FRANCISCO JIMÉNEZ TEJADA 'XISCO'

Date of Birth: 26 June 1986
City of Birth: Palma de Mallorca, Mallorca
Nationality: Spain
Contract: 2003 - 2010
Transfer: ?
Previous Clubs: Deportivo B
Buy-out Clause: €12 million
Height: ?
Weight: ?
Positions: Attacker (central)

Mallorca-born Xisco is the most successful player coming out of Deportivo B since the Galicians returned to the Primera División in 1991. At the age of twenty-two he already has three seasons with the first team and twelve Liga goals behind his name, which makes of him one of the most promising Spanish strikers around. He exploded with five goals in two matches near the end of the season 2007/2008 and was a vital piece in the team which eventually got into the UEFA Cup. He was used by all Irureta, Caparrós and Lotina, has played for the Spanish U-21 team and now a bigger role in Primera should be his target.

Great training facilities at Abegondo, coaches like Caparrós and Lotina, but also the financial limits indicate that Deportivo are going to produce some fine talents out of its youth system or are going to get them from the outside. One of the first fruits of it already became visible when in 2004 it was coach Javier Irureta who picked 18-year old striker Xisco, and some others, to join the training sessions of the first team. A few years earlier goalkeeper Dani Mallo (24-years old at his Liga debut) was barely used by the Basque coach, known for his ability to achieve results with experienced squads. But in the season 2004/2005, which would become his last at the club, Irureta more or less was ‘obligated’ (because of sold players and injuries) to start using players from Deportivo B. In this way midfielder Pita and attacker Xisco would have their chance.

Xisco had arrived three years earlier at the club, debuted in the Juveniles and entered the Deportivo B squad. Together with striker Jonathan Carril, the brother of winger Iván Carril, he formed a deadly duo during the season 2004/2005 (he scored a hattrick against Alondras and even all five goals against Portonovo) until he was silenced by an important injury. But his reappearance quickly was accompanied by good news when in April 2005 he was included in the squad of Deportivo facing Real Sociedad at Anoeta. During that match Xisco, still only 18-years old, came in for Munitis with eight minutes remaining although neither he could prevent a 1-0 loss. But Xisco’s Liga appearance in the first team was only the second of a Deportivo B player under Irureta. One month later 20-year old Pita became the third, and final, one. Xisco became the youngest player of Deportivo making his Liga debut since the return of Deportivo to Primera in 1991. Strikers David (debut in 1995/1996) and Deus (debut in 1996/1997) had been 19-years old during their first match in the Primera División while six players had been 20-years old (Toni, Aira, Carlos, Maikel, Viqueira and Mariano). What had caused Xisco’s debut was the sudden departure of Walter Pandiani (who had a row with Irureta) and an injury of Diego Tristán. Originally Irureta had picked Jonathan Carril, but this young striker was serving a long-term ban… so Xisco was picked. After the Real Sociedad match he came on against Racing de Santander and Sevilla, unfortunately seeing his side lose on all occasions. After three consecutive entries, Irureta picked Xisco as starting striker in the final matches of the season against Atlético, Zaragoza, Mallorca and Numancia. Xisco repaid the confidence by scoring two goals at Zaragoza’s La Romerada (a 2-2 draw), which made him the youngster goal scorer of Deportivo since 1991. Xisco finished the season at 344 Liga minutes and two goals. This, among others, earned him a call-up for the Spanish U-20 squad.

