Meet UD Las Palmas: The newly-promoted LaLiga team doing everything right

  • UD Las Palmas recently gave 90min behind the scenes access to their facilities
  • Legendary figures helped give insight into the club's proud history
  • The club have impressed in their returning season to LaLiga - recently beating Atletico Madrid

Captain Kirian Rodriguez symbolises the great things UD Las Palmas represent on a football pitch - and scored the winner against Atletico last month
Captain Kirian Rodriguez symbolises the great things UD Las Palmas represent on a football pitch - and scored the winner against Atletico last month / Quality Sport Images/GettyImages

UD Las Palmas return home on Friday night after four weeks away, welcoming Getafe in the curtain-raiser for the weekend's action in LaLiga EA Sports.

Their players - led by home-grown midfielder Kirian Rodriguez - will be hoping to reproduce the magic of the occasion from the last time they stepped out at Estadio Gran Canaria. An entertaining and well-drilled performance earned Los Amarillos a deserved three points against one of the giants of Spanish football.

Diego Simeone's Atletico Madrid were the ones to fall to defeat that night. Rodriguez himself scored the opener in a 2-1 win - a meaningful moment for the 27-year-old stand-in skipper who in 2022 announced he was stepping away from football to battle Hodgkin lymphoma, a form of cancer.

Las Palmas earned promotion back to the Spanish top flight last season, a campaign which Kirian missed the majority of as he made a full recovery, and now he's helping the first team of the club he's been with since youth as they go toe-to-toe with the country's biggest clubs. They're even toppling them in Atletico's case.

The focus inside the club, however, remains safety-first. While their football makes Las Palmas one of the most watchable teams in LaLiga, staying there this season is of primary importance.

They've made a strong start, and are accumulating their points in an entertaining style which is instilled in the club's players through youth teams and led at first-team level by Francisco Javier García Pimienta - who managed for several years in Barcelona's youth ranks before moving to Gran Canaria in January 2022.

Everything, from Kirian's presence in the first team - he's one of eight local players in the first team squad - to García Pimienta's appointment have been part of a wider plan which has led the team to recent successes. This is a club leaning into its roots and wanting to tell its story, as 90min were lucky enough to find out during a recent visit, through an entertaining brand of football led by academy graduates and talented youth players.

Football is central to the island's identity and Las Palmas are its emblem.

Benito Ramirez, Saul Coco, Mika Marmol
Atletico Madrid may not be the only big team to fall to this entertaining brand of football / Quality Sport Images/GettyImages

Unión Deportiva Las Palmas are the only professional football club in Gran Canaria, the third-largest of the Canary Islands and situated 1,100km south-west of mainland Spain. It's geographical proximity puts it closer to Morocco in West Africa, but Las Palmas has been a part of the Spanish leagues since its founding in 1949.

Plenty of history was told before the club's formation. UD Las Palmas as we know it is constructed of five local clubs which merged together for a greater benefit of football on the island in the wake of the Spanish Civil War. Gran Canaria's distance from mainland Spain posed a challenge to the local clubs in terms of logistics and travel, and those behind the merger saw the best chance of the island keeping players that had been developed locally being in combination of island resource.

It wasn't necessarily a popular decision, with two of the biggest local clubs, Marino Futbol Club and Real Club Victoria, each having their own distinct identity. In Victoria's case, they have a long-standing history with Premier League club Newcastle United, even playing in their famed black and white stripes - the city where its founder Pepe Gonçalvez lived for a time - and were named after Queen Victoria.

Gran Canaria remains proud of its British roots and Victoria, while lacking a professional team as agreed since the merger, still remain active today in terms of youth teams and other sports clubs. Ten of Victoria's players went on to form the first iteration of Las Palmas' team, and Luis Valle of Victoria became the club's first manager.

Immediate success soon followed and a significant chunk of the club's history since has been spent in the Spanish top flight.

Pedro Gonzalez Lopez 'Pedri'
Pedri made his first impressions on senior football with Las Palmas, before his move to Barcelona / Quality Sport Images/GettyImages

Their focus on developing players has always remained, with Manchester City great David Silva perhaps the most famous name in footballing terms to come out of Gran Canaria. He joined Valencia's youth system early in his career but was born on the island and learned the ropes with a local club. His picture can be found in club facilities and locals remain proud of his achievements, though Silva is perhaps an example of an escaped talent that the modern club try to avoid further instances of.

Barcelona's Pedri, one of the most well-known young products in world football today, spent time of his own learning the ropes with Las Palmas, although he himself was plucked from neighbouring Tenerife in his teens. He broke into the first team soon after under former manager Pepe Mel before Barcelona acted. The rest is history, and there's plenty more to be written in Pedri's case.

Talented attacker Alberto Moleiro is perhaps next in line for greatness from the Las Palmas youth ranks, but the modern club is more than willing to embrace talent from other parts of the world and other academies should their profile fit what they're trying to achieve.

Mika Marmol, formerly of Barcelona, is carving a reputation for himself, while Mexican international Julian Araujo is getting his first real crack at top flight European football in a season-long loan spell from the Catalan giants. Araujo exclusively told 90min he was "cherishing the moment" to play for them and admits he's found himself at "a club that has a lot of ambition and an island that loves football".

An adventurous style of play that suits his qualities was part of the appeal behind Araujo choosing this move, while Manchester City believe enough that Argentinian prospect Maximo Perrone will develop and come back stronger by being a part of a team that is rooted in its ideals, dating back decades.

Lots of players come back too, as Kirian explained: "A lot of players that leave end up returning because people that grew up here want to raise their families here." Club captain Jonathan Viera, in his fifth spell, can attest.

Francisco Ortiz Rivas
Francisco Ortiz, known as Paquito, is a club legend and for a spell, was interim manager / Power Sport Images/GettyImages

Las Palmas want to tell the world about their appeal, and not only the isle of Gran Canaria, the Canary Islands and the Spanish mainland. They've earned supporters through their adventurous style of football so far this season and intend on sticking to their guns, in hope of not only entertainment, but to build a foundation to expand from.

British locals may tend to view Gran Canaria as a shortlisted holiday destination but there's far more to the island than that - far more to see, plenty to learn and a strong method of entertainment in the form of the island's number one sport, powered by its youth products and local fans. Those in search of a fun second team to follow should pay attention.

The club have formed a partnership with Norwich City - nicknamed the Canaries (see what you did there) and recently held a watch party in Norwich for Las Palmas' victory over Atletico. But while growing the international profile is on the agenda nothing will ever mask how proud and attached to its history Las Palmas, and Gran Canaria as an island, is to its locals.

It's the type of place you'd go to and never want to leave. Many choose to stay. And what you'll find is a tightly-knit community proud of its achievements and where its going. Paquito Ortiz, midfield great, club legend and for a short while the club's caretaker manager, sums up the community feel better than anyone.

The humble Paquito, acting as tour guide for our stay on the island, finds his picture hung up in the club's incredible in-stadium museum, and can barely find time to walk the streets without an adoring local spotting him and having a chat.

Paquito is one part of many that tells the story of Las Palmas' history, and an emblem - along with Kirian and the other academy products donning the club's yellow and blue colours today - of everything this football club are doing right.

They welcome Barcelona to Gran Canaria in their first league match of 2024 and on that night have their chance to show themselves on the world stage. You wouldn't bet against them showing their best selves.