Off-the-radar: A sorcerer, a van Gaal reject and two slayed Goliaths – the amazing story of Diego Cascón

Sarthak Kumar narrates the story of van Gaal reject Diego Cascón – a story that involves warding off the evil eye and slaying Real Madrid and Villarreal.

In light of Barcelona B’s promotion playoff game against Cultural Leonesa, this is the story of one of its youth graduates.

The rugged pitch of the Estadio Santo Domingo was greeted by the applause and cheers of 3,000 spectators. The stadium was half-empty, but for the amateur club, it was a dream to be a part of the match. This match.

This match, they were playing Real Madrid.

Read the Madrid lineup – Dudek; Arbeloa, Albiol, Metzelder, Drenthe; Mahamadou Diarra, Guti, Van der Vaart; Granero; Raúl and Benzema – and you would have goosebumps as a first division side, forget an amateur third division side with an average annual salary of €36,000. Oh, and Gago, Marcelo and Van Nistelrooy also played in that match.

It was AD Alcorcón vs Real Madrid, and it was spectacular. It was spectacular because it was Alcorcón’s first match against top-flight opposition – and what better way to have a match like that than against nine international players in the starting eleven. It was spectacular because no one had known about this small club or that it was based in Madrid itself. It was spectacular because of the financial gap between the two teams. The wage bill of Alcorcón’s matchday squad was one million euros, exactly 110 times less than that of Real Madrid.

It was also spectacular for another reason. Real Madrid were destroyed.

Alcorcón’s midfield, who nobody knew about, suddenly looked better than internationally capped players. Ernesto Gómez and Fernando Béjar, the interiors, ran like dogs, chasing the ball and hassling the opposition at every opportunity. Rubén Sanz, on the tip of the midfield diamond, was neat and tidy in possession, keeping the play ticking and the ball flowing in the final third. And donning the number 10 shirt, Sergio Mora, sitting in the base of midfield in a regista role, became central to every play.

The passing, pressing and possession was excellent. Real Madrid’s midfield looked liked the ones in the third division. They were being outplayed in every department. The desire to win was evident. Shot after shot, world-class pass after world-class pass, recovery after recovery, Alcorcón had the game in their hands.

The first goal was precisely that – a beautiful pass from Sergio Mora found Real reject and striker Borja Pérez, who dribbled past two Real Madrid defenders and scored past a third. The second came from Mora again – released by Béjar, he passed to Borja in the box for a certain goal. It was a goal, just that Arbeloa had got there first.

Real were shocked. And it was disappointing that they had only two shots to show as a recovery, which former Atlético Madrid goalkeeper Juanma easily parried away.

Alcorcón were still dangerous, still playing extremely well. A deadly cross from right-back Nagore found the post, the goal-line but not the goal. A deadly counter from Alcorcón saw second striker Diego Cascón play the ball into the box again. This time, Ernesto made a perfectly timed run to slot past Dudek.

By half-time, Alcorcón were ahead by three goals. By the hour mark, they would make it four, as a poorly cleared set piece found Borja, who coolly finished home. Real Madrid tried. But as hard as they tried something always came in the way – Juanma was spectacular but so was the team. Whenever a Real Madrid player got the ball there was an Alcorcón player in his face. Whenever there was an Alcorcón player on the ball there were four more ahead of him to pass the ball too. With passing that exquisite and moves that intricate, all that was left was to walk the ball into the net.

AD Alcorcón 4-0 Real Madrid. On 27th October, 2009, the damage was done. Real Madrid went trophyless that season; the psychological damage had been too much.

By contrast, Alcorcón were promoted that very season, and for the first time were playing in the professional leagues in 2010-11.



“In the first forty-five minutes there was hardly a difference between a first division team, Villarreal, and one of the Segunda B, Polideportivo Ejido. It was the “inferior” team that was clearly dominating.”

