6 Reasons Why Malaga CF Are Still Contenders in La Liga
Due to their recent success, Barcelona and Real Madrid have been seen as the only true contenders in La Liga for some time now. Considering the clubs have combined for the past eight titles, this belief isn't entirely without merit.
However, there is another club ready to do some damage. That club is Málaga CF. They finished fourth in La Liga last year and will be playing in the Champions League this season.
The club lost several key players such as Santi Cazorla during the offseason, but key recruits have kept the team in contention.
It will be difficult to catch the superpowers that are Barca and Madrid, but if anyone has the tools to do it it is certainly Málaga CF.
1. Experienced Attackers
In order to have lasting success, a club must combine young talent with experienced veterans. With the former, Málaga are set at the forward position through the rise of Juanmi Jiménez and budding star Fabrice Olinga.
The loss of Ruud Van Nistelrooy to retirement put the latter in danger though. Fortunately, Málaga did a fantastic job of plugging that hole this offseason. By obtaining Javier Saviola and Roque Santa Cruz, Málaga added two veterans with extreme talent.
Both are clinical finishers with great skill that have experience on their respective national teams. Both will serve as mentors to Olinga and Jiménez while attempting to bring some consistency to the offense that will be crucial to making the team elite.
In order to hang with the big boys, any team must have skill at the attacking midfielder position. In that department, Málaga may have more promise than anyone else in the world.
Despite reports from The Daily Mirror claiming Manchester United were interested in Isco, Málaga were able to hold onto the young Spaniard. For obvious reasons, that brought nothing but joy to Málaga faithful.
Isco is extremely quick with the ball and eliminates defenders with ease. He has fantastic vision and should be able to distribute the ball to his forwards consistently. He is still only 20 years old, but his experience with the national team has done nothing but fuel him.
Isco is young, but this may just be the year he completely explodes onto the scene by leading Málaga on a surprise run.
3. Jeremy Toulalan
At the height of his career, Jérémy Toulalan was a starter for the French national team and one of the best defensive midfielders in the world. Since he stopped playing for the national side, many have forgotten about him and believed him to be finished.
That is far from being the case however. He has experienced a rebirth at Málaga and has been extremely effective with the Spanish club. He is an elite tackler and distributes the ball offensively with ease. His experience allows him to use his vision extremely well and he is still young enough to keep pace with most forwards.
Toulalan will be instrumental to the success of Málaga as he will be tasked with keeping the opposing attackers in check. If Málaga is to have success, Toulalan must continue his great form from last season.
4. Veteran Defenders
Anytime you lose a starting defender on an elite national team, your defense is going to suffer. By losing Joris Mathijsen, Málaga downgraded their defense, but that doesn't mean offenses will be rolling all over them.
Martín Demichelis will continue to start in central defense and bring his immense experience. He played every game for Argentina at the last World Cup and uses his savvy and understanding of the game to intercept plays before they even begin.
Málaga also recruited American Oguchi Onyewu, but Onyewu will have to return to his level from 2010 if he wishes to gain consistent playing time. Either way, he will be useful in mentoring the defense and helping to mature the back line.
5. Carlos Kameni
Teams simply cannot have extended success without solid goalkeeping. It just doesn't happen. Málaga will not have many worries where that area is concerned though as long as Carlos Kameni stays healthy.
Kameni became the youngest footballer ever to win an Olympic gold medal in 2000 when he won the title with Cameroon, and he has continued to be very solid in net ever since. He is capable of making spectacular saves but more importantly his mistakes are rare.
In La Liga, Málaga will face some of the best offenses in the world, so having Kameni in goal will be a important tool for them.
6. Leaders Are Catchable
A couple of years ago, there wasn't a team in the world capable of staying with Barcelona for a full 90 minutes. A few years before that, the same was true of Real Madrid.
In terms of La Liga, it may be difficult to keep pace with the star-studded squads over a span of 38 games, but the gap is closing. Neither squad is completely unbeatable. Neither squad possesses virtually all of the talent in the league.
It may not be this year that the dynamic duo are split up, but with the team Málaga are ready to put forth, this may be the year the gap closes.