Andoni Iraola has attracted attention for the vacant Leeds manager post thanks to his brilliant efforts at La Liga side, Rayo Vallecano.
The former Athletic Bilbao defender has managed the Vallecas-based side since 2020. In his first season, he led Rayo to promotion back to Spain’s top division. The club even did this the hard way, via the play-offs: they beat Girona 3-2 on aggregate in the final, overcoming a 2-1 deficit with a 2-0 second-leg win away from home.
Then, in 2021/22, Rayo returned to La Liga with a solid twelfth-place finish. The manager earned plaudits for instilling a high-tempo play style at Rayo, where they press hard and attack fast. Iraola’s team tactics have drawn comparisons to Marcelo Bielsa’s style, interestingly.
From here, Iraola has continued the club’s upward trajectory.
In the current campaign, Rayo Vallecano sit in an impressive fifth place. According to La Liga, this is the second-best league position at the 20-game mark in their history. In addition, it puts Rayo in a very solid footing to qualify for European competition for 2023/24.
This season, Andoni Iraola has seen his Rayo Vallecano side take points off the giants of Spanish football. For example, they have played out draws against Barcelona and fellow Madrid side Atletico. Most impressively, though, Rayo defeated city rivals Real Madrid 3-2 in November 2022.
Recently, they beat Almeria 2-0 to have a one-point advantage over last season’s Champions League semi-finalists, Villarreal, in sixth.
However, the Spanish side’s success under Iraola means that teams with bigger budgets may try to take him. Leeds are the latest club that have attempted to steal the Rayo manager.
Rayo Vallecano resist Leeds’ attempt to take manager Andoni Iraola
Following Jesse Marcsh’s sacking, Iraola emerged as a frontrunner for the job at Elland Road. According to MARCA, Leeds went over to Spain earlier this week in order to thrash out compensation for Iraola. They were prepared to pay the coach’s release clause, which is reportedly just €8 million.
Unfortunately, the La Liga side are not prepared to lose their manager at such a crucial point in the season. Andoni Iraola also added his agreement to this. The Guardian reported that the Rayo boss also told journalists that he’s staying put for now.
One element which makes this a bit more interesting, though, is Iraola’s contract. His current deal with Rayo Vallecano expires in the summer. So, he may not stay with the La Liga minnows for much longer. But he is likely to at least see out the campaign with the Madrid-based side.
Speaking to La Liga after their last game, Iraola spoke about the rest of Rayo’s season. “I care above all about the 32 points,” he said. “We still have a lot of games left, and we’re in a good place. We have to compete game by game, the standings put you in your rightful place.”
Fans of Los Vallecanos will hope that their side can maintain their strong form to complete a fantastic season. If they do finish in the European spots, supporters will be desperate to keep their coach long-term.
Featured image credit: La Liga