-Marca

There was no way through.
Villarreal tried and tried. They tried through balls and long balls. They tried ground passes and crosses. They tried pressing higher up the pitch and they tried pressing in their own half.
Nothing was working.
It wasn’t that Poli Ejido were defending deep – it was that you could see their desire on the pitch more. They cared more. There were always two men on the Villarreal player who had the ball. They dribbled past an unsupported Villarreal defense with ease.
Villarreal never even stood a chance.
Jorge Molina got a hat-trick. Gregory got two more towards the end. Juli ran the show with exquisite dribbling. Mikel Rico ran and ran until he could run no more.
Poli Ejido won 5-0 against a team that couldn’t even challenge its goalkeeper Razak Brimah, a 21-year-old who had only played two cup games in Spain before that game.


Diego Cascón began in the world of football in Loyola (the school team where he studied in his hometown, León: los Jesuitas), up to the “freshmen” cadetes. While in the alevín team, Barcelona took interest in him.

But there were problems with him and another guy from Salamanca. Barcelona ended up sacking Serra Ferrer and hiring Van Gaal, who ruled out all signings that Serra Ferrer had proposed for the youth teams.

Subsequently, in the second year cadetes he played for Cultural. At the club, he ascended to the juvenils and then to the first team which was playing in the Segunda B in 2003. He stayed at the club till 2007, scoring 12 goals in his last season at Cultural.

He would go on to play at Badalona, Poli Ejido, Alcorcón, and Eibar for a season each. It was at these clubs that he gained the reputation of being an effective super sub – someone who could make an impact in the last minutes of the game. In fact, he scored five goals in 29 appearances at Ejido, despite playing just 714 minutes!

In 2011, he joined Jaén in 2011 – also in the Segunda B – where he played for three seasons and captained the team in the last two.

It was here where he showed that when managers really put their confidence in him and gave him regular minutes, he did make an impact. He scored 12 in his first season at Jaén.

But his poor stamina, combined with his incredible speed and strength, meant that teams would use him to make sure opposition defenses didn’t push too high towards the end of a game.

In his second season, he would lead Jaén to the Segunda, and even scored eight goals. But those goals came in the first half of the season. In April 2013, Cascón solicited the services of a sorcerer in April 2013 in an attempt to end a negative scoring drought, feeling he was a victim of the evil eye.

He never scored for Jaén again.

Even though he made his professional debut at last at the age of 29, after making just 11 substitute appearances, in January 2014 he was told by Jaén he was no longer needed. He waived the compensation due on his contract, rolled back tears at his farewell press conference, and moved to Kitchee in Hong Kong. After winning the Hong Kong first division and finishing as runner-up in the FA Cup, in July 2014 he received an offer from Cartagena.

Instead, he moved to Columbia, signing for “Red Devils” América Cali, where he played 14 games and scored zero goals.

He is now back in Spain. In 2015, he signed for Melilla, where he scored 9 goals in his first season, but just 285 minutes in his second season prompted him to move this January to Mérida.

At the age of 32, his chance to play professional football again is all but over.



The sad reality is that Diego Cascón’s story is only reported, however meagerly, because he started, and finished, that fateful game against Real Madrid, and replaced hat-trick hero Jorge Molina for fourteen minutes in the 5-0 demolition of Villarreal.

The sad reality is that stories similar to his will not matter.

Because they will never be heard.


This article is reproduced from a series on the faces of Spanish football. You can read it here.

Barcelona 3-1 Alavés, Copa del Rey Final 2017: Community Player Ratings

We rated the players on Lucho’s last Barca game in charge

Jasper Cillessen

Got away with one in the first half when Gomez’s shot beat him at his near post and rolled across the line but had no chance at all with the goal. Otherwise coped with everything else that was thrown at him.

Rating: 6

Community Rating: 6

Javier Mascherano

Was stretchered off after just nine minutes after an ugly clash of heads and it was a sad way for him to depart on what could possibly be his final ever Barcelona appearance.

Rating: n/a

Community Rating: 6

Gerard Piqué

A big mistake early on almost allowed Gomez to open the scoring but got away with it and was pretty solid afterwards.

Rating: 6.5

Community Rating: 7

Samuel Umtiti

Finished off a fine debut season at Barcelona with yet another accomplished display as he picked up his first Copa del Rey.

Rating: 7

Community Rating: 7

Jordi Alba

Looked good going forwards and, aside from poor pass to Cillessen, did little wrong defensively.

Rating: 6.5

Community Rating: 7

Sergio Busquets

Not at his best for Barcelona by all means but worked hard and was disciplined in the second half as Luis Enrique’s side claimed the victory.