The arrival of coach Caparrós at the club in the summer of 2005 seemed to fit into the smooth career path of Xisco. Caparrós is well-known for his ability to handle youngsters and the faith he has in them. So it was no surprise that Xisco was given new opportunities in the first team. But still his base remained Deportivo B. The season 2005/2006 saw the B-team missing promotion in the final minutes of the play-offs, with Xisco scoring like mad. But only in December 2005 was he given a chance in the Primera División by Caparrós, when he replaced Juanma during a 1-2 home defeat against Espanyol. His total amount of matches would reach twelve that season, but he started just one of them. Earlier that season, at Getafe, it was Xisco’s goal who earned Deportivo three points (1-2). Other Deportivo B players who made their Liga debut that season were Iago, Iván Carril and Senel. What had hampered Xisco during that campaign was the presence of new signings Rubén Castro, Taborda and (after the winter months) Arizmendi. Combine this with Diego Tristán available, and a lot of competition is explained. This situation didn’t change very much during the summer months of 2006, despite the departure of Tristán and the loan out of Rubén Castro. Deportivo added Riki and Bodipo to their squad and snatched talented striker Adrián from Real Oviedo. Xisco, who had just turned twenty, accepted a loan deal at Vecindario (Segunda División A) and immediately scored two goals during his first match at the island. Early February 2007 his performances, and six goals (despite some injuries), earned him a call-up for the Spanish U-21 squad.

In the weeks before Deportivo tried to get him back from the island, as wished for by Caparrós. All seemed arranged, with Xisco getting a professional contract at the club instead of continuing as an amateur. Midfielder Iago Iglesias and attacker Adrián would be loaned out to Vecindario as compensation for getting Xisco back, but at the final moment Adrián’s agent blocked the deal. Back then, Xisco commented that “it was a great honor for me and I didn’t expect it to be honest. I would have liked to have returned, but in the end it didn’t work out. I almost seemed to be returning to La Coruña but in the final night all broke down”. Riazor had to wait some more months before Xisco, who would score a total of thirteen goals at Vecindario (and he played only about half the minutes possible at a team hopeless in the table), returned. Caparrós really wanted to have Xisco available and give a cynical remark to the media: “He isn't coming because somebody has punctured the floater that was carrying him from the island… But Xisco has a well-managed career and he will important for us next season”. The good news those weeks was that U-21 coach Iñaki Sáez called up both Xisco and Antonio Barragán for the team preparing a match against England. Xisco said about this: “This is good news after a tough moment. This thing is the best thing that could happen to me after it”.

When preparations for the season 2007/2008 started, new coach Lotina quickly made clear that he counted on Xisco. The player himself always had the intention to return and rejected interest coming from English clubs. It was rumored that an investor would be prepared to pay around €3 million to acquire his transfer rights. Xisco said: “I’m not interested in that and I have it clear that I want to return to Deportivo. I’ve scored goals in Segunda and I can do the same in Primera. First of all because I’ve shown to be capable to score in Segunda, and second because I feel myself more and more prepared to play at the highest level”. Early July the strong striker accepted a professional contract at Deportivo and signed until 30 June 2010. Together with a talented striker like Adrián, these two young guns were supposed to lead Depor’s attack in the next years. Lotina was satisfied with him: “He is an exceptional case as last year he already showed after three months that he was ready to return. Such a player obtains good results when he leaves his normal environment. He has become more mature as a person and one can notice that in football”. Xisco’s coach at Vecindario was Galician one Fernando Castro Santos, and he supported Lotina’s words: “He has gained new confidence because never before was he a regular player in an important league. Xisco can contribute many things because he’s good in open paces and is a powerful striker. He learned how to move, how to lean on a defender. He also improved a lot on having control of the ball and the way to make fast combinations”. Xisco’s character indeed had changed as before coach Caparrós spoke to him about some declarations that he had made to the media. This time he said that “I have improved, but not all things have changed from one day to another. It’s true that I’m now more comfortable playing in the area because I have more experience. But I want to learn much more”.

