There are some fascinating stories unfolding around Europe’s top leagues, including Bayer Leverkusen’s unlikely push for the Bundesliga title, and even talk of Aston Villa challenging for Premier League glory. But perhaps the biggest fairytale-in-the-making may be Girona, the Spanish minnows who – at the time of writing – lead La Liga after 17 games of the season.
In this article we take a look at Girona FC in more detail and provide an overview of their season so far, including looking at their results and who their top performers have been. We also, of course, answer the question, “Can Girona Win La Liga in 2024?”
Who are Girona?
On Monday the 18th of December 2023, an impressive 3-0 win over Alaves saw Girona move to the summit of Spain’s top flight. As we will explain, Girona have never won La Liga and no side apart from Madrid duo Real and Atletico and the mighty Barcelona have taken the title since Valencia’s triumph 20 years ago in 2003/04. Girona leading the table after almost half the season is a big deal, not least because many casual fans in the UK may never have even heard of them!
The city of Girona lies around 60 miles to the northeast of Barcelona, making the club both Catalan allies and also footballing rivals to the illustrious serial winners of La Liga. It is a small city, with a population of little over 100,000 – for reference, that is around the same as Carlisle and a little smaller than Winchester. And we don’t see Winchester City FC, currently in Southern Football League Division One South and West, challenging for the Premier League any time soon.
The club was founded in 1930 and has never won a single major honour before. Prior to this season, Girona’s best performances came in 2017/18 and also last term when they finished 10th in the top flight. They only made their Liga bow in 2017, and this is just their fourth season in the top tier of Spanish football! In fact, they have often played in the third, fourth and even fifth tiers.
Girona 2023/24: The Story so Far
Almost all teams in La Liga have played 17 times and it is Girona who have a two-point advantage over Jude Bellingham’s Real Madrid. The Englishman’s stunning start to life in Spain has helped his side accrue 42 points thus far. However, the Catalans have won 14 times, drawn twice and lost just once, to post 44. They are nine points ahead of Barca and are the top scorers in the division, boasting an impressive 41 goals, three more than Real.
Prior to their 3-0 win over Alaves they went to the Nou Camp and won 4-2 earlier in the month, a stunning result which really rubber-stamped their credentials as bona fide title contenders. That their only defeat came at the hands of Real Madrid does not bode too well and the fact it was a 3-0 loss at home bodes even less well for the return fixture. Even so, they have scored for fun thus far, scoring three or more in seven of their league clashes and giving their fans – and neutrals – one hell of a ride.
Who are Girona’s Key Men?
Girona’s boss, Michel (full name: Miguel Ángel Sánchez Muñoz), is sure to be on the radar of PremiLeague clubs following his stunning success with Girona. Incredibly, they were a second-tier side in 2021/22, only winning promotion to La Liga via the play-offs and then finishing 10th last season. That is the third time Michel, who was 48 in October, has guided a side into the top flight, winning the Segunda Division title with Rayo Vallecano in 2018 and Huesca in 2020.
The former Rayo player, born in Madrid, has managed to get the best out of a limited squad, one whose record signing is thought to have cost just £6m! That is Ukrainian striker Artem Dovbyk, who has bagged 10 goals and is Girona’s top scorer this term. They have shared the goals around though, with Uruguayan journeyman Christian Stuani, now 37 and club captain, also scoring eight.
Their squad does not have any real stars though, and is mainly made up of a mix of Spanish and South American players unknown to the average English fan. That said, they do have Brazilian Yan Couto on loan from Man City, whilst Daley Blind brings experience to their back line.
Can They Do It?
Leicester showed that football fairytales can happen, even in an age where money is more important than ever and football is very much a business, not a sport. However, the reality is that the most likely outcome is that Girona stumble and Real Madrid, or possibly Barca, or maybe even Atleti, put together a strong run to take glory.
The bookies certainly think so, with the Catalan underdogs priced at odds of 13/2 to “do a Leicester”. In contrast, Real, despite currently trailing Girona by two points and also having the Champions League to contend with, are available at just 3/10! That is a huge difference, with the bookmakers giving Carlo Ancelotti’s men around a 75% chance of success, compared to Girona’s 13% probability.
However, we have seen the bookies get things wrong countless times before and these are just predictions. If there is a 13% chance of rain every day, the chances are it will rain on one of those days (probably the one when you hung the washing out). And given it is nearly Christmas, we’re going to pray for a Christmas miracle (come May), and hope that Girona can make it rain in Spain!
They are clearly up against it. However, boss Michel has shown with both Rayo Vallecano and Huesca that he knows how to lead a title challenge, albeit in the Segunda. Moreover, like Leicester back in 2014/15, Girona have taken their momentum from the previous season and used it to catapult themselves to the top of the league. Momentum is a powerful thing and the more it grows, the harder it becomes to stop. Vamos Girona!