In an attempt to create something beautiful, one has to constantly supervise it. The final touches; the pinnacle of perfection can only be achieved by someone who is mad enough to pursue it no matter what. He has envisioned a dream, which he is willing to turn into reality. However, there is no match for the fury and rage of a person whose dreams have been shattered. The rage is enough to burn down whatever it grasps. But there is always an option for the person; to relive and recreate his dreams. Nevertheless, the bigger question still remains in the frame of context; what happens to the dream? That half-wretched dream which was once pampered, has now been abandoned. That audacious dream has now taken a horrendous turn and has been left to fate to decide it’s future. This is the story of Malaga Club de Futbol.
Malaga Club de Futbol (popularly known as Malaga CF) is one of those clubs which was taken over by Middle Eastern money. Malaga CF was bought in an attempt to turn the club into something beautiful. However, in a span of two seasons, they were subject to probably the harshest decision made by UEFA under the FFP. Well, there are many theories and perceptions around it, many consider that Malaga was made a scapegoat. The team which had the likes of Ruud van Nistelrooy and Isco playing together, was sanctioned the punishment and is now lingering in the bottom of the La Liga table. It all went wrong for the team from the beautiful city of Malaga. Let’s dive deep into the history and relive those crucial moments which caused the decline of the once upcoming titans of Spain.
The month of June 2010 saw Malaga disembark upon a journey which showed fruitfulness and ecstasy, but it was the worst which could happen to any club. Consider it walking on a bridge, reaching halfway and then the bridge collapsing. 11th June 2010, Malaga CF gets sold to Sheikh Abdullah ben Nasser Al Thani. The then-president Fernando Sanz had no alternatives as the club was in debt. Sheikh Abdullah realized that he needed to change the board of the club, and then provide the inflow of cash. This resulted in appointing a new manager and a vice president. 28th June 2010, Jesualdo Ferreira is appointed as head coach. His influence in the team came in the form of signing prominent players.
The most prominent of them was Salomon Rondon. The Venezuelan striker was a pivotal and marked the start of the “Oil-Money” era for Malaga. However, Jesualdo was sacked as he had not delivered the desired results. This resulted in the appointment of “the caretaker” Manuel Pellegrini. Pellegrini was able to revive Malaga successfully from the relegation zone and helped them finish 11th for the 2010-11 season.
The season 11-12 became a sort of roller-coaster ride for Malaga fans. The start of something amazing, and finishing a record high fourth. Ahead of the season, Malaga signed a deal with Nike making them their official kit sponsors. Malaga also collaborated with UNESCO, which henceforth became the principal sponsor for their kits. This opened a gateway of money which in turn brought in players of class and stature. This season alone, Malaga spent a whopping 52 million euros. Malaga signed Martin Demichelis form Bayern. Joris Mathijsen was brought in from Hamburg. Ruud van Nistelrooy was brought in for a season through a free transfer. The headline signing was Santi Cazorla from Villarreal for 19 million pounds. The Spanish midfielder was at his peak and had recently won the accolades with the Spanish team, being a vital member of the La Roja.
A certain player, aged 19, was also signed for 6 million Euros. He would later go on to be one of the most influential players in the club and also the most expensive player ever to be sold by Malaga. The player was Isco. Malaga was in it’s prime. They had the strike force which had Nistelrooy and Salomon Rondon. Malaga had everything clicking for them.
But the season of 2012-13 brought dark clouds to the shores of Malaga. This happened due to many factors, but it all unfolded like a game of dominoes. Quoting Heath Ledger “Madness is like gravity. All it takes is a push”. The issue started when season 12-13 saw a reform in the form of viewing and TV rights. This meant that unlike previous seasons, Real Madrid and Barcelona, who got the major chunk of viewing rights and money, had to share it with other teams. They still, however, hold the majority of TV rights in Spain, but there has been a change.
Well, if you are in the eye of the storm be it any situation in Spain, you get that attention. So, “unfortunately”, Malaga didn’t get the viewing rights. This did not go well with the Sheikh. He came to the coast, strictly not from the point of football. He also had other plans for Malaga and the Costa del Sol region. Sheikh Abdullah had plans for a “Sport City”, with a new stadium, a new training complex, and a luxury marina and hotel complex across the region.
When the TV rights were not sanctioned, it meant that the Spanish authorities did not pay heed to the plans of the Sheikh. They decided to stall his ideas and this was not taken well by Sheikh Abdullah. Sheikh Abdullah decided that he would consider reallocating his funds and funding them if and only if there were reforms in the viewing rights of all clubs of Spain. This was something which was bound to happen in the long run.
However, the immediate action demanded was not possible at all. As a result, the Sheikh decided to turn off the tap. One point must be considered over here. The takeover of Malaga and Paris Saint Germain were almost in the same time frame. The difference over here, was just that the “Le Parisians” were the major force of French football. So they eventually got the majority of rights in France. One could not expect Malaga to get the same as they played in the league with the likes of Real Madrid and Barcelona.