But for the moment, Lotina preferred others for the striking position. Xisco faced competition of Riki (the most expensive player of the past years), Bodipo (who had finished the season 2006/2007 in great style), Taborda (with his typical characteristics) and young Adrián. Xisco played some friendlies and started in the 2007 Teresa Herrera match against Atalanta Bergamo next to Riki upfront. He finished the pre-season without a goal though and not everybody was assured that he would be included for the 2007/2008 squad. Interest of Salamanca, Alavés and Cádiz appeared in the newspapers but Lotina later confirmed that Xisco was going nowhere. The striker showed his happiness about the decision “especially because all that was said during these weeks. Nobody of the club told me that I had to leave or had to search another club, and I kept cool because of it. I always kept the possibility in my mind, but remained calm. Now I’m going to play my first season as a member of the squad and I’m looking forward to the future”. After the disaster of Deportivo against Almería (a 0-3 loss), it was rumored that Lotina would start with Riki and Xisco upfront at Valladolid (a 2-2 draw) but in the end none of them started. In the mean time, all Barragán, Adrián and Xisco were picked for Spain’s U-21 squad and both scored a goal in the 4-0 win against Georgia. Newspaper La Opinión A Coruña asked the two young strikers several questions, like the characteristic the one would like to have of the other and an aspect that was seen as an advantage over the other. Adrián replied: “His car, because I don’t still have my drivers licence… No, seriously, Xisco is stronger than me and more powerful and he also is better in the aerial game. I think that I am more technically gifted, but he’s better in keeping possession and it’s difficult to steal it from him”. For his part, Xisco called Adrián “a player with more qualities than me. He also has a better shot. We’re simply different, although we both are fast”. Both players admitted that they had become friends. Adrián said: “Xisco is really a good guy and he’s laughing the whole day”. Xisco replied: “Indeed I’m laughing always because he is messing with me and doing foolish things”.

The fact that Adrián came on in that Spain match was because Xisco had suffered a muscle injury. He had to miss the matches against Betis Sevilla (a 1-0 win) and Getafe (a 0-0 draw) because of it but was in the squad facing Recreativo (a 0-2 loss). That loss against the Andalucians caused a revolution in the team of Deportivo. The team had been very irregular and now had only scored one goal in three matches, and had been silent upfront in three of all five matches played. Xisco, now 21-years old, had nineteen matches and three Liga goals behind his name when Lotina used him for the away match at Espanyol for the first time during the season 2007/2008. The striker appeared as a mature player, who contributed with his strength, velocity and hard work. But Xisco missed a huge opportunity in front of Kameni and as his team mates also couldn’t find the net. There was only frustration left after the 1-0 defeat. Lotina was satisfied though and immediately confirmed that “it would be normal to see him in the line-up at Sevilla”. Verdú and Xisco kept the Sevilla defence busy, but this time the striker appeared more slow as was seen during a moment when he could have scored. When, after an hour, he was replaced by Riki it was him who scored the winning goal: 0-1. One could have expected that now Riki was going to start the next matches, but the fact that Lotina really had confidence in Xisco was noticed because of his starting places against Valencia and Real Madrid. Xisco repaid the confidence with two goals. Against Valencia (a 2-4 loss), he converted a cross from Juan Rodríguez into a goal to give Deportivo new hopes after being 0-2 down. At Real Madrid (a 3-1 loss), his first touch when he scored was brilliant and his early goal left the Bernabéu silent.

Lotina preferred to keep Xisco out against Mallorca (a 1-1 draw) because of physical problems, but at Murcia (a 0-2 win) he was given preference over Bodipo. And he, once more, repaid the confidence by scoring his third consecutive goal. It was a sign of class, when Verdú launched him on the left wing and Xisco ran forty meters to beat goalkeeper Notario with a powerful shot. And for the first time this season, Xisco’s goal helped Deportivo to win points: “Now my joy is double because it was a useful one. Strikers live on goals, and we needed the victory. But our win was convincing and we missed that”. Xisco had become the third-most effective striker in Spain after Luis Fabiano (Sevilla) and Dady (Osasuna). And Juan Riveiro, the second coach of Deportivo B, added another characteristic: “Together with Chapi, Xisco is the player with the biggest explosive capacity of all players in the first and second squad. And they are two of the fastest players we have”. Xisco started his fifth match against Racing de Santander and was Deportivo’s best player on the pitch, but goalkeeper Toño denied him time after time and left Riazor frustrated: 0-1. Lotina once more confirmed that he was happy with Xisco, and Bodipo, and that “signing a striker for €5 million won’t improve on what we have with them”. The next match of the team, at Bilbao, was an extra motivation because Caparrós was in charge of them. When asked about being grateful to Caparrós, Xisco hinted that he hadn’t been very satisfied with the two seasons under him. “I have to thank Irureta for giving me the first opportunity. And now I thank Lotina for the confidence he has in me”. Deportivo played a heroic match, as half of their players suffered from a virus and the team came back from two goals down. Xisco was the first victim of the disease and left the pitch after forty minutes, and was given rest by Lotina in the match against Osasuna (a 1-2 loss). Xisco returned to the line-up against Barcelona (a 2-1 loss) and Zaragoza (a 1-1 draw). At the Nou Camp he missed a great opportunity which could have given the Galicians a 0-2 lead, and neither did he scored against Zaragoza although there was a penalty claim when Ayala seemed to foul Xisco, something confirmed by all media.