Rating: 6

Community Rating: 7

Ivan Rakitić

Like Busquets it was a fairly subdued showing by the Croatian but he did enough against a spirited Alaves side.

Rating: 6

Community Rating: 7

Andrés Iniesta

A great display from Iniesta who showed flashes of his brilliant best and was frequently just too good for Alaves as, like Messi, he picked up his 30th Barcelona trophy.

Rating: 8

Community Rating: 8

Lionel Messi

Just brilliant – what else can you say? Took charge of the match with a superb first goal before having a hand in goals for Neymar and Paco. So much better than everyone else it’s unfair.

Rating: 9

Community Rating: 10

Paco Alcácer

Took his chance with Luis Suarez suspended and got his name on the scoresheet with a lovely finish. Also managed to jump out of the way of Messi’s ball in for Neymar when the Brazilian scored.

Rating: 7.5

Community Rating: 7

Neymar

Seems to save his best for the big games and did it again on Saturday night. Scored a final goal, looked brilliant on the ball whenever he had it but also put in a decent defensive shift as he signed off the season in style.

Rating: 8.5

Community Rating: 8

André Gomes

Replaced Javier Mascherano early on and played well in an unfamiliar position. Looked comfortable in possession, seemed far more confident with his passing and even helped set up Neymar for his goal.

Rating: 7.5

Community Rating: 7

Aleix Vidal

Given the last 10 minutes and it was brilliant to see him back in action.

Rating: n/a

Community Rating: 6

Luis Enrique

His final game in charge and it couldn’t have gone much better really. In many ways it was a typical Barca performance under Lucho: some strange selections, lots of goals, some defensive wobbles, but ultimately a victory and yet another trophy.

Rating: 8

Community Rating: 8

The Team

Took a while to get going against a committed and feisty Alaves side but once Messi took charge that was no stopping them and the two goals just before half-time killed the game. Lots of plus points with Vidal making his return after injury, and Gomes and Paco finishing tough first seasons well. And of course, the perfect send off for Lucho.

Rating: 9

Community Rating: 8

FC Barcelona News: 28 May 2017; Barcelona End Season with Copa del Rey Trophy

MATCH REPORT: FC Barcelona 3-1 Alavés: Copa Kings! | FC Barcelona
FC Barcelona claimed the Copa del Rey with a 3-1 win over Alavés at the Vicente Calderón, becoming the first side since the 1950s to win the trophy three years in a row. In a hotly-contested affair, the class of Leo Messi stood out as he scored a fine opener as well as setting up the third goal for Paco Alcácer just after Neymar regained the lead for Barça.

Copa del Rey celebrations at the Vicente Calderón! | FC Barcelona
The Copa del Rey champions celebrated out on the field at the Vicente Calderón after lifting the trophy thanks to a 3-1 win over Alavés in the last ever game at the famous stadium.

Iniesta and Messi, 30 trophies as Barça players | FC Barcelona
The list of honours won is exactly the same for both players: 8 league titles, 7 Spanish Super Cups, 4 Champions Leagues, 5 Copas del Rey, 3 European Super Cups and 3 Club World Cups. Andrés Iniesta and Leo Messi have been at the very heart of the most successful decade in the FC Barcelona’s history.

Barça win the Copa del Rey for the 29th time at the Vicente Calderón | FC Barcelona
FC Barcelona now have their 29th Copa del Rey after victory over Alavés at the Vicente Calderón in Madrid. Barça have shown once again that they are the ‘King of the Cup’, claiming the trophy for the third successive season, an achievement the Club had managed previously between 1951 and 1953.

Andrés Iniesta: A final is a final and it is always difficult | FC Barcelona
FC Barcelona captain Andrés Iniesta spoke of his pride at winning the Copa del Rey for the third season in a row. The midfield maestro was pleased with the win and highlighted the difficulty of playing a game of such a nature.

Mascherano suffers cut to the head and knee injury | FC Barcelona
The Barça player Javier Mascherano was substituted in the 11th minute of the game in the final. André Gomes came on to replace him after the Argentine received a nasty blow to the head in a collision with Alavés midfielder Marcos Llorente. Mascherano has suffered a cut to his head which needed stitches, concussion and an injury to his right knee which will require further tests.

