Profiles - Riki

IVAN SANCHEZ RICO SOTO 'RIKI' 
Squad number 2012/13:  11 
Date of Birth: 11 August 1980
Place of Birth: Aranjuez, Madrid
Nationality: Spain
Contract: 2006 - 2013
Transfer: 4.6 million Euros (2006, from Getafe)
Career: Deportivo (2008-now), Getafe (2004-2006), Real Madrid Castilla (2002-2004), Real Madrid C (2001-2002)
Buy-out Clause: ?
Height: 186 cm
Weight: 80 kg
Position: Attacker (right/central/left)


There are few players at Deportivo’s squad who are as technically gifted as RIKI or have his shooting skills. Besides, Riki is a strong player who is capable to play on all attacking positions and who has a proven goal scoring record at Primera División.But he had problems to become into a feared name in Spain and at Deportivo, this since he needed four seasons in order to confirm his name as an important piece at the squad, this after been considered as the ‘revulsive’ of the team. Now he is one of the top-scorers in the history of the club and attempts to lead Depor at liga BBVA.

THE BEGINNING
It was no coincidence that Riki’s career started at Real Madrid as he was born in the city of Aranjuez (50,000 inhabitants), which lies 48 kilometres south of the city of Madrid. Aranjuez is well-known for the Palacio Real de Aranjuez, one of the Spanish royal sites, and its vast gardens and also is the place-of-birth of Spanish striker Javier Portillo. Being twenty-three years old, Riki scored twenty goals for Real Madrid’s B-team (Real Madrid Castilla) which awoke the interest of more important teams. It were the years when Raúl González, Luis Figo, Beckham, Zidane, Ronaldo, Guti, Santiago Solari, Cambiasso, Morientes and Portillo were some of the names in Real Madrid’s squad and there was no much room for a player like Riki. German club 1.FC Nürnberg were related to him, but neighbours Getafe eventually snatched him for €300.000. This small, but ambitious, club seemed perfect for Riki as he could stay in the Madrid area and play at Primera División. The other club from the area, Atlético, was of a different standard.

Signing Riki appeared to have been a smart move. He made his Primera debut on September 12th, 2004 against Real Mallorca and quickly became a starting player. His team was nothing spectacular, as they never were situated higher than twelfth and eventually finished thirteenth, but it was a valuable season. Getafe survived its first year at the highest level and Riki reached playing twenty-nine matches (of which twenty-one as a starter) and he scored two goals: the first he scored in December 2004 during the 2-0 home win against Racing de Santander and the second he scored in March 2005 during a 2-1 home win against…Real Madrid. Albiol gave Getafe a lead in that match, later Riki doubled it after the break. In that season 2004/2005 his goals didn’t save his team, but his performances did. Overall he was considered as one of the best players of his team, which played very compact. After one year at Primera level, it was already rumoured that Lendoiro was after Riki with a €3 million bid for the player. But Getafe’s president Ángel Torres seems to have rejected that offer mainly because Riki had a certain clause in his contract. That stated that until June 2007, fifty percent of the income would go to Real Madrid. Ángel Torres decided to wait, to get more out of a deal, and pointed to Riki’s €6 million buy-out clause, and in the mean time Riki extended his contract at Getafe until 2009.

In his second year at Primera (2005/2006) Riki only confirmed his reputation as fast and skilful player. His contributions were vital to Bernd Schuster’s team (with Pernía and Guïza) which shocked Spain in the first weeks as they were first on three occasions and still fourth when November started after a 1-0 defeat at Deportivo. After it, Getafe always was placed between positions eight and eleven and eventually finished ninth. Riki’s numbers improved a lot. Now he was an undisputed starter and he played thirty-two matches of which twenty-eight as a starter. At the beginning of that season, when Getafe did so well, he was a sensation. He scored four goals in the first six Liga matches including two at Alavés (a 4-3 win) and one against Valencia (a 2-1 win). He added another goal in December against Villarreal and scored two more against Racing de Santander in April. He finished the season with eight goals in his tally after he scored against Cádiz in May 2006, and these numbers could have been better if he hadn’t been out injured for six weeks. During the winter season, clubs like AC Parma (Italy) and Liverpool (England) approached Getafe for a deal, but once again Ángel Torres rejected the approach. Once more Riki had been one of Getafe’s best players, and when the summer arrived it was time for the Getafe president to make a profit from this €300.000 signing who been noticed by national coach Luis Aragonés.

