Whatever happened to Alaves?

The Spanish side played Liverpool in the UEFA Cup final in 2001

alaves, spain, la liga, football, uefa cup, liverpool

The Alaves team from the 2001 UEFA Cup final. Picture by: Jon Buckle / EMPICS Sport

Liverpool return to the Europa League final on Wednesday night for the first time since 2001.

They play Spanish side Sevilla in Basel, in their first final under the tournament's latest guise. A decade-and-a-half ago, the team played another Spanish side Alaves in the UEFA Cup final.

The game in Dortmund, saw one of the most memorable European finals in recent memory as Liverpool won the game 5-4 after extra-time. Alaves never led in the game but after a 2-0 and 3-1 deficit, they equalised twice at 3-3 and 4-4.

2000/01 was only the team's eighth-season in the top-flight of Spanish football. They qualified for the UEFA Cup with a sixth-place finish the season before. That remains their best ever finish in the league.

The first full season of the new millennium saw the team that included international players like Jordi Cryuff and Cosmin Contra and future Bolton loanee Javi Moreno reach the UEFA Cup final in their first season in European competition.

Alaves were impressive on their run to the final defeating Rosenborg, Inter Milan, Rayo Vallecano and Kaiserslauten by at least two-goal margins. Their semi-final win over the German side was dominant. A 5-1 home win was followed by a 4-1 win in Germany.

The final against Liverpool was to prove to be the biggest day in the history of Deportivo Alaves. Two seasons later, they were relegated from the Spanish top-tier and they have only returned for a brief season in 2005/06.

At one point the team dropped to the Segunda B (Spain's third tier), and it took them four seasons to be promoted. In 2013 they returned to the Segunda Division.

They look set to return to La Liga next season. Currently, they lie in second place in the Segunda, and have a four-point gap over third-placed Gimnastic.

After ten seasons away from the Spanish top-tier, it looks like Alaves are about to return to the big time. They still have a long way to go to return to that glory nights of 2001 and the UEFA Cup final.