5th – Raul Albentosa
Today behind the window is the Rams Spanish centre half, Raul Albentosa, currently on a season loan with Malaga.
Although by no means a major protagonist in last season’s inexplicable collapse, his transfer and subsequent failure at Derby has become notoriously synonymous with that dreadful period.
When the Rams were first linked with Raul, there was plenty to get excited about. In need of a dominating centre half, the Rams were apparently “leading a host of clubs” willing to meet his moderate £600k buyout clause and that very weekend he was named in the La Liga team of the week. Although by no means a household name, Rams fans soon familiarised themselves with the fairy-tale rise of Eibar and the key role big Raul played for their team.
When the deal was done and news of Chris Evans escapades (private jets, flagging down their team bus etc. etc.) in clinching the same came through, it was back slapping and high fives all around. After a promising debut against Chesterfield in the Cup, things began to go wrong.
Mystery injuries kept him out of a number of games which were later attributed to him forgetting his specialist inners for his boots, in the haste to get him to Moor Farm. When he was fit, McClaren seemed to have little faith in him, regularly preferring a struggling/limited Bucko and the erratic/appalling (delete to taste in both cases) Ryan Shotton.
Add to that he couldn’t speak a word of English and his heavily pregnant wife had, understandably, decided to stay in Spain and you can understand how he may have found life tough.
When he did start to play, you could see his confidence draining. Clearly a stopper as opposed to a ball playing defender, his attempts to play out at the Ipro (60 yard punt down a channel, straight out for a goal kick) were nearly as painful as his cumbersome attempts to impose himself on games and his horrendous slicked back “mun” haircut.
After signing in mid January Raul only actually played 8 games for The Rams. Although I think it is highly unlikely we will see him add to that total, I am sure he is a much better player than we saw and I wish him well.