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

On May 16th 2001, Liverpool defeated Alaves 5-4 in the UEFA Cup Final.

The match in Dortmund's Westfalenstadion is one of the best European finals of modern times. With the exception of Real Madrid's 7-3 win over Eintracht Frankfurt in the 1960 European Cup final, it's the highest-scoring single-leg European final ever.

After the Dortmund final, Alaves fell into relative obscurity, and only returned to the Spanish top-flight this season. They will finish in the top half of La Liga, and meet Barcelona later this month in the Copa del Rey Final.

Alaves never led in the game the game in 2001 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 only returned for a brief season in 2005/06 before last season's promotion.

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.

While Alaves started slipping down the Spanish pyramid, Liverpool went on to reach great heights. They won the Champions League in 2005 and reached the final two years later. On both occasions they played AC Milan.

Although Alaves have returned to the top table of Spanish football, they still have a long way to go to return to that glory nights of 2001 and the UEFA Cup final. In 2002-03, the team were knocked out in the second round by Besiktas. Since then, the team have failed to grace the European stage.

A win against Barcelona in the Copa del Rey could be the start of a new golden era for the club.