The cruel reality after the Zaragoza match was that Deportivo were three points from safety and the team still wasn’t converting enough the many opportunities it created. It’s logical that people started to look at Xisco now, because a responsibility of a striker is to score goals and Xisco hadn’t done it in four appearances. Lotina was blamed by the media, and Marca claimed that a squad player had called them to say that the coach didn’t had the confidence of the squad. Xisco was quick to defend Lotina: “All that I read is a lie. We’re all with the coach until we die and we’re satisfied with his work. It’s only a matter of time when the results arrive. The squad stands behind him, and I can guarantee you that the club officials are too”. The flu kept Xisco out of the starting line-up at Levante (a 0-1 win), and other physical problems sidelined him against Atlético (a 0-3 loss) and Almería (a 1-0 loss). Xisco’s only contribution in the six weeks after the Zaragoza match was an entry at Villarreal (a 4-3 loss). The decisive match against Valladolid had arrived with Lotina’s faith, and the one of Deportivo, at stake. Lotina changed his system to 5-3-2 and used De Guzmán and Guardado in the back of Xisco. Things worked out. Xisco scored Deportivo’s second goal, just after the break, and the Galicians left a great impression with the 3-1 victory. Xisco also started the next match at Betis Sevilla (a 0-1 win) but had to leave the pitch with an injury in the second half.

The two wins launched Deportivo out of the danger zone, but the next two matches gave lesser results and maybe it was because of Xisco not starting. Xisco could have started both matches, but Lotina wanted to give Bodipo an opportunity. It wasn’t going to be Bodipo’s season though. His lack of efficiency contradicted with Xisco, and the Mallorca-striker was not happy when Lotina called Xisco to be ‘tired to play’. “I saw myself in good conditions to play. I did so with the national team, although I always will accept what the coach says”. When asked about the aspect that had converted Deportivo into a team taking seven points out of three matches, Xisco said: “I think that attitude is the most important aspect. Against Valladolid any system would have worked. We won that match thanks to the support of the fans. They cheered us up at the hotel and I started to get nervous. That situation gave us strength. We had to win for ourselves and all the people that were suffering with us”. Finally, Xisco emphasized how important the return of Valerón had been to him personally. “He’s a person that I admire. He helped me feel integrated in the squad when I debuted in professional football. He’s one of the greatest players in Spain, but he’s even better as a person”.

The two matches with Bodipo up front hadn’t brought the desired results, and the striking position was going to be Xisco’s for the remainder of the season. Against Espanyol (a 2-0 win), Deportivo started another good series of results and Xisco had a very good game. He was fighting, working hard and created several opportunities for his colleagues. Another small injury prevented him from playing against Sevilla (a 2-1 win), but then ‘Xisco-time’ had arrived. He would start in eleven of the twelve matches left in the season. At Valencia (a 2-2 draw) he once more played an impressive match although he really should have scored a goal after fifteen minutes. Against Real Madrid (a 1-0 win), Xisco was unsupported but did all he could to inflict just another defeat to the Spanish champions. The striker looked forward to the match at Mallorca, where he was born and raised: “Real Mallorca is special to me because I never played for them, but all my family and friends live on the island. This doesn’t happen every day and for that reason it’s a different match. The best thing to achieve though is not a goal, but a victory”. It wasn’t to be though. Xisco was isolated upfront and Deportivo played one of its worst matches those months. The striker tried everything he had, but the Mallorca defenders hit him where they could and Xisco needed six stitches (and a bandage) in his ear after the match.

