Levante Unión Deportiva
), also known as Llevant Unió Esportiva
), is a Spanish football
club based in Valencia
, the oldest of the two city ones. They currently play in Segunda División
, after being relegated from La Liga
, their fifth season of top flight football.
The club was originally formed in 1909 as Levante FC, taking their name from the beach "Levante" in La Malvarrosa. Their local rivals Valencia CF were not formed until 1919. In 1937 Levante FC won the Copa de la España Libre, a cup competition organised in the Republican area of Spain. They adopted their current name in 1942 following a merger with Gimnástico FC. During the early 1980s Johan Cruyff briefly played for the club.
was originally formed in 1909 and was one of the pioneering football clubs in Valencia
. However, another club, Cabanyal FC
had been playing since 1903. The club’s earliest games were played at La Platjeta, near the docks on a plot of land owned by a perfume
entrepreneur. Their next ground was also near the port area and the club gradually began to become associated with the working class
. In 1919 they played Valencia CF
for the first time and lost 1-0. The game marked the inauguration of the recently formed club’s new ground at Algirós. In 1928 Levante FC
won their first trophy, the Valencian Championship.
1913 saw the formation of Gimnástico FC. They originally played at the Patronato de la Juventud Obrera and started out as Universitario FC. By 1920, they had become Real Gimnástico CF after they were granted royal patronage by Alfonso XIII. In 1920, they also reached the final of the Campeonato de Valencia but the game was never played. In 1930, with the emergence of the Second Spanish Republic they dropped the Real from their name.
In 1934 both Levante FC and Gimnástico CF made their debut in the second level, when the division was expanded from ten teams to twenty-four. In 1935, Levante FC won the Campeonato Levante-Sur, a competition that featured teams from Valencia, Murcia and Andalusia, and subsequently reached the semi-finals of the Spanish Cup. In the early rounds they beat Valencia CF and FC Barcelona, before losing to the eventual runners-up, CE Sabadell.
Copa de la España Libre
During the Spanish Civil War
both Levante FC
and Gimnástico CF
played in the Mediterranean League
, finishing fifth and sixth respectively. Teams from this league also competed in the Copa de la España Libre
(Free Spain Cup
). It was originally intended that the top four teams from the league would enter the cup, but FC Barcelona opted to tour Mexico
and the United States
. As a result, Levante FC
took their place. The first round of the competition was a mini-league with the top two teams, Levante FC
and Valencia CF
, then qualifying for the final. On July 18 1937, Levante FC
beat their city rivals 1-0 at the Montjuïc
During the civil war the Levante FC
ground was destroyed but their squad remained intact. In contrast Gimnástico CF
had a ground, Campo de Vallejo
, but had lost most of their players. As a result, the two clubs merged in 1939 to become Unión Deportiva Levante-Gimnástico
. In 1941 they adopted the current name Levante Unión Deportiva
. The clubs colours also date from this era. The azulgrana
home colours were originally the colours of Gimnástico CF
. They have also used a black and white away kit, the original Levante FC
The club had to wait until the 1960s to make their La Liga
debut. In 1963 they finished as runners-up in Segunda División Group 2
, then beating Deportivo de La Coruña
4-2 on aggregate in a promotion play-off. During their first top flight season, they managed to win both games against city rivals Valencia, managing a 5-1 home win against Barcelona in 1964-65. However, they survived just two seasons in the first division, being relegated upon losing a playoff to CD Málaga
. After winning the 2003-04's second division
, the side returned to La Liga
but survived only one season. After finishing third in Segunda in 2005-06
they returned, managing to survive for 2007-08
after a 4-2 home win over Valencia, courtesy of Riga Mustapha
and Laurent Courtois
The team's financial status worsened, however, and there were reports that the players had only received approximately one fifth of their contractual payments. News reports stated that the team had incurred a debt of over €18 million in payments due their players. The team plummeted down the standings, and it was confirmed that they would be playing in the second level for 2008-09, with several matches to go. The players protested at their lack of payments, at one point, refusing to move for several seconds after the opening whistle against Deportivo, and later announcing that they would issue a job action during the season ending game against Real Madrid.
The action was resolved when league officials announced that a benefit game would be played between Levante team members, and a team made up of players from the first division, with all monies recovered going to pay the back wages due the players.
As of August 30, 2008
Notable former players
Levante FC / Levante UD
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