The loss of TV rights meant that Sheikh Abdullah turned off the tap. This meant that the finances and cash inflow were immediately stopped. Players of huge stature had just signed and it also brought along hefty salaries that were to be paid. The stoppage of funds meant that Malaga was not able to pay their players. Santi Carzola, Mathijsen, Nistelrooy and Salomon Rondon had not been paid their wages. The coach, Pellegrini, was also not paid his dues and salaries. However, Pellegrini showed his professionalism and did not comment on the same, at least in the media. He knew it would cause unrest among the team, and Malaga were already writing history on the field. Nevertheless, the four players decided to file an official complaint to UEFA, which was followed through with an investigation.
The club, by this time, were already in the round of 16 of the Champions League. They finished on top of the table. And their table consisted of AC Milan and Zenit Saint Petersburg. They were certain “Davids” as they defeated Milan 1-0 at home, in the group stage and drew at San Siro. This is the Milan side who beat Barcelona 2-0 at the San Siro. Anyways Malaga were writing history and weaving a fairytale story of their own.
By this time, the players had already filed an official complaint to UEFA which caused a probe into the matter. Season 2012-13 was a turning point for UEFA as well. Previously, UEFA had been accused of having FFP rules and regulations which were there just for the sake of it. They were accused of not implementing it and a call for change was voiced by members of the UEFA. This was due to the large migration of Russian and Middle Eastern money. UEFA decided that it needed to bring down the hammer to prove that they weren’t merely puppets or spectators.
Alas, when UEFA received the complaint, they decided to punish Malaga in the harshest way possible. After their probe into the matter, UEFA gave the punishment as follows. Firstly, Malaga was not to play in any European competition. Despite automatic qualification through league positioning, they could not play in Europe. The initial statement read that the ban was for a span of 4 years. However, it got reduced to one season when appealed at higher courts. The ban of Malaga in European competitions was enough for players to leave. Players knew European competition was the benchmark of their success, and after being stripped off of that, staying in the club was not an option.
There were additional factors which did not help the cause of Malaga. It is the board of directors that instigate the faith among the fans when it is concerned with new ownership. The death of the longtime serving president of Malaga CF, Carlos Perez Fernandez and former captain of Spain, and the legendary Fernando Hierro leaving the office of Sporting Director was the final nail in the coffin. Malaga CF, both players and fans alike, were not able to process this situation. Young prodigies left for bigger clubs and the board of directors eventually witnessed the whole team crumble. The season which Isco left saw Malaga finish in the 11th position in the table. This was the season which they were to play in the Europa league, resting upon the laurels of the quarterfinals which they had valiantly fought.
The ban and player complaints did not help. Malaga were flabbergasted and their fans in particular. They had been shown European dreams and it was now turning into a nightmare. The stoppage of funds and UEFA’s sanction on Malaga meant that all players were disgusted. They felt cheated. Quoting Isco “Shameful, Unfortunate: they take away what we earn in the field.” This unfolded in the most horrendous and ambiguous way possible. The winter transfer window of season 2012-13 saw Santi Cazorla depart for Arsenal. And Salomon Rondon saw his goal-scoring prowess take him to the Russian League. The very next transfer season saw them lose Isco to Real Madrid. It is true that nobody says “no” when a club like Real Madrid comes calling. And Manuel Pellegrini was absorbed by Manchester City, who went on to give them the most stunning season and a trophy after 44 years.
Malaga currently sit at the bottom of the La Liga table. They have played 11 games and have amassed only 4 points. Malaga’s current problem lies in defence as they have let in 23 goals in 11 games. The reason is that they have a defence which has aged, and are not capable of matching the pace injected in the league. Malaga is a club which has money. They have the cash to splash at defenders in the winter transfer window. Certain defenders like Mangala can be brought in. Mangala knows that he won’t be able to break into the team considering the form and the gameplay used by Pep Guardiola.
Malaga can also invest in the youth by bringing in players on loan. Huge teams like Atletico and Chelsea often send players on loan. Any player worth his salt realizes that La Liga is a league from which you learn the technical aspect of the game a lot. It is sad to see that a team which were about to turn into footballing giants simply went tumbling down. There have been many factors. However, they still have a chance as they have the necessary funds available to them.
The bad part is that their reputation precedes them at the moment. Their recent wage problems and their league standings stand as a hindrance to them. Nevertheless, a lot of clubs have seen a change in fortune. And everybody has their fingers crossed hoping that this team is able to revive itself and prove to their fans that they are still capable of sparking a challenge in the top flight of the Spanish League.
RVN, Julio Baptista& Cazorla trio image via Malaga
Isco Image via AS
Sheik Abdullah Image via CNN
Malaga vs Milan match image via Zimbio
Manuel Pellegrini and Santi Cazorla image via Caughtoffside
Malaga vs Barca image via Sportskeeda