FC Barcelona: 10 Reasons Barça Should Be Wary of Big-Spending Malaga
FC Barcelona will open their La Liga activity this weekend against Málaga. Or at least that's what will happen if there's no strike. But strike or not, eventually Barça will face Manuel Pellegrini's Málaga. Any other season, that would be easy as pie, but this season the pie has gotten bigger. Lots bigger.
Truth is, save for Real Madrid, Málaga just might be the worst opponent to face on opening weekend.
There are lots of reasons, but let me say this: If the league finally stops because of the player's strike, it will certainly be a good thing.
If you want to know exactly why I think it'll be a hard game versus Málaga, start the slideshow to find out.
10. Málaga Spent €58 Million This Offseason
This first reason is obvious, really (it's on the title, for Christ sakes).
But in case you've been hidden under a hole this transfer window, here's a quick recap:
Recently bought by Sheikh Abdullah Al Thani, Málaga now has money.
And they're wasting no time spending it.
How do I know?
9. They Bought 9 Players
Al Thani also got himself nine bright new signings for his money's worth.
From most expensive to least expensive, here they are:
1. Santi Cazorla: 26, Spain, attacking midfielder (€21 Million from Villarreal)
2. Jéremy Toulalan: 27, France, holding midfielder (€11 Million from Olympique Lyon)
3. Isco: 19, Spain, attacking midfielder (€6 Million from Valencia)
4. Nacho Monreal: 25, Spain, left back (€6 Million from Osasuna)
5. Diego Buonanotte: 23, Argentina, attacking midfielder (€4.5 Million from River Plate)
6. Joaquín: 29, Spain, winger (€4.2 Million from Valencia)
7. Sergio Sánchez: 25, Spain, centre back (€2.8 Million from Sevilla)
8. Joris Mathijsen: 31, Netherlands, centre back (€2.5 Million from Hamburger SV)
9. Ruud van Nistelrooy: 35, Netherlands, striker (Free- Bosman from Hamburger SV)
8. Malaga Got GOOD Players for Their Money
Money can be spent in many ways, but the thing with Málaga is that they spent it well.
In Cazorla, van Nistelrooy, Joaquin and Isco they boosted their attacking force considerably.
And with Mathijsen, Toulalan, Sergio Sánchez and Monreal, they solidified their defensive needs as well.
Jury's out on Diego Buonanotte, who could go either way. Personally, I feel he just won't make because of his diminutive size (only 1.61 tall).
But even then, that's just a fantastic way to upgrade your squad.
I loved what they did getting Cazorla, Van the Man and Toulalan, who will surely be key pillars in their setup all season long.
Not bad, right?
7. This Was Sheikh Al Thani's Third Transfer Window
Málaga's making the money-spashing headlines until this summer, but actually this will be the third window Al Thani's had to improve Málaga (counting the past winter transfer window, of course).
Here's a quick review of who he's gotten so far:
Summer 2010 (€16.2 Million spent)
Sebastián Fernandez: 25, Uruguay, striker (€3.6 Million from Banfield)
Sebastián is OK. But not much more than that, really. Could be a good sub, I guess.
José Salomón Rondón: 20, Venezuela, striker (€3.5 Million from Las Palmas)
Rondón is definitely talented, but still needs time to develop.
Rubén: 26, Spain, goalkeeper (€1.3 Million from FC Cartagena)
Rubén is and will be a serviceable substitute keeper.
Others (that failed): Sandro Silva: 26, Brazil, holding midfielder (€2.2 Million from Palmeiras); Eliseu: 26, Portugal, winger (€2 Million from Lazio); Kris Stadsgaard: 24, Norway, centre-back (€2 Million from Rosenborg); Rodrigo Galatto: 27, Brazil, goalkeeper (€1.6 Million from Atlético Paranaense); Javier Malagueño: 27, Argentina, centre-back (€.95 Million from Indios Ciudad Juarez).
So...not even beginner's luck on the first time around.
Let's see how they did the second time around (preview: they did good).
