El Centrocampista

Malaga shoot for the stars after summer of discontent

Photo: EFE

Just two months ago, Malaga were a club in crisis after some much publicised difficulties threatened to send them headlong into financial meltdown.

With millions owed to players, coaches, staff and other clubs, the dream that the oil millions provided by Sheikh Abdullah Bin Nasser Al-Thani of Qatar could help the club challenge for Europe’s very top honours had quickly turned into a fight for their very existence.

Talk of sanctions from European football’s governing body Uefa– which at one point were rumoured to include relegation – were rife in Andalucía and the club were forced to sell a number of key players in the battle to stay a float. The sale of Santi Cazorla to Arsenal and Salomon Rondon’s transfer to Rubin Kazan seemed to signal the end of Malaga’s fleeting challenge to the likes of Barcelona and Real Madrid, and rumours circulated that if things didn’t resolve themselves quickly, the club itself may have not have existed for much longer.

And yet despite all this turbulence, just two months laterr, the club miraculously find themselves sitting in the healthy position of third in the La Liga table. To top it off, Wednesdays comprehensive 3-0 victory at Anderlecht mean that they top their group in their Uefa Champions League debut season.

Manuel Pellegrini’s side now appear to have put the crisis behind them and, after Al Thani recently reaffirmed his commitment to the club, the future is starting to look a little brighter around la Rosaleda.

Matters off the field may have been uncertain, but on the pitch there is little doubt that Malaga still have a squad of players that can go far this season. Predictions of woe surrounding the club’s foray into the Champions League have failed to materialise and with two wins they sit in pole position for qualification to the knockout stages and the welcome financial windfall that it brings.

The dramatic turnaround may have surprised many, but according to Pellegrini this is not a miracle, instead a result of hard work and compromise, all of which is helped by the unity of the clubs supporters.

It was hard not to be impressed by Malaga after their display in Belgium on Wednesday, after all they completely dominated their more experienced hosts.

It was Portuguese Eliseu who opened the scoring just before the break with a venomous volley before Joaquin confidently scored from the penalty spot after Nacho Monreal was fouled. Eliseu then completed the rout with a delightful chip.

Truth be told, Anderlecht were poor – and could prove to be whipping boys of the group – however, there was still a lot to like about Malaga’s performance

Noting the fact that his side played collectively instead of individually, an understandably delighted Pellegrini told Canal Plus: “I am very happy. We played a very complete game, both in attack and defense; on a pitch that was very difficult”

“We got good movement from the team but that’s less important than the attitude to go out and seek victory in each game. Before starting the Champions League I knew we had to go out and win games. The squad responded very well and we had clear chances to score more goals.”

Talk of Malaga being able to mount a serious challenge the duopoly at the top of La Liga may be premature, but after a testing summer, they are certainly back on the right path.

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