The 2015/16 Rayo Vallecano team, the 2016/17 Granada team and the 2017/18 Las Palmas team have all had a couple of things in common. They all suffered relegation from LaLiga and they all had Paco Jémez as their coach at some stage of their disappointing seasons.
The Spanish tactician’s stock has plummeted even further than Facebook’s did last month. He was once labelled as a future Barcelona coach by some in the Spanish media, given the possession-based and entertaining football his Rayo Vallecano side played, with the team from Vallecas one of the only ones to ever win the possession battle against the Catalan club.
The romantics loved him. “If people leave the stadium and they’ve enjoyed themselves then we’ve won,” he once said in an interview with Líbero magazine, a statement which sounded ludicrous but for the fact that his Rayo side did win a lot of matches playing this gung-ho way. Although they were involved in a near annual relegation battle, the fact they were even in the top division was considered an over-achievement and the thinking was that Jémez would properly thrive once he got his hands on some world-class players at the Camp Nou.
Yet the positive results started to disappear and Rayo were relegated in the 2015/16 season. It was time to embark on a new adventure and he joined Granada, but his attacking style was suicidal and his team took just two points from their first six matches, conceding 15 goals in the process, even if they themselves did score at least once in each of those matches. It was entertaining, but it was Granada’s worst start to a season in seven decades. The eyebrows of the Granada directors were raised as high as Jémez’s offside traps and he was dismissed.
While he received other offers almost straight away, Jémez took a step back and waited for the right opportunity to present itself. Then, in November of 2016, the chance to restore his reputation in Mexico with Cruz Azul appealed to him and he headed across the Atlantic Ocean, leading his new club the play-offs and then leaving by mutual consent exactly one year later.
He hadn’t been brilliant in Mexico, but he hadn’t been terrible either and his hometown club Las Palmas considered that good enough to turn to the 47-year-old when they found themselves in big trouble midway through this current campaign. They’d already had three coaches and it was only December, so the Canary Islanders decided to finally opt for someone with a bit more experience to try to save them from relegation. Yet this is not what happened; instead they went backwards.
Under Jémez, Las Palmas have been even worse than they were under his three immediate predecessors. The former Rayo coach has had 17 matches, the same number as the other three combined, yet he has taken a point less, with 10 points from a possible 51, compared to 11 from a possible 51.
Quite simply, his team has been a complete disaster. His back line is as porous as a sieve owned by Edward Scissorhands, while he still doesn’t know who his best attacking players are. Not once has he started the same XI two LaLiga games in row, giving off the vibe of a desperate trial and error exercise. It wasn’t surprising, then, that Las Palmas were mathetically relegated last weekend, with four rounds still to go, by losing 4-0 to Alavés in front of their home fans, only 7,000 of whom turned up to the 32,400-capacity stadium. Those who were in attendance vehemently whistled Jémez’s name when it was announced on the loudspeakers before kick-off.
There have been other factors playing a part too, as Las Palmas as an institution isn’t exactly in the best state at the moment. The decision to sell star man Jonathan Viera to China in the winter window was a terrible one and Jémez said last week that he feels he should have walked out when that decision was taken. He explained that he stayed because he felt he owed it to the rest of the players.
Yet he won’t win much sympathy from supporters with comments like that, nor will making such excuses boost his reputation going forward. There have been a lot of talented players in the squad who he has decided to ignore based on off-the-pitch conflicts. For example, Tana has been left out of recent matchday squads “because I didn’t feel like including him” and Loic Remy was forced out of the club in January. “Jémez treated me like a piece of sh*t,” Remy later said, after completing his move to Getafe.
There have been other press conference dramas and Jémez has not been afraid to criticise his players, which suggests that he wouldn’t have had the temperament to survive the famous ‘entorno’ of the Camp Nou press pack. If he was flustered at Las Palmas, the most out-of-the-sight team in LaLiga, then he’d get flustered anywhere.
It’s difficult to predict what will happen next for Jémez. At any club other than Las Palmas, his local team, he’d surely be gone, but there’s a slight chance he could stay and try to bring them back up. That might be his best shot of returning to the Spanish first division, as there will surely be no queue of top-flight suitors after having three relegations in a row on his CV. It’s all a real shame considering what a hot prospect he was just a few years ago. There’s not much hot about him now.
Also published on Medium.