Lucas Perez terminated contract with Cadiz to return Deportivo La Coruna in third tier by paying out of his own pocket

La Liga

In order to aid Deportivo La Coruna in being promoted from Spain’s third tier, former Arsenal and West Ham striker Lucas Perez donated a portion of his own transfer fee.

Lucas Perez, a striker for Cadiz, completed a remarkable transfer to Deportivo La Coruna of the third division, paying €493,000 out of his own pocket to close the transaction out of loyalty to the team.

The 34-year-old is back for a fourth stint with Los Blanquiazules with the intention of promoting them. Deportivo won the Spanish championship in 2000 and advanced to the semifinals of the Champions League in 2003–04. However, they were relegated twice in the space of three seasons.

On New Year’s Eve, the agreement was announced, and Perez signed a special 18-month contract with specific stipulations that might prolong it for much longer.

The contract will automatically be extended until 2029, the year the striker turns 41, with the first three and a half seasons as a player and the following three as a member of the club’s coaching staff, according to Spanish publication AS, if Deportivo wins promotion this season or next season.

However, Perez has the choice to end his contract if they are still in the third tier by that time.

According to that story, Lucas’ desire to play for Depor “has been vital for the operation to carry out… all because he can’t stomach watching his Depor in First RFEF” (Spain’s third tier).

Actually, the seasoned striker tried to make a comeback last summer, but “the conditions were not in place for his sale.” This time, things were different since the player’s “irrepressible desire” to transfer and his dedication during the first half of the season convinced Cadiz’s president to enter into negotiations.

Deportivo will contribute €507,000 to the transfer in addition to Perez’s own payment.

Amazingly, the striker moves down to two tiers despite having scored three goals in LaLiga for Cadiz so far this season, including the equalizer in what turned out to be his final game for the team, a 1-1 draw against Almeria on Saturday AEDT.

Perez’s selfless action is a breath of fresh air in a football world where transfer fees and salaries continue to soar to mind-boggling heights — Cristiano Ronaldo will make €200 million-per-season on his new agreement in Saudi Arabia.

On Monday morning AEDT, he might make his debut against Unionistas de Salamanca.

Lucas Perez: Who is he?

Perez may be remembered by Premier League fans from his time in England with West Ham and Arsenal, but his path to a career in professional football was unusual and may surprise some.

The striker, who was born in A Coruna, where Deportivo are from, played youth football at three different clubs before making his senior debut with Atletico Madrid’s C-team in Spain’s fourth tier in 2007. Lucas made 55 appearances with Atletico before moving up to Rayo Vallecano’s B-team.

Perez played seven times in the second tier for Rayo, where he had his first taste of professional football, before leaving on a free transfer to join Ukrainian team Karpaty Lviv.

Lucas Perez played and scored in the Europa League there, when his career truly took off, before scoring eight league goals in 17 appearances in 2012–13 to earn a €800,000 transfer to Greek team PAOK. He had a productive season there, scoring nine goals and dishing out 11 assists in 31 league games. However, after that, he returned to Spain and began his first stint with his hometown team.

With 17 goals and 10 assists in LaLiga, a loan to Deportivo led to a permanent transfer and ultimately the best season of his career. This caught the attention of Arsenal, who paid €20 million for his services. Even though he contributed to 12 goals in 21 games across all competitions, things didn’t quite work out at the Emirates.

Before West Ham pounced and paid €4.4 million to give the striker a second shot in the Premier League, Perez was swiftly loaned back to Deportivo for a season.

However, that was similarly brief (three goals in 15 matches in the top flight), opening the door for a return to Spain, where he has remained ever since. The 34-year-old has returned to his hometown team after spending two seasons at Alaves, one at Elche, and then another two with Cadiz.

Deportivo La Coruna’s demise

Deportivo La Coruna once ranked high among the top groups in Spain.

La Coruna achieved a remarkable nine top-three finishes in LaLiga between 1993 and 2004, winning the league in 1999-2000 and placing second in 1993-94, 1994-95, 2000-01, and 2001-02. They advanced past the quarterfinals of the Champions League three times.

Coruna had players like Rivaldo, Roy Makaay, Juan Carlos Valeron, Joan Capdevila, and Alberto Luque, and they were managed by Liverpool icon John Toshack.

However, the storied club has drastically declined, dropping completely out of LaLiga and out of title and European contention. The club’s run of 20 consecutive seasons in the top division came to an end in 2011 as they teetered between the top two divisions of Spanish football, but they have since fallen much deeper.

Deportivo played in the second tier in 2018–19 and 2019–20 before slipping into the third tier in 2021–22, where they are still playing today. They are currently in fourth place in the 2022–23 season after 17 games.

What transpired, then?

Owner Augusto Cesar Lendoiro famously said, “My big mistake was not to have sold players when I could.” But winning titles creates an illusion like that.

When a public statement was made declaring that the club would not prioritize investing in youngsters above signing foreign players, they started to fall behind in the standings by 2004-05. Playing in a Champions League semifinal and being demoted from Spain’s top division separated each other by just seven years.

Perhaps Perez’s return will serve as the impetus for them to reclaim their former grandeur.

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