again the underdogs who emerged triumphant. Inflicting the first of Barcelona’s many battle scars this term, Martinez’s men won both hearts and minds with a display of tenacity and discipline.
Their success propelled them above the Nou Camp giants, and even Real Madrid, setting the tone for a miraculous journey.
The two-year hiatus in the Segunda Division has created a team more fixated than ever on making history. A 4-2 defeat against Real, the eventual champions, failed to break their spirit and their steadfast never-say-die attitude has also seen them secure a series of thrilling draws.
Notably, nine of their wins were clinched by the margin of a single goal.
The players who have paved the way are hardly a group of misfits, but they are certainly a band of brothers. They were assembled for around £8million, with the most expensive member of the squad costing just £2.7m. Roberto Soldado, most memorably a Tottenham flop, leads the line.
Granada have cast aside any concerns over their previous struggles, however, and continue to defy their doubters with a steely gaze. Perhaps the title of plucky lightweight suits them.
Not that they will complain, of course, because their sporting achievements in the past have been few and far between. Despite being founded 89 years ago, the club can only boast of having won six second and third division titles.
They have never recorded above a sixth placed finish in the top flight either, which they achieved back in 1972 and 1974 – and their exertions have become even more spectacular considering this is just their seventh campaign in LaLiga since 1976.
But the feel-good factor surrounding the club is a stark contrast to the 2016-17 season. When they suffered from the drop that year, they had won just four games.
Gripped in turmoil, Tony Adams was brought in to stabilise the sinking ship. His bizarre training ground techniques soon became common knowledge thanks to the power of social media, and the club never truly recovered.
Having used 39 players, most of whom they didn’t actually own, from 21 countries, Granada were a non-entity that campaign. They had no real blueprint for their future, and appeared to simply be listing from one disaster to the next.
John Jiang, the club’s owner, bought into a crisis. The stadium didn’t belong to them, nor did the training ground. In fact, out of the 106 players that made up the first team, reserves and the under-19s, just 44 were owned by Granada.
And to little surprise, their first campaign in Segunda saw them finish in 10th. It wasn’t until the arrival of Martinez, who was hired at the start of their second season there, that their fortunes changed. Automatic promotion back into LaLiga swiftly followed and the rest, as they say, is history.
Martinez, the man largely responsible for the team’s triumphs, is a Galician who had studied sports science at Granada University. The complex is even situated across the road from the club’s training ground.
He began his coaching career aged 25 with local teams, and developed a formidable tactical masterplan over the years that followed. Granada have since become famed for their lightning counter attacks and aggression when without the ball.
It is this forward-thinking attitude, both on and off the field, that has seen them stand tall on the European stage.