It can certainly be a daunting task to be an Espanyol fan, mainly due to the fact they dwell in the same city as one of the most popular and prestigious teams on the planet in FC Barcelona, yet the ‘Periquitos’ have seen their fair share of talent over the years.
A Catalonian icon, Raul Tamudo begun his competitive career with the Espanyol reserve team in 1996 before being called up to the first team a year later where he would soon establish himself as one of the league’s brightest prospects. Which was no mean feat given the history of the Blaugrana up until that point!
He would only make a handful of appearances before eventually being sighted as the starting striker for Espanyol after brief loan moves to Deportivo Alavés and Lleida.
The 1999/00 season was Raul Tamudo’s true breakout campaign as he scored ten goals in 34 league games to help Espanyol see off any relegation worries but also to further their progress in the Copa Del Rey, a promising Samuel Eto’o was also on their books as a youngster out on loan from Real Madrid.
Espanyol would defeat Atletico Madrid in the final of the domestic cup with Tamudo scoring early on to give the Catalan’s the lead. Fellow Espanyol cult icon Sergio would score in the 84th minute that saw off Atletico despite a late Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink consolation. What a player he was, by the way!
It was only the third time in club history that Espanyol had won the domestic cup and it sparked into gear the most successful period that the Catalonian side enjoyed. With Tamudo being the focal point of the attack, his side and goalscoring prowess flourished as he racked up double digit scoring for the next eight seasons.
Yes, you read that correctly – eight seasons on the bounce! Not many people can do that!
During that time, Espanyol won their second Copa Del Rey, under Raul Tamudo’s tutorage, defeating Real Zaragoza in the final with the talisman scoring a brace during the opening moments of a decisive 4-1 final win.
Tamudo’s best scoring campaign came in the 2003/04 season where he scored 19 goals in just 32 games as Espanyol would narrowly escape relegation, which in turn attracted the gazing eyes of some of Europe’s biggest commodities for their star-studded marksman.
Despite numerous transfer talk throughout his time in Catalonia, Raul Tamudo continued to gear up in the famous blue and white stripes of Espanyol which helped the side mount a number of European cup challenges, most particularly with the future addition of Maxi Rodriguez. Another feeding source for the insatiable Spaniard.
In 2007, Espanyol reached the UEFA Cup final where they were beaten on penalties by Spanish rivals Sevilla after a thrilling game at Hampden Park. Tamudo finished the competition with two goals in seven games.
Tamudo’s later years were marred by injuries with new manager Mauricio Pochettino, the former Spurs boss, being unable to rekindle the Spainaird’s form in the wake of his recoveries from injury.
Espanyol dealt Tamudo to newly promoted Real Sociedad in 2010 and Rayo Vallecano a year later which were both met with slightly unremarkable goalscoring spells. Tamudo would return to Vallecano in 2013 after a brief spell with Pachuna before announcing his retirement in 2015 whilst playing for Sabadell in the third tier of Spanish football.
Whilst his career certainly deteriorated during his last few injury ridden seasons in Catalonia, during his prime years, Tamudo proved to be arguably the best player to ever represent a side that has long lived in the shadow of their immovable counterparts.
Espanyol enjoyed their greatest amount of success while Raul Tamudo was under their payroll and after continuous excellence in the scoring columns, he may well go down as not only the greatest striker that Espanyol have yielded, but also the most celebrated player in the club’s entire history.
Arguably his most famous game in an Espanyol shirt came in their 2-2 draw in the 2007 Barcelona Derby clash at the Camp Nou where Tamudo scored twice, including a last-minute winner, to rescue a well-deserved point against their bitter Catalan rivals despite an unknown youngster called Lionel Messi also netting twice.
The name ‘Raúl Tamudo’ may not be very familiar to fans outside the great city of Barcelona, but after years of proud service to the ‘Pericos’, he is a name that every Espanyol fan continues to look back on with the greatest of fondness during the most definitive era of the club’s prosperous history.