Then 30 March 2008 arrived. The team was two points above the danger zone when Murcia played in Riazor. Things became difficult when Murcia scored an early goal, and all related to Deportivo knew that three points were needed very much to affront a difficult series of matches until the end of the season. Xisco saved the day with three goals in a row. It started after twenty-minutes when Xisco needed two opportunities after Wilhelmsson’s cross. Early in the second half, another cross from the right (this time from Manuel Pablo) was converted with his head by Xisco. And a few minutes later it was Sergio who found Xisco’s head, emphasized by the bandage he wore to protect his ear. According to some definitions, Xisco achieved a hattrick by scoring three goals which were not interrupted by others. It was the first time after more than four years that a player of Deportivo scored three times in one match. The previous player had been Víctor Sánchez who scored three goals at arch-rivals Celta de Vigo on 1 March 2004. In the year before, Roy Makaay had scored three goals at Bayern Munich and against Recreativo while Diego Tristán scored three goals against Alavés. It was the 31st time that a player of Deportivo scored three goals in a match. There’s still a long way to go before Xisco can equalize Tristán’s six hattricks in the Liga or the five of Bebeto, as the Brazilian added three more hattricks in European competitions. Xisco joked that “I should always play with this bandage. Because it’s my first hattrick I take the ball and the shirt home with me”.

The news papers were all over Xisco now. To sports paper AS, Xisco said that he liked being on the covers of the sports papers but that he hadn’t suddenly turned into a phenomenon. “Not much has changed. I wasn’t as bad as some people said I was and I’m not superior now to what I was before. I simply hope that these three goals will help me and the other strikers to forget about the issue of us not scoring enough goals. It wasn’t even my best match but simply every ball entered the net. I even failed twice, and it was a luxury to have so many crosses because it doesn’t happen every day”. When asked about Víctor’s hattrick at Celta, Xisco clearly remembered that one: “Sure, I never will forget that one because it was an incredible game. One doesn’t win 0-5 at Celta every day and it was an honor to me to be the first person after Víctor to score a hattrick”. Xisco already was looking forward to the match against Racing de Santander with a special desire to win: “It’s not about revenge, because we were upset with ourselves after we wasted so many opportunities in Riazor against them. It was the match in which we dominated most this season and created most opportunities”. A small injury didn’t prevent Xisco from starting at Racing de Santander (a 1-3 win), and he added another page to the history books. Xisco, wearing the bandage although he didn’t really needed it, scored a quick goal after he was provided possession by Sergio. Just before the break he scored Deportivo’s third at a moment when the team needed it most. One had to dig in the books to find Diego Tristán scoring five Liga goals in two consecutive Liga matches of Deportivo against Alavés and Oviedo in 2001. Xisco was the hero, but he kept both feet on the ground: “The most important thing is that we won and it doesn’t matter who scores the goals. I only have been very effective today and am thankful to my colleagues who gave me the passes”. Of course, Xisco had scored his five goal wearing the bandage and said that “they will kill me in the dressing room if I take if off. But, of course, the bandage isn’t the secret. That’s the unity we have in the dressing room”. Lotina praised Xisco too: “Goals give confidence to a striker and come in phases, and now Xisco is in such a great phase. We have to take advantage of it. He’s a very powerful striker and defenders suffer because of him. He’s becoming a great striker”.

