Fears for the Future: Can Malaga Bounce Back from Another Summer of Sales?
It does not take long for a club and its supporters to become accustomed to a certain level of success and feel like it has been that way forever.
Chelsea and Manchester City are now seen as major forces in Europe, but without major multi-million investments, the two teams could still be drifting between England's top two divisions. Both clubs would simply be happy being part of the top flight, as opposed to winning it.
Over the past couple of seasons, fans of the previously very modest Malaga have seen players of the quality of Santi Cazorla, Joaquin, Jeremy Toulalan and Isco playing in their side’s colours.
Milan came to town for a game. Real Madrid were defeated. It was all part of a fantastic journey for the side from the south of Spain. It all began with the team near the bottom of the Spanish Primera and ended seconds away from the Champions League semi-finals.
Whilst supporters may have cherished these experiences and been grateful for the opportunity of doing so, there is a huge sense of betrayal at what the future could have been.
When the club was taken over by Sheikh Abdullah Al Thani of the Qatari Royal Family in June 2010, the long-term ambition for Malaga was to be a regular top-four power, a Valencia of the south, if you like.
The project looked like a solid, professional and methodical one with Fernando Hierro as the general manager and Manuel Pellegrini appointed as the experienced steady hand at the tiller. Three years on and all the big signings have left, with the funding suddenly cut back.
Isco’s departure to Real Madrid saw arguably the last of the talent pool being drained. Hierro left a year ago, and Pellegrini has moved on to manage Manchester City. There has been little communication as to the reason why the plans for the club were changed so dramatically, to leave debts to players and suppliers.
It is easy to see why supporters must feel so upset that the dream being experienced by their side was over so quickly. However, it is not the end of the world for Malaga. Although a UEFA ban on the club due to unpaid bills sees the Spanish side banned from European competition next season, a strictly domestic campaign will allow the club to find its bearings after a tumultuous couple of years.
Pellegrini’s replacement, Bernd Schuster, may not be the most cheerful of characters for a club looking at needing some happiness restored to the ranks. However, he is a manager of great experience and has a useful dogged nature.
The five-year contract handed to the German is perhaps a declaration of a renewed Malaga project, based on more modest means. According to Jesus Ballesteros of Marca.com, at his official presentation, the former Real Madrid boss announced, "After last season there is the drive to keep going, to keep working and not live from the past."
An awful lot depends on what reinvestment there will be in the squad from the money picked up over the past six months alone from the sales of Nacho Monreal to Arsenal and Isco. As sides like Real Sociedad, Betis, Rayo Vallecano and Levante have proved in recent seasons, blowing millions on players is not always required to be successful in Spain.
However, Malaga’s squad is currently a thin one with a number of footballers out of contract and more departures potentially on the cards.
The starting 11 at the start of next season will be considerably different to the team that finished the past campaign in sixth. It goes without saying that the quality of these footballers will judge where the team ends up in 11 months time.
Currently, mid-table looks the most realistic proposition. However, a dose of creative signings and a renewed sense of (more modest) optimism could see Malaga finishing a little higher.
Although supporters may never experience the highs of taking on Milan in the Champions League, there is no reason that the future cannot still contain some happy moments.
However, some supporters are never going to recover from such a thrilling football journey being snatched away from them so soon.
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