The epicentre of the Costa Del Sol, Málaga is famous and loved by people across the globe. Whether it be Pablo Picasso, the beaches or its 300 days of sunshine every year, there really is something special about the area, which sees 16 million holidaymakers pass through its airport every year.
Andalusia, like the rest of Spain, is football obsessed. The south is dominated by Sevilla and Betis in terms of size and success, yet both inevitably sit in the shadow of Barcelona and the Madrid clubs.
It hadn’t always been this way and for a brief period, Málaga CF had been punching above its weight and knocking on the door of Spanish football’s elite.
Although with the highs must come the lows and nowadays, the club finds itself in a desperate situation; much like a stereotypical ‘Brit abroad’ in the departure lounge after a fortnight in Marbella.
As low as the Tercera division in the mid 1990s, Málaga had gained the reputation as a yo-yo club throughout the 2000s. Despite the club winning the Intertoto Cup in 2002 and having substantial work and upgrades to their stadium, La Rosaleda they were not able to obtain any stability or consistency in La Liga. By 2006, they found themselves in the second tier once more and lacking any sort of direction with attendances dwindling.
Fast forward to June 2010, after surviving relegation by a single point on the final day, euphoria arose surrounding a Middle Eastern takeover. Local excitement had peaked and the buzz had returned for Los Boquerones (‘The Anchovies’ to you and I) as Qatari Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser Al-Thani stepped forward and purchased the club for €36 million. In the 18 months that followed, Al-Thani got the chequebook out and signed the likes of Salomon Rondon, ex-Arsenal forward Julio Baptista and Eliseu to offer a more potent attack. Experienced Argentinian duo Martin Demichelis and Willy Caballero were also acquired.
During this time, Manuel Pellegrini took over the reins following his sacking by Madrid and arrived at Malaga with a point to prove.
Al-Thani’s era was beginning to take shape after an unsteady start, a new bumper kit deal with Nike enabled further investment.
Santi Cazorla was signed for a club record fee of over £20 million and the accomplished Jeremy Toulalon was also added to the ranks. Add into the mix Ruud van Nistelrooy, Joaquin, Nacho Monreal and local uncut gem Isco and Malaga had a recipe for something serious.
It clicked straightaway and a fantastic league season saw them qualify for the Champions League for the first time in their history. The European fairytale saw them brush shoulders with the big boys, topping a group which contained AC Milan, Zenit & Anderlecht. Having defeated Porto in the last 16, they faced Jürgen Klopp’s formidable Borussia Dortmund outfit. Unfortunately for Los Malaguistas, two injury time goals for the German side saw them reach the semi-final much to the anguish of Pellegrini and co.
2013 was Málaga’s Everest, it all began to dramatically unravel that summer for Al-Thani. All notable players were sold in an attempt to save face having been issued with a UEFA ban from European competition and soaring financial issues gripping the club. The asset stripping and deeply divisive politics within the club commenced. The on pitch quality had reduced drastically and this was seen in the La Liga standings each year as they slid down the table and were finally relegated in 2018.
Turmoil and scandal has become the norm at the once proud Andalusian club. In 2019, it seemed as though a statement of intent was being made with the signing of Premier League winner and Japanese international, Shinji Okazaki. Could he be the man to fire them back into the big time? Unfortunately not.
Okazaki was released 34 days after signing due to the club being unable to afford his pay packet and registration fee. This was a deeply embarrassing saga for the club which saw the Mayor express his utter dismay at the whole episode contributing to further conflict.
As of 2020, although safe from relegation to the third tier, the club aren’t offering much in terms of promotion after the restart.
The most excitement this season, unsurprisingly hasn’t been on the pitch, media headlines reporting that six people were arrested over a sexually explicit video which allegedly featured the then Málaga boss Victor Sanchez del Amo. Sanchez del Amo was sacked 4 days after the video was uploaded to Twitter.
He is now undertaking legal procedures against the club as there continues to be no real light at the end of this murky tunnel. New ownership seems to be the only valid suggestion as Málaga look to rise again from this turbulent spell in the clubs history.