Jose Campaña is the composed cog in Levante’s midfield who has taken the long road on his way to the top

It was almost five years ago that Real Madrid won their 10th Champions League title in that pulsating final in Lisbon against Atletico Madrid. Dani Carvajal and Isco both started that game and have won three more Champions League medals since. Meanwhile, Jose Campaña was heading back to Crystal Palace after a six-month loan spell at Nuremburg had ended in relegation from the Bundesliga. Carvajal, Isco and Campaña played together in the Spanish youth sides and will face each other when Real Madrid visit Levante in La Liga on Sunday.

The summer of 2013 saw Isco leave Malaga for Real Madrid as one of the hottest prospects in world football. Dani Carvajal joined him at Los Blancos, returning to the club he’d departed when he was sold to Bayer Leverkusen 12 months earlier. Jose Campaña was also on the move, from Sevilla to join Ian Holloway’s newly-promoted Crystal Palace in the Premier League. By Christmas, the 20-year-old was shipped out to Germany on loan after new boss Tony Pulis had deemed him surplus to requirements.

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The midfielder was sold to Sampdoria in the summer, only to be loaned out to Porto just after he’d arrived. Campaña made more appearances for Porto’s B team than the senior squad that season and was sent back to Spain the year after. He’d just finished a productive campaign at second-tier Alcorcon when Isco and Carvajal lifted their second Champions League title in Milan. All three of them watched from home as Spain were dumped out of Euro 2016 at the last 16 stage by Italy, a game which Carvajal would surely have been involved in if it wasn’t for an injury against Atletico at the San Siro.

That was when Levante came in for Campaña having just been relegated into the Segunda Division. So, having not made a single appearance for Sampdoria, he returned to rebuild his career in Spain. With his passing ability and all-round intelligence there for all to see, Campaña played a key part in Levante’s successful push for promotion. They were promoted back to La Liga at the first attempt and would face double Champions League-winning Real Madrid the following season.

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With heavy emphasis on possession evolving into a more dynamic style in Spanish football, Campaña physical attributes and composure on the ball gave him something else over other midfielders. Without standing out, his consistency and growing experience has made him one of the most impressive performers in La Liga this season. Sitting comfortably in mid-table, Levante aren’t pulling up any trees but have pulled off wins against Barcelona and Real Madrid in the last 12 months. Their win at the Bernabeu back in September piled the pressure on Julen Lopetegui, a coach Campaña had worked with at Porto.

Both Isco and Carvajal were included in Lopetegui’s Spain squad that went to Russia last summer and, by the next time a major tournament rolls around, don’t be surprised to see Jose Campaña’s unassuming name among the 23 ‘convocados’.

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