What started last summer is about to get even more serious this one.
Santi Cazorla and Salomon Rondon were sold from beneath Manuel Pellegrini's feet, as Malaga began a fatal battle with their finances.
If not for Pellegrini, though, it's likely many of those set to leave after the season finishes would have left last year.
He managed to convince them that the Champions League was worth hanging around for, he made promises about them receiving their wages and he galvanized a team which some tipped would finish in the bottom three.
"He prevented a mass exodus," one player said at the time.
After preventing, he then set about doing. A pre-Christmas win against Real Madrid meant Malaga headed into the winter break just two points behind Los Blancos.
But it's in Europe, like he did once before with Villarreal, where the Chilean tactician has really caught the eye again. After failing to get out of the group stages twice, it is in Europe where City's owners' obsession grows.
Malaga won a group including AC Milan, knocked out Porto and were seconds away from beating Borussia Dortmund over two legs for a place in the semifinal.
Under his guidance, Villarreal were beaten semifinalists in 2006, losing 1-0 to Arsenal. That could have been different too, but for a Juan Roman Riquelme missed penalty.
The words of the players he has managed help tell the story. At Villarreal he took Diego Forlan from a Manchester United flop into one of the deadliest strikers in Europe; at Malaga he's helped Joaquin enjoy an Indian summer.
Joaquin, now 31, showered his 59-year-old boss with praise after a win against Milan this season:
"Without Pellegrini this might never have happened. ... He's a guy who gives you so much confidence, who acts with so much humility that, somehow, he always gets the best out of every player: he is the central piece in this jigsaw."
Prior to managing in Europe he won league titles in Argentina with both San Lorenzo and River Plate, and in Ecuador with LDU Quito.
The blot on his CV, it can be argued, is that he's never won a trophy in Europe—save the Intertoto Cup—and that he flopped with Real Madrid in 2009, after becoming the only manager, when at Villarreal, to separate Los Blancos and Barcelona in the last nine seasons.
A counter argument is that it is an anomaly, rather than a blot.
He did have the most expensive squad ever assembled at the Bernabeu, but after that he was dealt a cruel hand.
Arjen Robben and Wesley Sneijder were sold without his knowledge, and Cristiano Ronaldo missed a chunk of the season due to injury. Despite that, he led Madrid to a record points haul of 96 but was unfortunate to be bettered by Pep Guardiola and Barca.
Florentino Perez, who was against Pellegrini from the start, made it difficult, and cup exits to Alcorcon and Lyon came amid a difficult year in the Spanish capital.
In Monday's Daily Mail, Martin Samuel questioned whether Malaga's coach is as good as Alan Pardew, Roberto Martinez or even Alan Curbishley.
He says, "we don't have the details," except we do.
Like David Moyes, Pellegrini has worked well with clubs outside the established big hitters.
Admittedly, that came with an expansive budget in his early days at Malaga and decent, not spectacular, resources at Villarreal, but the rug has been pulled from under his feet at La Rosaleda, and the success has continued. Besides, City won't be shy with the cheque book.
Roberto Mancini and the Manchester City fans have every right to feel aggrieved if the Italian is chopped, but that's not Pellegrini's fault.
The Chilean, like Mauricio Pochettino had to do at Southampton, will soon win the supporters, and success, if allowed, should follow.