It was meant to be a summer of celebration and excitement for Málaga fans. A 4th place finish in La Liga meant for the first time in their history they’d qualified for the promised land of the Champions League, and planning could begin for a future among the continent’s elite.
But while Málaga have become the story of the summer, it’s for all the wrong reasons. Talk has not been of big name signings; instead it’s about those who may leave. The future? Right now it is far from bright.
Sheikh Abdullah Bin Nassar Al-Thani, a member of the Qatar royal family, purchased the club in a £28 million deal back in 2010. Shortly after, he laid down an ambitious five-year plan in which he’d steady the club, compete financially with the giants of Madrid and Barcelona, and qualify for the Champions League.
That task was achieved within just two years, a combination of investing in the squad on a level others were incapable of, and also having a man in charge, Manuel Pellegrini, who is one of the finest coaches in Spain.
Málaga fans had never had it so good – after years of bobbing and weaving between divisions they were playing great football and picking up results in La Liga.
Despite the successful season last time out, hanging somewhere over their la Roselada stadium was a dark cloud. From inside Spain, and outside it too, various claims were made of Málaga not paying up. Villarreal, Osasuna, Hamburg and various other clubs lodged complaints against the Andalusian club. Payment deadlines on transfers not met, tax not paid and general miscommunications were the first cracks in the new lick of paintwork at Málaga.
Slight murmurs were heard about players not being paid too – where was the money?
No one knew, and frankly no one could tell us anything about it. José Carlos Pérez, the man who was running day-to-day duties at the club, passed away in the Spring and wasn’t replaced.
Speculation mounted about GM Fernando Hierro’s future, too, and within the blink of an eye he was offering up farewells at a press conference. He called the situation “uncomfortable” and it has since become unbearable. Four players lodged complaints with the AFE over the fact they hadn’t been paid as Málaga’s situation became headline news.
They were later withdrawn and deals were agreed over payment, but that wasn’t enough for some. One of them was Santi Cazorla, their undoubted star signing and player, who is now pushing for a move out of the club. Like Hierro, he’s feeling far too uncomfortable.
Rumours and speculation continue to swirl, but the only thing that is clear about the situation is that the club is in disarray behind the scenes.
Quite simply, no one knows what will happen next. With his undoubtedly deep pockets, Al-Thani could resolve this in one action and get Málaga out of the mire, but the most perplexing thing of all is that he hasn’t. Instead he’s nowhere to be seen. His only contribution to this summer madness has been a series of rants on Twitter over the hypocrisy and corruption that exists within the media and football in Spain. Suggestions are the Madrid media have it in for him, given their clubs were targets for his abuse. But the royal Qatari has done himself no favours with what has transpired at Málaga.
The July 31st deadline that all Spanish clubs had to meet money guarantees passed without incident, and despite some suggesting the club would be relegated, that threat seems to have disappeared.
La Roselada (The Rose Garden) was built upon a bed of roses, but take a trip today and you’ll only encounter thorns.
Málaga are currently 75.00 to win the 2012/2013 La Liga, while they are 2.40 to finish in the top four. La Liga isn’t the only front they’ll be battling on, and they’re at 75.00 to win the Champions League.
But unless their sugar daddy restores order and dispels the rumours soon, rather than competing with Europe’s giants, this traditional yoyo club could be more likely to re-embark on a topsy-turvy existence of uncertainty, bobbing and weaving.