Cunningham to Falcao: The big fish linked to Madrid minnows Rayo

By David Ramiro

Madrid, Sep 14 (EFE).- The arrival of Radamel Falcao to Spanish top-flight team Rayo Vallecano has stirred up great expectations among fans of the humble, neighborhood club often overshadowed by capital city’s heavyweights Real Madrid and Atletico de Madrid.

But the Colombian is not the only household name to have donned Rayo’s red sash over the years.

Laurie Cunningham (b. London, 1956 – d. Madrid, 1989).- The England international played for Rayo between 1986-7 and then again from 1988 until his death, aged 33, in a car crash in Madrid on 15 July 1989. Cunningham became the first Englishman to play for Real Madrid in 1973. He won one Spanish league and two Copa del Rey titles with Los Blancos. He also had a stint at Manchester United.

Hugo Maradona (b. Buenos Aires, 1969).- Hugo Maradona’s move to Rayo Vallecano in 1988 grabbed the attention of football fans given his family links to his more famous brother, Diego Maradona, who at the time was at the pinnacle of his career with Napoli. Hugo Maradona scored six goals to help secure Rayo’s promotion to Spain’s top-flight. He left the club in 1990.

Dmitri Radchenko (b. Moscow, 1970).- The Russian striker arrived at Rayo Vallecano in 1996 after making a name for himself at the 1994 USA World Cup. His time at the Madrid-based club, however, was much less notable. He scored just one goal that season and Rayo went down to the second division.

Hugo Sanchez (b. Mexico City, 1958).- The Mexican forward moved to Rayo in 1993 having already cemented his star status with goal-studded stints at Real Madrid, where he scored 207 in 282 games and Atletico, 82 in 162. He scored just 17 for Rayo, who were relegated that season.

Guilherme de Cassio (b. Sao Paulo, 1974).-  Having won the Copa Libertadores and the CONMEBOL Recopa Sudamericana, Brazil’s Guilherme led Rayo between 1994-97, scoring 43 goals in 104 games. Half a century later, he is still remembered fondly at the club. “I’ve played in many teams, but I have Rayo and Atletico Mineiro in my heart,” he said after his retirement in 2005.

Diego Costa (b. Lagarta, Brazil, 1988).- Six months and 10 goals in 16 games back in 2012 was enough to etch his name in the Rayo history books, most of all because of the commitment he showed to the team. His time in Vallecas, the Madrid neighborhood Rayo represents, revitalized a career that would see him go on to succeed at Atletico de Madrid and Chelsea, as well as the Spanish national team.

Radamel Falcao (Santa Marta, Colombia, 1986).- “Together with Hugo Sanchez and Pele, he is one of the three best finishers in the history of football,” Raul Martin Presa, the president of Rayo Vallecano, said of the Colombian, who has played for River Plate, Porto, Atletico de Madrid, Monaco, Manchester United and, most recently, Galatasaray.EFE

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