Winter 2010-2011 (€7.9 Million spent)
Willy Caballero: 28, Argentina, goalkeeper (€.9 Million from Elche)
Málaga's starting keeper last season. A fanastic buy for under a million euros.
Martín Demichelis: 29, Argentina, centre-back (€3 Million from Bayern Munich)
Tough, reliable defender for a good price.
Júlio Baptista: 28, Brazil, attacking midfielder (€2.5 Million from AS Roma)
Fantastic buy for that price and has become very dangerous once again in La Liga, scoring nine goals in half a season.
Ignacio Camacho: 20, Spain, holding midfielder (€1.5 Million from Atlético Madrid)
Reliable yet not-very-flashy midfielder that Atlético incredibly let go for pocket money. Great buy.
Enzo Maresca: 30, Italy, midfielder (free)
No-nonsense midfielder that always plays his hardest.
Seems like Málaga got their act together, and while they didn't spend big like this summer, they certainly made some great bargain-bin buys on the European Winter Market.
6. Málaga Already Had a Few Good Players Before the Money Splashed
While not exactly on a European giant's level, Málaga did have some players that were actually pretty good and quite underrated by their own standards.
Apoño is a terrific midfielder. While he will never be on a Xavi/Iniesta level, he is a great playmaker in his own right and isn't afraid to do the gritty stuff when he needs to.
Duda has been Málaga's stalwart on the left side for years. He's a great free-kick taker, and will finally get to play his true position at left-back instead of left winger when all the new signings play up front.
Jesús Gámez is a no-nonsense right back, and he will probably become more of a sub now that Sergio Sanchez has been signed.
Recio has all the talent in the world as a holding midfielder, and with Toulalan tutoring him, he'll become even better.
5. In Other Words: Malaga Has a Very Complete Squad
Yeah, I'm aware it took five slides to make my point, so here it is (finally):
Málaga has a very good and rounded-out squad.
They can get into Europa League easily, and will compete for a Champions League berth with this roster.
Here's what their XI could look like in Pellegrini's 4-5-1 against Barça (and all season long, for that matter):
Sergio Sanchez Demichelis Mathijsen Monreal
Joaquín Baptista Cazorla
That leaves Duda, Ignacio Camacho, Isco, Recio, Buonanotte and Rondón on the bench.
That sounds pretty good, if you ask me.
4. Manuel Pellegrini
He failed with Madrid.
But make no mistake about it, Manuel Pellegrini is a very good coach and he should be respected.
He knows quite well how to play against Barça (all-out defense), and won't be afraid to put more muscle on his team to fight Barcelona on a physical level.
With the talent this squad has, Pellegrini will be a tough rival to beat for Pep Guardiola.
Even more so on the La Liga's very first weekend.
3. Joaquín and Cazorla on the Wings
Both Cazorla and Joaquín have given Barcelona some trouble on the wings with Villareal and Valencia respectively.
They now play on the same team.
Barça isn't exactly the world's best at defending on the wings, and Cazorla and Joaquín's quick counters and skill on the wings could prove to be very dangerous.
If Malaga wants to win the first La Liga fixture, their two new wingers will have to play a part in it.
2. Ruud Van Nistelrooy's Back
Ruud was a nightmare for Barça's defenders in every game he played in a Madrid shirt.
And something tells me he'll still drive a very hard bargain come this weekend.
35-year-old Ruud can still drive Barça's defenders nuts.
He probably will do it (again).
1. Malaga Is Unpredictable
Truth is, they have so many new players, that it's impossible to prepare for what they'll do against Barça.
Even if Pep saw every single minute of preseason 10 times over, he still has absolutely no clue on what Pellegrini will field this weekend.
What we do know is that they have talent. Lots of it. And that lots of people are expecting big things from them this season (including me, obviously).
But right now their strongest playing card is that they're unpredictable.
If they defeat Barça, Guardiola won't know what hit them.
And if they don't, they'll always be able to say that Barcelona overwhelmed them.
They have nothing to lose, really.
I don't know about you, but that and the uncertainty of just how good Málaga will really be makes me very nervous going into the weekend.
Imagine how Pep is feeling right now.
Follow Andrés Ehrli on Twitter! @ehrli