Javi Gracia to Leeds: Premier League and relegation record of former Watford boss

Leeds United have completed their search for Jesse March’s successor as head coach.

Former Watford boss Javi Gracia arrived at Elland Road for talks on Tuesday and Leeds confirmed his appointment by afternoon of the same day.

A chaotic situation has developed since Marsch was relieved of his duties on February 6, a day after a 1-0 defeat at Nottingham Forest.

Leeds owner Andrea Radrizzani promised a quick replacement but an offer for Rayo Vallecano’s Andoni Iraola was turned down and Feyenoord’s Arne Slot was declared out of contention.

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Radrizzani seemed to turn cold to Alfred Schreuder over the fans’ negative reaction to a manager who was sacked after a disappointing six months at Ajax. Marcelo Bielsa’s former assistant Carlos Corberan then signed an extended contract at West Brom, meaning Gracia has a seemingly dubious prize up his sleeve after that odd Premier League pass-the-package game.

Leeds Under-21 boss Michael Skubala has overseen their last three games – a draw and a loss against Manchester United before a 1-0 loss to relegation rivals Everton at the weekend. The stakes for this Saturday’s showdown with bottom side Southampton could hardly be higher as Gracia is ready to take the coaching bench if his work permit is secured in time.

Has Javi Gracia made it to the Premier League?

Gracia was appointed as Watford head coach on an 18-month contract in January 2018, following Marco Silva’s departure to Everton.

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He guided them to a safe 14th place before Watford finished 11th in 2018/19 and reached the FA Cup final through a stunning 3-2 overtime win over Wolves from a 2-0 deficit at Wembley.

Their return to the national stadium gave treble winners Manchester City a painful 6-0 defeat in the final.

Over the course of 56 games in England’s top flight, Gracia recorded 18 wins and averaged 1.18 points per game.

Has Javi Gracia ever been relegated?

Part of what attracted Watford to Gracia was his reputation for getting thugs to hit past their weight.

During his two-year tenure at Malaga, he finished ninth and eighth in La Liga. However, these notable achievements came with Osasuna’s relegation from Spain’s top flight in 2013/14.

Gracia managed a more successful fight against relegation when he saved Villarreal B from relegation to the third tier in 2010/11 – a league in which he had notable early career successes.

His Pontevedra finished first and second in the Segunda B, but using a post-season playoff model meant they missed out on promotion every time. After those back-to-back near misses in 2007 and 2008, he finally plotted a route out of Segunda B with Cadiz.

Gracia returned to Andalusia with Almeria in 2012/13 and guided the club to promotion to La Liga.

Gracia’s record when it comes to challenging higher up the table isn’t that impressive. He left Rubin Kazan after a lonely season as coach and finished ninth in the 2016/17 Russian Premier League.

His work at Watford caught the attention of Valencia but after signing a two-year contract in July 2020 he was sacked the following May after a 3-2 home defeat by Barcelona.

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Barca reappeared in Gracia’s history as Xavi’s Camp Nou appointment paved the way for him to replace the former Spain midfielder as Al Sadd’s manager in the Qatari Stars League. He guided them to the 2021/22 title which was sealed by an 8-2 demolition by Al Ahli.

Gracia left at that peak to be replaced by Juanma Lillo and turned his attention to a return to European football. Leeds are now ready to give him that opportunity, albeit under far from ideal circumstances.

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Javi Gracia: Teams managed

Here is a full list of the teams Gracia has coached in a coaching career spanning almost two decades:

Year team Competition
2004-2005 Villarreal (youth)
2007-2008 Pontevedra Seguda Division B
2008-2010 Cadiz Segunda Division B
2010-2011 Villarreal B Segunda Division
2011 Olympiacos Volou Super League Greece
2011-2012 Kerkyra Super League Greece
2012-2013 Almeria Segunda Division
2013-2014 Osasuna league
2014-2016 Malaga league
2016-2017 Ruby Kazan Russian First League
2018-2019 Watford First League
2020-2021 Valencia league
2021-2022 Al Sadd Qatari Stars League
2023 — leeds First League

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