Copa del Rey celebrations on social networks | FC Barcelona
The Barça players celebrate their latest trophy on social media after the 3-1 win over Alavés.

Luis Enrique: I leave happy with the job done | FC Barcelona
Summing up his three seasons as Barça coach, he said: “I feel happy because I have enjoyed a lot making Barça fans happy by winning trophies and that makes me proud. I am the one who has decided to stop because it will be the best for me and the for the players, they need potent and intense stimulus. Nine trophies out of 13 is a pretty good record.”

Luis Enrique takes his leave of Barcelona with a proud legacy | Sky Sports
Barcelona needed to freshen up their approach and Luis Enrique managed it smoothly. With Xavi’s powers on the wane and Luis Suarez arriving from Liverpool, Luis Enrique gradually shifted the emphasis from the midfield to the front three. Year after year, the football became more direct, sometimes bypassing the midfield altogether.

Josep Maria Bartomeu: Luis Enrique has been a success and the door is always open for him to return | FC Barcelona
After seeing the team win the Copa del Rey for the 29th time in the club’s history, president Josep Maria Bartomeu spoke of the great work carried out by Luis Enrique in his three years in charge. “Luis Enrique has done a very good job and we are very grateful,” said the president, adding that “the door is always open for him to return when he wants. He has been a successful manager”.

How the papers reacted to Barcelona’s Copa del Rey win over Alaves

Messi and Lucho are headline news after yet another trophy

Luis Enrique waved goodbye to Barcelona after overseeing a 3-1 Copa del Rey win over Alaves at the Vicente Calderon. Here’s what the newspapers in Spain made of it all…

Sport goes with a simple ‘Thank You’ to Luis Enrique after he picked up a ninth title as Barcelona boss
It’s Leo and Lucho’s Copa, write Mundo Deportivo, who note how Lionel Messi inspired Barca in a memorable first half that saw him score his 54th goal of the season
AS go with a similar headline, saying it’s Messi’s Copa after the Argentine scored the first and set up the other two for Barcelona
La Vanguardia goes with how it’s goodbye to Luis Enrique after another stunning display by Messi
Messi earns another Copa, say Marca, after he fired Barcelona to a 3-1 win

The best stats as Barcelona beat Alaves to win Copa del Rey

Yet another trophy for Barca at the Calderon

Barcelona gave Luis Enrique the perfect send off as they beat Alaves 3-1 at the Vicente Calderon to finish the season on a high and lift the Copa del Rey.

Here are the best stats from Saturday’s game….

  • Barcelona have now won all six of their one-legged finals with Luis Enrique as manager.
  • Lucho is the first manager to win three consecutive Spanish Cup titles since Ferdinand Daucik in 1953.
  • The Blaugrana have become the team to have won the most Copa del Rey finals at the Vicente Calderon, overtaking Real Madrid with three.
  • Lionel Messi made his 700th senior appearances against Alaves – that breaks down to 583 for Barca and 117 for Argentine.
  • Barcelona have never lost a final in which Lionel Messi has scored.
  • Neymar scored his 20th goal of the season against Alaves.
  • The Brazilian is the first player to score in three consecutive Copa del Rey finals since Ferenc Puskás (1962, 1961 and 1960). King.
  • Meanwhile, Lionel Messi is the first player to score in four different Copa finals since Telmo Zarra in 1950.
  • Lionel Messi has scored 54 goals for Barcelona this season in all competitions, more than all the Alaves players combined.
  • Saturday’s win is Barcelona’s 29th Copa del Rey – extending their record in the competition.
  • The victory is also Messi’s 30th trophy with Barcelona.

Barcelona vs. Alavés, Copa del Rey Final 2017: Match Review, Community Player Ratings

Luis Enrique signs off with a win and yet another trophy

Barcelona signed off their season in fine style with a 3-1 win over Alaves in the final of the Copa del Rey in Luis Enrique’s final game as Barca coach.

Lionel Messi sent Barca on their way before Neymar and Paco Alcacer made the game safe in the last ever competitive game at the Vicente Calderon.