THE ARRIVAL TO DEPOR
Many names were related to Deportivo that summer and eventually seventeen(!) would arrive. Riki admitted that he was ambitious “and it’s clear that I would love to play for one of Spain’s biggest clubs”. At the end of June he passed a medical test at the club after Getafe and Deportivo apparently had reached an agreement. Riki was becoming the fourth signing until then, but there was confusion about the money involved. Sources in La Coruña claimed that it was €4 million while Getafe president Ángel Torres maintained his position that the €6 million buy-out clause had been paid. “Maybe Deportivo is interested in publicly minimizing the numbers”, he said. The same could apply to Getafe too though. Just a few days before, the Getafe president copied Lendoiro’s words of ten years before that “we are a buying club and not a selling club. We already lost Pernía to Atlético and won’t let someone else go if an interested club doesn’t pay the buy-out clause”. Lendoiro had been in Madrid personally to negotiate for Riki but it remained a mystery why the striker already had done a medical test before the deal eventually was done. This was resolved quickly, as Riki got married on June 23rd, 2006 and had the test done a day before. Canaldeportivo.com wrote on June 25 that the club had paid €4.64 million to the Spanish La Liga as a guarantee.

Riki had become Deportivo’s most expensive signing between 2002 (the arrival of Jorge Andrade, Albert Luque and 'Toro' Acuña) and 2007 (when Guardado was signed). Such an amount indicates that a player is ready to play at Primera and expectations of him were high when the season started. Riki would later be joined by Arbeloa and both players knew each other From Real Madrid’s B-team. Riki explained that he picked Deportivo “because it’s one of the biggest Spanish clubs and will be fighting for a European spot. And that’s where we deserve to be. And Deportivo showed most interest in signing me”. Asked about the amount that Deportivo paid for him, he said: “If they really paid that it’s probably because they think I’m worth it. I will try to demonstrate that on the pitch”. Riki added that he had started at Getafe’s left wing and later was used by Schuster in the striking zone. “I felt comfortable on all these positions, as the most important aspect is to help the squad”. Riki started as left winger during a friendly against Benfica (a 1-0 win) and also in the 2006 Teresa Herrera match against Nacional de Montevideo, in which he finished the match as striker. Being Deportivo’s left winger, he scored from a free-kick during the final against AC Milan. In the first match of the Primera División against Real Zaragoza (a 3-2 win), Riki occupied the left wing, Arizmendi the right side and Bodipo was the striker. Out of Riki’s cross the first goal of Deportivo was scored and there was renewed optimism, and relief, at the club after this win. Riki said that he felt comfortable playing at left wing but that he’s preferred position was still in the striking zone. “Last year, at Getafe, I played behind a striker, Guïza or Paunovic for the case, and I felt really comfortable with that freedom. And they took some advantage of the shots I fired from there. A winger needs to work hard in defence too which makes it more difficult to get close to the opponent’s goal. You need to be in pretty good shape for that”.

Despite that season 2006/2007 evolved in a more difficult way than many would have expected, Riki was a stable figure in the line-ups of Caparrós. He didn’t miss a single match of the first round (nineteen matches) and only didn’t start on two occasions. Despite the good results, coach Caparrós was disputed from the start of the season. Not only because of his difficult relationship with the media and certain players, but also because he was converting Deportivo into a team playing physical football and handling a long-ball style. Of course, that’s not the best solution for technically gifted players like Riki, Arizmendi, Cristian and Verdú but Caparrós even tried it without a pure striker at Mallorca (a 0-0 draw). When asked about that, Caparrós said that he even had used two strikers with Riki and Arizmendi but that both players had been reconverted to the wings. Against Villarreal, the wings were occupied by Cristian and Arizmendi with “playmaker” Juan Rodríguez performing behind striker Riki, who took the role of the injured Bodipo. As a result, Riki delivered two fine passes to Capdevila and the Catalan defender scored both goals of Deportivo during the 2-0 win. Had Caparrós found his formula? He repeated it during the away match at Levante (a 2-0 loss), but the team was innocent from the start. Riki didn’t want to look for excuses: “Away from home we simply aren’t giving good performances but we have get points from these matches”. The first goal of Riki arrived in his fifth match at the club. Against Real Sociedad (a 2-0 win) he was the striker, for a third consecutive time, with Filipe, Juan Rodríguez and Arizmendi playing behind him. Riki’s goal (news papers compared it to a ‘Houdini-act’) was scored near the end when minutes before Barragán had given Deportivo the lead. He did so coming from right wing as Taborda’s entry had moved Riki to the wing. Riki was satisfied that the work of the team had been rewarded: “Real Sociedad played like Levante and they closed down all spaces. Besides, their players are really strong. But we simply have to improve our game against Betis Sevilla”.

