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The rise and fall of Malaga

Monday 8th January 2018

No set of football fans have endured quite as big a roller coaster ride over the last few years as Malagauista's have with the Andalusian side going from a Segunda club, to the heights of the Champions League and they now look to be on their way back to the Segunda unless they can turn things around in the second half of this La Liga season. 

In June 2010 Malaga came under new ownership when Abdullah Al Thani bought the club from Lorenzo Sanz and Al Thani began to invest in a side that had finished 17th in La Liga the season before, only just avoiding relegation. Over £20 million was spent on multiple players with Martin Demichelis, Julio Baptista and Willy Caballero being the highlights. That investment saw Malaga finish 11th before another £50 million was spent on the likes of Santi Cazorla, Jeremy Toulalan, Nacho Monreal, Isco, Joaquin and Ruud van Nistelrooy who helped the team finish 4th in La Liga which meant Champions League football. 

From the outside, one would think that things were going exactly as Al Thani had planned as his investment in the club had saw the club reach the lucrative Champions League but there were already financial issues and his investment suddenly stopped with Malaga not spending a single penny on their squad before that Champions League campaign.

Instead, the club brought in some loans and frees including Roque Santa Cruz, Javier Saviola and Diego Lugano while Cazorla, Monreal and Jose Salomon Rondon left the club bringing in fees of just under £30 million. While things were falling apart off the pitch the team were still performing relatively well on it and reached the last eight of the Champions League where they were robbed as Borussia Dortmund scored two controversial late goals to deny them a place in the semi-finals. 

While performances in Europe were encouraging in the 2012/13 season, Malaga were only able to finish sixth in La Liga and things were getting worse behind the scenes. Sixth was enough to secure a place in the Europa League for the 2013/14 season but the club were banned from entering the competition due to their debts and there were several reports of unpaid wages. Sadly this meant further exits as Isco moved to Real Madrid while high earners like Toulalan, Saviola, Joaquin, Baptista and Demichelis were offloaded. 

Naturally with the majority of big names leaving the club performances on the pitch began to suffer and Malaga have done well in recent years to maintain a mid table position in La Liga. There has been a clear change in policy and over the last two or three years the club have resorted to selling whatever assets they have at the first opportunity while investment in the first time has been extremely limited. Caballero, Vitorino Antunes and Santa Cruz left in 14/15, while Sergi Darder, Nordin Amrabat, Samu Garcia, Samu Castillejo and Juanmi brought in £40 million in 2015/16. 

Last season Malaga finished in mid table again thanks mostly to performances from Ignacio Camacho, Pablo Fornals and Sandro Ramirez. While most clubs would look to build around them all three left in the summer bringing in just under £30 million while only a third of that sum was reinvested in the team. The downgrading of the playing personnel looks to have finally caught up on Malaga as they now find themselves involved in a relegation battle and in truth this has been coming for a few years now. 

The Al Thani era got off to a good start but after that initial success, it has pretty much been the blueprint of how not to run a football club.

There has been talk that Al Thani grew frustrated with the lack of progress in some other business projects he had in Spain which led to him pulling the plug on the cash injections he was providing to the Andalusian side but regardless of his reasons he took a club on a journey to previously unheralded heights but now the concern is just how far will he allow the club to plummet before either reinvesting or allowing someone else to take the reins of the club in a bid to improve their fortunes. Unfortunately based on current form time is running out and unless there is a change soon the reality is the club could find themselves back in the depths of the third and fourth tier where they spent much of the 1990's.  

Gerry Johnston

I am a 33-year-old sports writer from Ireland who enjoys watching European football. My main focus is La Liga, but I do keep a close eye on all of the major leagues throughout the world.

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