There were seven Liga matches left, and Xisco started in six of them, but the striker didn’t add another goal. Lotina was right that strikers score in phases, and now Xisco got more attention of opposing defenders. A few months before it was a Valladolid defender who asked a reporter about this guy who had made them crazy during the first match of Deportivo’s revival. Now he was closely watched by opponents, something which benefited the team. Against Bilbao (a 3-0 win), he fought like a lion, was classy and one effort hit the post. At Osasuna (a 0-1 win), he was completely isolated. But he was a nightmare for the defence of FC Barcelona (a 2-0 win) although, again, he failed luck as his best effort hit the woodwork. Of course, the summer transfer period was coming near and new rumors appeared about supposed interest of other clubs in Xisco. His agent, his brother Toni Jiménez, admitted that “there’s interest from some English and Spanish clubs and one from Italy, but they haven’t contacted Deportivo yet”. Feyenoord Rotterdam was related to him, but Toni Jiménez said that his brother had Deportivo as his first option: “He wants to continue although he’ll get new colleagues next year, but I doubt it’ll be another Bebeto, Rivaldo or Makaay”. He also revealed that Xisco was open to a contract renewal: “I haven’t spoken with anyone of the club since this summer, when we arranged his professional contract. But to extend the deal is possible. We are looking forward to hear from them”.

Xisco was enjoying his time in La Coruña. He established a friendship with De Guzmán and had stepped into the footsteps of some legendary strikers of the club. It was no doubt that Xisco was going to start he match at Zaragoza, the place where he scored two goals three years earlier. “I remember those well. One was a header and the other came from a cross by Munitis. I will always remember those, but La Romareda isn’t a special stadium to me because of that”. As said before, Xisco didn’t score a Liga goal after his crazy days against Murcia and Racing de Santander and much had to do with the determination leaking out of Deportivo’s team. Qualifying for UEFA Cup football by finishing sixth always seemed impossible while qualification for Intertoto football now was difficult to miss. Xisco was completely isolated at Zaragoza (a 1-0 defeat) and Lotina decided to rest him for the home match against Levante (a 1-0 win). He said: ““I wanted Xisco to rest as I need him for the match at Atlético”. In that match, Xisco was isolated once more although he could have done better when De Guzmán put him alone in front of Leo Franco. In the final match of the season against Villarreal (a 0-2 loss) there was more of the same. Deportivo tried and at least deserved a point, but the exhaustion had taken its toll. Xisco was once more isolated and unassisted and sometimes had to go back to midfield to be involved.

The season 2007/2008 brought more to Xisco than most people would have expected. One needs to do good research to find a youth player of Deportivo scoring nine Liga goals as midfielder Fran, in the nineties, reached the amount of seven goals on two occasions. Xisco almost doubled the amount of Arizmendi of the year before (he scored five goals) and was close to the eleven goals scored by Diego Tristán (2005/2006) and Albert Luque (2004/2005). Not only did his goals polish the numbers of Deportivo. In the season 2007/2008 there were only eight Spanish players in the Primera División who scored more goals. These were Guïza (27 goals, Mallorca), Rául González (18 goals, Real Madrid), David Villa (18 goals, Valencia), Negredo (13 goals, Almería), Luis García (13 goals, Espanyol), Bojan (10 goals, FC Barcelona), Fernando Llorente (10 goals, Athlétic de Bilbao) and Raúl Tamudo (10 goals, Espanyol). Only three of them (Negredo, Bojan and Fernando Llorente) are of a similar age as Xisco and the others are well-experienced players with Spanish caps behind their names. Besides, Xisco didn’t take a single penalty while, for example, Negredo scored three times from the spot and player like Luis García four times. Finally, Xisco didn’t play a single match from finish to start in that season and he ended up at 1627 minutes (the equivalent of 18 full matches). Of these players, only Guïza, David Villa, Bojan and Raúl González (who scored three goals from the spot) had a better efficiency with goals related to minutes.

The striking zone changed for the season 2008/2009 with the addition of Mista and Omar Bravo. Xisco will face more competition for the striking spot as Riki has been doing well in the pre-season, although Bodipo and Taborda don’t seem to have a future at the club. Lotina explained that he doesn’t think about lining up two of them at the same time, and added that “it’s good to have competition in the squad. Xisco still has to grow more and I’ll talk to him about that. I’m confident that next year he’ll even do a better job than last year”.
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