El Centrocampista

Winter of discontent in Andalucia as Malaga feel the pain

Getty Images

Getty Images

It’s the first weekend of January and Spanish league football is back. The two week winter break can seem like an eternity for fans but not to worry, the next two months are arguably the busiest of the Spanish calendar.

Malaga were looking to kick-start the second half of the season with a win away to bottom of the table Deportivo. Unfortunately for los boquerones, Deportivo looked to have taken greater advantage of the winter break and were the much better side, though it took a mistake from Gamez to undo the visitors.

Under very little pressure the right back only managed to produce a sloppy pass which found on-loan Atletico striker Pizzi who turned Demichelis inside out before finishing with style. On the whole the team looked flat and devoid of ideas at times and it was not until the last quarter that they put any significant pressure on the Deportivo goal.

It’s not a good start for Pellegrini’s men, next up is rampant Barcelona and they will take some stopping. It’s important that heads don’t drop within the camp despite the off the field problems which resurfaced over Christmas. The Andalucían’s went into the break on the back of receiving some terrible news.

Their financial misdemeanours at board level had finally been punished by Uefa as they banned them from the next European Competition they qualify for in the next four seasons.

The news really soured what had been a great first half of the season. Going into the break Malaga sat a comfortable 4th just two points behind last year’s Champions Real Madrid. In fact their last footballing act of 2012 was to record a sensational win over Jose Mourinho’s team in an enthralling 3-2 encounter at La Rosaleda.

The day that Malaga were informed of their Uefa ban was also the day they were drawn to face Porto in the knockout stages of the Champions League. Not many clubs could have had quite the debut in the competition they have had. Porto are a great team but not the best, Malaga have a chance of advancing, not many would have predicted them having a shout at reaching the quarter finals. They may not return to the competition in the near future but they have had a debut to remember.

Malaga truly have had a great season so far, the negative has been the off the field issues. The Qatari owners have let the club and the fans down with their failure to complete payments, a situation that could get worse if the debts are not cleared by a revised deadline of 31 March.

Of course the fact that Malaga have enjoyed such a meteoric rise is down to the millions invested by the owners, but that does not negate their failure to pay debts owed and how they placed the existence of the club in jeopardy.

The money from Champions League revenue will be upwards of €25,000,000 and that twinned with the sale of players and reduction of the wage bill means that if the want-away owners do manage to sell the club it should be left in a financially secure state; The Qatari family paid €25,000,000 to buy the club in 2010.

Of course that is no consolation for the fans who will suffer during this European exile. The funds will dry up, players will leave. It will be hard to hold onto prospects like Isco when you can’t promise investment or competition at the highest level. Pellegrini has done superbly to steer a sinking ship to relative safety this season but there are only so many times you can take on water.

The near future is exciting. The midweek Copa fixture should provide an instant chance to bounce back, as Malaga face lowly Eibar. Then Barcelona next weekend should be a real encounter as Malaga’s steely defence will look to keep out the most fearsome attack in world football.

January’s fixtures come so quick in Spain that it can make or break a clubs season. A good run, will build massive momentum as they head into the knockout stages of the Champions League. However if heads drop and results slump all the hard work of the first 6 months could really go to waste.

In the long term Malaga have little to look forward to. On the brink of relegation 2 and a half years ago they were promised riches and trophies by expensive foreign owners but the dream has slowly become a nightmare.

In Pellegrini they have a brilliant coach. Their squad is solid, a mixture of youthful flair and experienced campaigners. For now fans should savour the fact that their team is competing at a higher level than ever before both domestically and in Europe. It has been a rollercoaster ride and there will be more turns to come, but now it’s time to let their football do the talking.



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