Barcelona lined up as expected with Jasper Cillessen in goal, Javier Mascherano returning in defence while Alcacer took the place of the suspended Luis Suarez in attack.

However, Mascherano­­­­ lasted less than 10 minutes after having to depart on a stretcher after an ugly clash of heads with Marcos Llorente left him bleeding and dazed and swiftly replaced by Andre Gomes.

By that time Barcelona had already had their first chance of the game, Messi teeing up Jordi Alba who came flying down the left and headed across goal but Alcacer could not quite get on the end of it.

Alaves were certainly fired up for the clash and tempers occasionally threatened to boil over with Edgar Mendez booked for fouling Samuel Umtiti on the touchline and then appearing to stand on the defender who was left furious and remonstrated angrily with the officials.

Neymar was also seen berating the officials after Messi was fouled on the edge of the box and the referee played advantage as a feisty opening period threatening to boil over.

However, despite all their protestations Barcelona were lucky not to go behind after a mistake by Gerard Pique allowed Ibai Gomez to pinch possession and beat Jasper Cillessen at his near post, his shot then rebounded off the goalkeeper and rolled across the line.

Somehow Barcelona survived and minutes later they went ahead after yet another brilliant strike from Messi. The Argentine swapped passes with Neymar before sidefooting the ball home for his 54th goal of a simply brilliant season.

The lead did not last long however, Theo Hernandez equalising with a stunning free kick that gave Cillessen absolutely no chance and showed exactly what he has been in such demand this season.

The game looked to be heading into half-time on level terms when Messi suddenly turned on the magic once again. The Argentine fed the ball wide to Gomes who slipped it across goal for Neymar to tap home.

A minute later and it was almost over, Messi again the creator with a great run before slipping the ball to Alcacer who finished brilliantly to send Barcelona in 3-1 up at half-time.

The second half started in much the same vein, Iniesta teasing the ball to Messi who raced past Llorente and found Alcacer at the far post but he couldn’t quite force the ball past Pacheco.

Barca continued to boss the game however, Iniesta firing over although Alaves came back into and thought they’d grabbed one back with 20 minutes to go, Deyverson’s effort correctly ruled out for offside.

Tempers flared again shortly afterwards, Neymar going to ground in the penalty area after a push from Ruben Sobrino that led to a shoving match with Messi and Andres Iniesta both going into the book.

That was about as heated as it got however, with Barcelona seeing the game out safely thereafter and even sending on Aleix Vidal with 10 minutes to go as he completed an amazing recovery from a dislocated ankle.

The crowd chanted Lucho’s name in the final minutes as Barcelona made it three consecutive Copa del Rey titles with a deserved win and a ninth trophy as Barca boss for Enrique in his final game.

Barcelona vs. Alavés, Copa del Rey Final 2017: Match Review & Rate

Luis Enrique signs off with a win and yet another trophy

Barcelona signed off their season in fine style with a 3-1 win over Alaves in the final of the Copa del Rey in Luis Enrique’s final game as Barca coach.

Lionel Messi sent Barca on their way before Neymar and Paco Alcacer made the game safe in the last ever competitive game at the Vicente Calderon.

Barcelona lined up as expected with Jasper Cillessen in goal, Javier Mascherano returning in defence while Alcacer took the place of the suspended Luis Suarez in attack.

However, Mascherano­­­­ lasted less than 10 minutes after having to depart on a stretcher after an ugly clash of heads with Marcos Llorente left him bleeding and dazed and swiftly replaced by Andre Gomes.

By that time Barcelona had already had their first chance of the game, Messi teeing up Jordi Alba who came flying down the left and headed across goal but Alcacer could not quite get on the end of it.

Alaves were certainly fired up for the clash and tempers occasionally threatened to boil over with Edgar Mendez booked for fouling Samuel Umtiti on the touchline and then appearing to stand on the defender who was left furious and remonstrated angrily with the officials.

Neymar was also seen berating the officials after Messi was fouled on the edge of the box and the referee played advantage as a feisty opening period threatening to boil over.

However, despite all their protestations Barcelona were lucky not to go behind after a mistake by Gerard Pique allowed Ibai Gomez to pinch possession and beat Jasper Cillessen at his near post, his shot then rebounded off the goalkeeper and rolled across the line.

