3 wins all season: Star turned down Arsenal and will now be relegated

2022-03-26 06:28:40 By : Mr. Aurora Ho

Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

Who’d be a goalkeeper? 

Less than two years ago, Aitor Fernandez was being lined up for a big-money move to Premier League giants Arsenal.

As the 30-year-old shot-stopper watched on from the sidelines on Saturday afternoon, as Levante capitulated yet again en route to a 3-1 defeat at Osasuna, Aitor would be forgiven for wondering how differently his footballing career might have turned out had he not opted to stay at the Estadi Ciutat de Valencia. 

Talk about a sliding doors moment.

“Yes it is true,” Aitor said when asked about interest from Arsenal in the summer of 2020. “There has been contact.  

“It is true that those two (Arsenal and Athletic Bilbao wanted me). But here, I am very happy. The club gave me the assurances that they wanted me to stay here and I wanted to stay here.” 

One suspects Aitor is not as ‘happy’ now as he was some 20 months ago.

A talented, upwardly-mobile Levante side finished 12th in the La Liga table in 2019/20, with Aitor one of the first names on the team-sheet.

Now, he’s the second-choice glovesman at a side who have made implosions like the one seen at Osasuna their trademark during a series of performances that would make Norwich City look as organised and well-drilled as Fabio Capello’s Milan. 

No team in the Spanish top flight have conceded more than Levante’s 58 goals this term. Despite boasting a handful of players that would walk into most other La Liga XIs – including captain Jose Luis Morales and fleet-footed winger Jorge de Frutos – the Castellon club have won a pitiful three of their last 28 games.  

The seeds for relegation were sewed last season, in truth. Taking into account the final few months of 2020/21, Levante have won three times in 36 matches since April last year.

The gap between themselves in 20th and Cadiz in 17th now stands at eight points. Not an unsurmountable difference but, given Levante’s propensity to shoot themselves in the foot, this would be an escape so remarkable it’d make breaking out of Alcatraz look as easy as walking out your own front door. 

Who knows, maybe Arsenal will come calling for Aitor again. Bernd Leno will depart, having lost his place to Aaron Ramsdale, so a new number two may be required at the Emirates. 

But there’s no doubting that Aitor’s reputation has been tainted by his association by arguably the worst-performing side in any of Europe’s top five leagues. 

In other news, ‘Terrific’ Arsenal target has second thoughts on rival move, agent talks set