By Daniel Rubens
One of La Liga’s newest teams has started life in Spain’s top flight in tremendous fashion. Newly promoted side CD Leganes is undefeated through two games in the club’s first-ever top tier campaign, with a solid win and an even better draw to its name. What’s more, if early indications are correct, Leganes could have the defensive pieces necessary to not only extend their stay in the first division, but to succeed in La Liga as well.
Originally founded in 1928 in the Southern Madrid suburb of Leganes, Club Deportivo Leganes — known as Lega or Los Pepineros (the Cucumber Growers) — has spent the vast majority of its history wandering the desert of Spain’s lower leagues. Lega began play in the sixth tier and immediately won promotion to the fifth, but that stay only lasted until 1934, when the club suspended play. It didn’t return to action until after the end of World War II and was placed in the sixth tier once more.
However, Los Pepineros didn’t waste much time in shooting up the pyramid. They were in the sixth tier for two seasons, the fifth tier for one, and the fourth division for five, ending in a promotion to the third division for the 1954-55 season.
Upon reaching that league, the team hit a plateau. They spent six seasons in that division before beginning a long string of promotions and relegations, switching divisions five times in an eight-year span. By the late 1970s, Lega had solidified itself as a fourth-tier side, and the club remained there until 1987, when it was promoted to the Segunda Division B (the third level on Spain’s pyramid).
Leganes hasn’t dipped below the third division since. Their stay in that league lasted six seasons before they won the title in 1992-93, earning their first-ever promotion to the Segunda Division proper. Los Pepineros stuck around for 11 seasons despite finishing in the top half only twice, but they eventually did fall victim to relegation in 2003-04, a season in which they went to the Round of 32 of the Copa del Rey for the first time.
Over the next decade, Lega finished in the top five of the Segunda Division B six times, but it wasn’t until 2013-14 that they finally earned a spot in the second tier once again. Under new manager Asier Garitano, a longtime lower-league Spanish forward, Leganes finished second in the regular season before beating L’Hospitalet 2-1 over two legs in the playoff final.
With Garitano leading the way, the club solidified itself as a Segunda Division side immediately, finishing in 10th in its first season back in the league. The next season was even better, as Leganes scored 59 goals — joint-most in the division — and came in second, just one point behind champions Alaves. Just three seasons after playing in the third tier, Los Pepineros were on their way to the big time.
They haven’t been there long, but Lega have already introduced themselves in the top flight in a big way. Despite their only two purchases this offseason being permanent deals for players that spent last season on loan at the club, Los Pepineros began life in La Liga with a stellar 1-0 road win over Celta Vigo, who
Next up was the team’s first matchup with one Spain’s powers, as Atletico Madrid visited Butarque (Leganes’s 11,000-seat stadium) last Saturday. Los Pepineros ceded the vast majority of possession to Atleti, finishing with just 36 percent of the ball and getting outshot 10-6, but they put on a tremendous defensive performance in securing a scoreless draw. Garitano switched to a back four to handle the threat of Antoine Griezmann and Kevin Gameiro up top, but the result defensively was the same as Lega kept a clean sheet for the second match in a row.