Caparrós kept Riki as striker in the team during the matches against Betis (a 1-1 draw), Atlético (a 1-0 win), Getafe (a 2-0 loss) and Barcelona (a 1-1 draw) and Riki’s contribution was vital when Deportivo secured a pass to the next Copa round at Racing de Santander. But Riki didn’t do one thing: scoring goals. His contribution in nine Liga matches and two in the Copa had been one goal, and he was the striker in most of those games. Caparrós tried it with 18-year old Adrián at Gimnástic (a 0-0 draw) but replaced him with Riki during half-time because, although Adrián did fine, the attacking zone of Deportivo was almost inexistent. The issue of Deportivo’s attacking problems became more crucial now. After the Gimnástic match the team was still eighth in the table at two points of UEFA Cup football. Riki was going to reclaim his spot, but he admitted that he wasn’t in his best form but also lacked occasions to score. He, once more, indicated that he prefers to play behind a striker, mentioned Atlético’s Kiko as his idol and Craioveanu as best colleague on the pitch. But during a 0-1 home defeat against arch-rival Celta de Vigo, with Riki as Deportivo’s striker (and later moving to the left), Deportivo quickly started to handle the long-ball game which ended up in nothing. Riki also was Deportivo’s striker at Osasuna, and one of his efforts hit the post, but that match was lost 4-1. He admitted that not scoring was becoming an obsession for him and he welcomed the addition of a pure striker to the squad. “I don’t have any problem with that if a new player adds something to the squad”. Riki was Deportivo’s striker against Racing de Santander (a 0-0 draw) and Valencia (a 4-0 defeat), and the team was harmless in both matches. With Riki at the left wing, Cristian at the right wing, Verdú as playmaker and Arizmendi up front, Caparrós tried something completely different against Bilbao but a negative result wasn’t avoided: a 0-2 defeat. Riki lost his starting place for the second time this season, this time against Sevilla, as Filipe covered the left wing and Arizmendi was the striker. All seemed hopeless though as the team lost 4-0 and was having its worst series of matches since the promotion to Primera in 1991.

Now Real Madrid was going to visit Riazor, and for the first time in many years a defeat against Spain’s best team seemed inevitable. Riki tried to explain the situation of Deportivo by pointing to the players’ attitude: “That one is poor and we have to fix that together. We aren’t aggressive right now and we aren’t feared for that anymore”. But at least three players were going to be fully motivated to face Real Madrid: ex-Real Madrid players Riki and Arbeloa and ex-Atlético player Arizmendi. First it was Arbeloa who criticized the handling of young players at Real Madrid, and Riki confirmed that. “I understand that they want to have the best players in the world, but they also have many good players in the youth teams who’re doing a great job. Now they are betting on many foreign players, but the youth system always has delivered qualities. I’m confident that local players can do the same job, or even better, as Higuaín, Gago or Marcelo. Players like Soldado and De la Red could be very useful”. But Riki added that “I don’t have any resentment against Real Madrid, I simply am thankful to them because now I am able to play at Deportivo. I became too old for their youth team”. Fortunately, it became a fiesta in Riazor. Cristian and Estoyanoff covered Deportivo’s wings, and Riki finally got his opportunity as second striker behind Arizmendi. Especially Riki and Arizmendi were all over the place and a real nightmare to Real Madrid. After ten minutes it was Riki who earned a free-kick which was converted by Capdevila, and Madrid never got into the match. News papers wrote that the score could have been double, but the three points were all that mattered. In the next match, at surprising Recreativo (a 1-1 draw), Caparrós maintained this system and Riki provided Arizmendi with the equalizer. Riki once more saved Deportivo in the Copa Del Rey when he earned a penalty kick against Mallorca and opponent Ballesteros was sent-off.

Deportivo were now building up an unbeaten run. At home against Espanyol (a 0-0 draw), the striking duo of Riki functioned reasonably well. First, Arizmendi connected to a cross from Riki but his effort hit the crossbar (and seemed to have entered the goal). Later, a pass of the Madrilenian attacker found Arizmendi but the goal was disallowed for (non-existing) offside. Riki would have to miss the match at Zaragoza for having received his fifth yellow card, but he had delivered a great performance. Riki now was becoming a central figure, and statistics indicated that he was making most shots, was caught offside most and was Deportivo’s player suffering most fouls. Taborda replaced Riki at Zaragoza (a 1-1 draw), and immediately scored a goal. Riki retook his spot for the Copa home match against Valladolid (a 4-1 win), but only when he was replaced (after Riki had wasted several opportunities) did Deportivo come back to life. Meanwhile, the tandem Riki-Arizmendi upfront remained quite effective in the Liga. Now Mallorca (a 1-0 win) and Villarreal (a 0-2 win) were beaten and Deportivo extended its unbeaten Liga run to five matches. The good results covered up the fact that Riki’s goalless period was becoming absurd. His goal against Real Sociedad was scored four month earlier and Riki hadn’t missed a lot of minutes since then. An injury would extend his record to at least three more weeks as he limped off injured at Villarreal. Rubén Rivera, and later Adrián, couldn’t make Riki forget though during a 0-0 draw in Riazor against Levante. Taborda replaced the ex-Getafe man during the away match at Lotina’s Real Sociedad (a 0-1 win), but the performance wasn’t convincing at all.