Somehow Barcelona survived and minutes later they went ahead after yet another brilliant strike from Messi. The Argentine swapped passes with Neymar before sidefooting the ball home for his 54th goal of a simply brilliant season.

The lead did not last long however, Theo Hernandez equalising with a stunning free kick that gave Cillessen absolutely no chance and showed exactly what he has been in such demand this season.

The game looked to be heading into half-time on level terms when Messi suddenly turned on the magic once again. The Argentine fed the ball wide to Gomes who slipped it across goal for Neymar to tap home.

A minute later and it was almost over, Messi again the creator with a great run before slipping the ball to Alcacer who finished brilliantly to send Barcelona in 3-1 up at half-time.

The second half started in much the same vein, Iniesta teasing the ball to Messi who raced past Llorente and found Alcacer at the far post but he couldn’t quite force the ball past Pacheco.

Barca continued to boss the game however, Iniesta firing over although Alaves came back into and thought they’d grabbed one back with 20 minutes to go, Deyverson’s effort correctly ruled out for offside.

Tempers flared again shortly afterwards, Neymar going to ground in the penalty area after a push from Ruben Sobrino that led to a shoving match with Messi and Andres Iniesta both going into the book.

That was about as heated as it got however, with Barcelona seeing the game out safely thereafter and even sending on Aleix Vidal with 10 minutes to go as he completed an amazing recovery from a dislocated ankle.

The crowd chanted Lucho’s name in the final minutes as Barcelona made it three consecutive Copa del Rey titles with a deserved win and a ninth trophy as Barca boss for Enrique in his final game.

Barcelona vs. Alavés, Copa del Rey Final 2017: Final Score 3-1, Barça end season with trophy

CAMPEONES, CAMPEONES, OLÉ OLÉ OLÉ!!!

Barcelona finished the season on a high with the Copa del Rey title thanks to a 3-1 victory over Deportivo Alavés in the last ever match at the Vicente Calderón stadium. A very physical match was decided by Lionel Messi, who once again carried the Blaugrana to another title, the second this season.

FIRST HALF

The game was very physical from the very start, with Alavés players kicking every leg wrapped up in a blue sock, but Barça remained calm and began to find spaces to attack. It took Lionel Messi half an hour to score a great goal, and even though Theo Hernández equalized a few minutes later with a sensational free kick, Messi couldn’t be stopped.

The Argentine found André Gomes who then found Neymar for Barça’s second goal, which was followed by a simply insane run and assist from Messi to Paco Alcácer, who doubled Barça’s lead as we reached the end of the first period.

At halftime, a sensational Messi gave the Blaugrana a two-goal lead. They just needed to confirm the win in the second half and lift the trophy.

SECOND HALF

The final period was all about preserving the lead and avoiding problems. Alavés had a few dangerous chances and even scored a goal that was disallowed for offside, but nothing really happened and the Blaugrana confirmed their first half advantage to clinch the victory and the title.

A very strange season is now over, a new coach will come and the Spanish Super Cup will be against Real Madrid. Next season should be fun.


Barcelona: Cillessen; Mascherano (Gomes), Piqué, Umtiti, Alba; Busquets, Rakitic, Iniesta; Messi, Alcácer, Neymar

Goals: Messi (30′), Neymar (45′), Paco Alcácer (45+2′)

Alavés: Pacheco; Femenia, Ely, Vigaray, Feddal, Theo (Romero); Méndez (Camarasa), Llorente, García, Gómez (Sobrino); Deyverson

Goal: Theo (33′)

This Lionel Messi assist is just not fair at all

Human beings aren’t supposed to do this.

Barcelona are taking a 3-1 lead into the halftime break after Lionel Messi set up Paco Alcacer for this goal. It was an unbelievable assist to make the goal happen. He’s got eyes in the back of his head and is not human.

Neymar finishes off nice Barcelona team goal to take Copa del Rey final lead

Woot!

After trading goals midway through the first half with Alaves, Barcelona have retaken the lead through Neymar. The Brazilian tapped in a simple finish at the far post after some nice build-up play by Lionel Messi and Andre Gomes. It was a nice goal and an important one as Barcelona take a 2-1 lead to the halftime break.