Last week, Football Rascal focused on the project that is kicking-off at Paris Saint-Germain, but they are not the only ones making waves in Europe this summer. Now most of us have probably been to Malaga (usually on a delayed Monarch flight for your holidays) but I doubt you would have given two thoughts to their football team as their reputation to us Brits is probably on a par with that of Accrington Stanley! But all that could be about to change…
For years La Liga has been dominated by the clubs of El Clasico, Real Madrid and Barcelona, there have been some lukewarm challenges to their dominance with teams like Valencia, Seville, Atletico Madrid and Villarreal the contenders, but none of them were able to go the distance. In my opinion La Liga has become a little stale and started to mirror the Scottish Premier League more than it has the English Premier League, but Malaga could be the ones to challenge the regime over the coming seasons.
In June 2010 Sheikh Abdullah Bin Nassar Al-Thani bought the club for €36m and promised to bring the excitement back and take the club back to prominence in La Liga. People in the area are now calling Malaga ‘the Chelsea of Spain’ and there is a lot of expectation despite last season did not going quite to plan with an 11th place finish after flirting with relegation earlier in the season. Season tickets seem to be in short supply and the whole area has been galvanized by the prospect of having a successful football team.
When you look back at the history of Malaga this is quite an achievement. CD Malaga is the previous name of the club now known as Malaga CF, they were wound up due to financial difficulties in 1992. Since then they have had to battle back from the lowest depths of Spanish football all the way back to where they are today.
Although you may not instantly think of anyone or anything related to Malaga other than lost luggage, you will recognize the manager and a lot of the playing squad. Starting with the management team, Malaga needed to bring someone in to spearhead the revolution and were able to recruit Manuel Pellegrini part of the way through last season. The Chilean has an impressive CV managing River Plate, Villarreal from 2004-2009 and spent a year at Real Madrid where he made some big achievements; he took Real to their highest ever points total finish of 96 points, they didn’t win the league as Barcelona managed to score 99 points. He made some major signings which underpin the team today; Ronaldo, Xavi Alonso and Benzema are all players that he bought in.
Pellegrini is trying to bring in quality this summer at Malaga and has recruited a few players that will have the fans excited. Former Spain international winger Joaquin has signed from Valencia, highly-rated Argentine playmaker Diego Buonanotte, who survived a near-fatal car crash in December 2009, also fellow Argentine Martin Demichelis after his love affair with Bayern Munich ended under coach Louis van Gaal. Other names you should know are Dutch internationals Ruud van Nistelrooy and Joris Mathijsen, talented French international Jeremy Toulalan and former Arsenal and Brazil international Julio Baptista.
So it seems the club are building a team with a mix of youth and experience as they mount a challenge on the top 6 next season. European competition is the target for this side, there was some expectation last season, but Malaga just didn’t have the squad to compete. Under Pellegrini they have a manager that has a proven track record and that can lead the team forward. The players coming in should be able to get the club in to the top 6 over the next two season and with a large transfer budget, there could be more arrivals.
It has been quite a rollercoaster ride since the formation of what is now Malaga CF, they can now start to look forward and plan for the future. Everything for them to be a success is now in place, they have started to get noticed and there is no reason why they won’t be able to attract the world’s best players this summer and over the years ahead. In my opinion La Liga needs a shakeup and Malaga, however unlikely, could be the ones to do it-defiantly a team to watch next season.