The team lost its magic during the 0-1 defeat against Betis Sevilla. The attacking line-up, with Cristián, Estoyanoff, Riki and Arizmendi had been the same as during several successful matches before, but also included Verdú now. It might have been too much, as the news papers heavily criticized the ‘English approach’ of Deportivo with balls flying over them. Verdú was dropped for the match against Atlético, but this time Riki was heavily criticized for his poor performance and diving to the grass. Slowly the season was coming to its end, with Deportivo being ten points away from UEFA Cup football and having an important gap with the relegation zone. Caparrós started to experiment again and placed Arizmendi at the right wing with Adrián being the partner of Riki upfront. The opponent was familiar to Riki, as it was Getafe (a 1-0 win). While Adrián was a nightmare to their defence, Riki played one of his worst matches at Deportivo. He never assisted his colleagues nor tried a short. But he wanted just too much or simply hadn’t the best form. But now he not only didn’t score goals, he also had been performing badly since his return to the team. It was rumoured that Adrián was going to start the match at FC Barcelona (a 2-1 loss), but in the end it was Riki being Deportivo’s sole striker upfront supported by Verdú. His game was decent, but people will only remember the moment when Adrián replaced him and almost earned Deportivo a point after having been 2-0 down. Riki started to call his season “unfortunate” and added that “I am not a happy man. I miss confidence and I really need some goals to make the season somewhat more decent”. Riki was asked about the facial gestures he made after being substituted against Barcelona: “Well, nobody likes to be substituted. But the decision of the coach ended up well. I give my best effort in every match, and when things aren’t working they aren’t simply working. My gesture was for everything. I wanted a better result and to return to the situation before I got injured. I admit that I’m not doing a good job”.

Caparrós was thinking the same, as Adrián and Arizmendi were Deportivo’s strikers against Gimnástic (a 1-0 win) and Riki didn’t even get minutes. A suspension of Cristian moved Riki to the left wing for the match at Celta de Vigo, where Deportivo’s line-up was unrecognizable. Riki, as said, played at the left and Pablo Álvarez was given a rare opportunity at the right wing. Iago was Deportivo’s playmaker and Adrián the central striker. This team was pretty harmless upfront, and now the only target for the season remained to avoid relegation. Caparrós once more puzzled with his team and used wingers Cristian and Estoyanoff, playmaker Verdú and striker Adrián for the match against Osasuna (a 1-0 win). Riki and Arizmendi only entered the match in the second half. The ex-Getafe player though that, now with the team being safe from relegation, it would finish the team in a good style because it could play “calm and with a fresh mind”. A ‘calm’ end of the season it wasn’t going to be. First, Deportivo washed an opportunity against Sevilla to reach the final of the Copa Del Rey. And the final seven matches of the season were all but encouraging. Riki was Deportivo’s left winger at Racing de Santander (a 0-0 draw) and hit the post. Against Valencia (a 1-2 defeat) he also started at the left wing but Deportivo improved when Adrián replaced him. Being, again, Deportivo’s left winger Riki achieved at Bilbao what he had lacked so much before: scoring a goal. It was May 13th, 2007, almost eight months after his goal against Real Sociedad, when a free-kick of Riki equalized the match at San Mamés (1-1). It must be said that goalkeeper Aranzubia, who moved to Deportivo one year later, didn’t look good at this effort. Riki called it “an enormous satisfaction and I haven’t felt like this since a long time ago”. Then he was struck by another injury, this time against Sevilla after just fifteen minutes. It made him miss the away match at Real Madrid (a 3-1 defeat), something which he will have regretted. The season now was coming to its end, and Riki formed a tandem with Adrián against Recreativo (a 2-5 loss) in a match which was a disaster. It caused Riki being benched for the final match of the season at Espanyol (a 1-3 win), in which Arizmendi and Cristian covered the wings, Iago was the playmaker and Bodipo the striker. Riki replaced Arizmendi near the end, and eighty-seven minutes after his goal at Bilbao he scored his third Liga goal of the season at Espanyol with a superb volley. 

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