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Football Reporting


Real Madrid’s Copa del Rey conquerors Alcoyano have budget under $1m a year

Real Madrid suffered fresh embarrassment on Wednesday night as Zinedine Zidane’s faltering side were knocked out of the Copa del Rey in the round of 32 by third-tier opposition.

The team second in La Liga were beaten 2-1 by Alcoyano (stream the replay on ESPN+ in the U.S.), who are fourth in the regional Segunda Division B, Group 3 table.

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The semi-professional side were even reduced to 10 men in the second period of extra time when Ramon Lopez Oliva was sent off, but that didn’t stop the minnows from the city of Alcoy in the region of Valencia snatching a winning goal with a penalty shootout looming.

The dramatic 115th-minute near-post tap-in from the Juanan Casanova was reported in perfunctory, minimal fashion by the official Real Madrid social media channels.

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The mood was rather different over in the Alcoyano camp as they scored the goal that would eliminate the reigning Spanish champions, who ended the match with stars such as Eden Hazard, Karim Benzema and Toni Kroos on the pitch.

Even Real coach Zinedine Zidane could not fully suppress a wry smile as the goal was scored, even if it does pile more pressure on his shoulders.

Juanan may have scored the winning goal, but it was still Alcoyano’s veteran goalkeeper who emerged as the unlikely breakout star of the night. Jose Juan, who turns 42 on Monday, made 10 saves over the course of the evening to keep Real Madrid at bay.

Juan made his professional debut in 1999 for Ourense and has only ever played one top-flight game in his career, for Celta Vigo in the 2003-04 campaign. He also helped Granada and Elche get promoted to La Liga in the 2009-10 and 2017-18 seasons respectively, but his heroic performance in the Copa against Real must surely rank up there as a new highlight.

He tweeted after the match: “Thanks to everyone and to all the messages of support you have sent. We continue to dream!”

Even as he joined his teammates wild celebrations at full-time, he was becoming more of a celebrity. On social media with a number of fans pointing out his strong resemblance to Spanish FA president Luis Rubiales. “It’s fine to joke about it,” Juan remarked after being made aware of the fun being had at his expense on Twitter.

The seasoned shot-stopper was also linked with an even bigger job after he had his Wikipedia profile changed to declare him as the new “president of Spain.”

He even had his very own FIFA 21 skill card mocked up by one fan, earning a strong overall rating of 98 — on par with Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.

As you might imagine, the Spanish newspaper headlines were not sympathetic to Zidane’s ongoing plight at Madrid. Marca brusquely declared that “Nobody escapes this embarrassment” (“Borchono” being a word the Spanish use to describe a particularly unpleasant, sticky, sweltering heatwave), while Sport described the shock result at the Estadio El Collao to be a “Castañazo“, or thumping. Mundo Deportivo slamming the “Humillación” probably doesn’t require any translation.

To help put the chasm between the two clubs into context, Alcoyano and Real Madrid have only met 13 times in their respective histories, with several divisions separating them for the majority of that time. However, Alcoyano were in La Liga the last time they managed to topple the mighty Madrid when, coincidentally, they also won 2-1 at El Collao during the 1947-48 season.

These days, while Real’s football operations had a budget of around €450 million last season, Alcoyano are forced to cut their cloth accordingly as they attempt to make ends meet as a lower tier team.

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Indeed, club president Toni Justicia admitted that after being caught off guard by Wednesday night’s unexpected result, he is now desperately trying to find money in the budget to pay his players some sort of bonus for beating the 34-time La Liga champions.

“There was no bonus agreed but we will sit down and talk about it,” Justicia said. “Nobody expected this. This is an injection of energy for us and for the city. It’s quite a delicate situation. Our budget is just over €700,000 [$850,000].”

This is the fifth time that Real Madrid have been ousted from the Copa del Rey by a third-tier team, all of which have come since 2000-01 when they were eliminated by Toledo in the round of 64. Since then, Los Blancos have been put out by Real Union (round of 32, 2008-09), Alcorcon (round of 32, 2009-10), Cadiz (round of 32, 2015-16, from which they were disqualified for fielding an ineligible player) and now Alcoyano.

Nevertheless, Zidane remained stoic in the aftermath of the latest midweek maelstrom, refusing to admit that the result against Alcoyano was in any way a humiliation for his star-studded team.

“It’s not an embarrassment, it’s something that can always happen in football,” the Real coach told reporters. “Something like this can happen in a footballer’s career but I take responsibility for it and we’ll keep on working. We’re not going to go crazy over this.”

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Real have won just one of their last five games in all competitions, and have now lost two consecutive games after also stumbling to defeat against Athletic Bilbao in the Spanish Super Cup last week. Los Blancos have won the Copa del Rey on 19 occasions since it began in 1903, with only Athletic Bilbao (23) and Barcelona (30) winning it more. However, they’ve not lifted the trophy for seven years and have only won it twice since 1992-93.

Barca have won it seven times in that same period, including four in a row between 2014-15 and 2017-18. They will be hoping to avoid the same fate as Real when they take on lower-league UD Cornella on Thursday (stream LIVE at 2:55 p.m. ET on ESPN+ in the U.S.)

ESPN’s Spain correspondent Adriana Garcia contributed to this report

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