On Tuesday evening, as fans started heading towards the exits and the music was finally turned down, Getafe’s sporting director stood pitch side at the Coliseum and insisted that Mason Greenwood is just a footballer, the same as any other he could have signed. Rubén Reyes said the Manchester United forward, who has not played since he was charged with attempted rape, coercive behaviour and assault in October 2022, is no different to Óscar Rodríguez and Diego Rico, who had been presented alongside him. But he knew that was not true and so did everyone there: Greenwood is better.
Which was why the sporting director could reflect on his success, the excitement. He need only look at the supporters who came for the presentation, maybe even the fact there was a presentation at all. Five days after Greenwood’s signing on loan, there was still surprise, shock, disbelief. The question was asked: what is he doing here? But this wasn’t about rejection, and inside the ground there was celebration rather than unease. It was about them getting a footballer this good. United players just don’t go to Getafe.
Those charges, denied by the player and dropped by the Crown Prosecution Service in February, are why the loan move was possible, another reason that acting as if the issue is not there does not really wash, although that’s what many are doing.
With their internal investigation concluded and, more importantly, the social outcry felt, United eventually decided Greenwood should move on and many clubs would not touch him, although Lazio’s president, Claudio Lotito, admitted he had tried. Instead it was the smaller club who finally got him, six minutes before midnight.
“We knew he was a player who was out there. Working on it, gathering information bit by bit, we saw there could be a possibility and in the end we were able to convince him to come here, to trust in us,” Reyes said. “We spoke to his family, to his dad, for a long time. We’re very satisfied.”
Greenwood comes for “the whole season”, Reyes stressed – and there are conditions attached, although the sporting director did not wish to share them. One was revealed on the first day: Greenwood would face no media questions. Nor would Ángel Torres, who a week before had demanded the resignation of Luis Rubiales. Two days earlier, the coach José Bordalás, thrust into the role of spokesperson, had described it as “too delicate a subject to treat lightly”. Now, the presentation over, Reyes spoke, too.
Asked if there had been any reservations, for a view on the accusations, Reyes replied: “There is nothing to say because the person who had to speak has had their say, and that’s a judge [sic]: the highest authority. We did what we do: sign players that are available to sign.” Nor, he insisted, were there concerns over a backlash or any particular obligation to protect the player. “There is no need for us to handle anything,” he said. “A judge has spoken, and clearly. We have signed a footballer, just the same as Diego Rico and Óscar Rodríguez, and that’s it.”
Reyes’s responses were measured and calm, but misinformed. No judge has been involved. The CPS dropped all the charges since there was “no realistic chance of conviction”. And clearly there are no legal issues whatsoever surrounding Rico and Rodríguez, two new players who just happened to be at the same unveiling as the English striker. Which is not to say that this is an issue Getafe wish to dwell on or allow to lead the agenda.
When Reyes was then asked if the club had conducted their own investigation, if they were aware of the details of Greenwood’s case beyond the fact that it had been dropped, a press officer stepped in saying that was enough now, that the case had been closed; why look for controversy? Although perhaps a failure to grasp detail or nuance in another country’s legal system is inevitable; perhaps even a willingness to do so is too.
There has not been a “non-condemnatory sentence”, as Bordalás put it. In Spain “judge” is also applied to an investigating magistrate or the legal figure who decides if a case goes ahead, so conflating judge with the CPS is not such a leap. And that legal process, the dropping of charges, does impose or perhaps allow a deferral to authority, an opportunity to return to just the football.
Doing so has not met significant resistance. “Just when the world is looking at Spain as the epicentre of machismo [in the wake of the Rubiales furore], Getafe go and sign Greenwood,” Diego Barcala wrote in AS, but his is a rare voice. Not because of a belief in redemption or second chances, and there is not a body of people defending Greenwood. Getafe have not had to draw up a list of hostile – or supportive for that matter – voices.
There have been few critics, even in the current context. Social media examples cited in one article about “outrage” over the signing were all in English. Another headline ran: “Incredulity in England.” In England.
The website of a major sports daily did publish an article on Greenwood’s partner, who first accused him of abuse and has joined him here. It was entitled “the latest Wag in La Liga” and readers were invited to “slide right for the picture gallery”. If that was due to a lack of interest, the absence of any mention of his case on TV broadcasts of games is by instruction.
“We’re such hypocrites, capable of putting out a statement that goes in one direction and then act in a way that goes in the other,” lamented the footballer Verónica Boquete, refusing to let the contradiction between Torres’s words about Rubiales and his deeds go unremarked. “The press talks [about equality] and then a case like this goes unnoticed, ignored. Hypocrisy.”
As for Getafe’s fans, not known for identifying with social causes, they have celebrated it. Not as an act of defiance, in part because it hasn’t been necessary. Besides, these supporters, accused of being few in number and supporting a club with little history in an unglamorous city, have got used to being looked down upon, dismissed. They embrace the team’s abrasive style, almost enjoy the accusations that they are anti-football.
Any doubts about Greenwood’s welcome were washed away fast. At his first public appearance, there were no protests outside, just queues. Few remember a presentation like this here and the club’s English Twitter account, at last launched by a new communications department, has Greenwood as their central figure, pushing the excitement of his signing hard and with delighted disbelief. And without mentioning the dropped charges, of course. For some outside Spain that may have felt tone deaf, but not to them. If Getafe have signed a player, and one this good, why pretend otherwise?
On Tuesday morning, almost 2,000 fans came to watch Getafe train in a rare open session, a public event at which Greenwood looked fitter and faster than anyone expected, excitement building. In the evening more than 4,000 were there for the presentation. His partner was among them, carrying a baby Getafe kit with “12, Daddy” on the back.
Although three players were unveiled together, they were there for him, the welcome louder and longer than for Rico or Rodríguez. He stepped out the tunnel and through the smoke machine as they introduced him with a call-and-reply. Mason … Greenwood! Mason … Greenwood! Mason … Greenwood!
In the front row, close to the tunnel, a fan held up a neatly produced card in English, asking for his shirt. Greenwood gave it to him, signed autographs and posed for selfies. A camera approached the supporter. “Are you happy?” the club’s media asked. “Bloody hell, very. This will mark me for life,” he replied. “He’s an incredible player; he’ll make history at Getafe.” “I’m pleased I’m here,” Greenwood said, but not half as pleased as they were.