Malaga's fortunes may be on the rise
Hopes are high from Malaga this season. The club from Spain's sixth biggest city of 550,000 inhabitants have always punched below their demographic weight, and sit a lowly 19th in the respected all-time Spanish league table.
That is expected to change under the ownership of Qatar's Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser Al Thani. He took control in June 2010 and began to invest heavily at the start of this year with big name signings, such as Argentina's Martin Dimichelis from Bayern Munich and Brazil's Julio Baptista from Roma.
With Manuel Pellegrini, the former Villarreal and Real Madrid coach in charge, Malaga recovered from a dreadful start to finish the season strongly in 11th, thanks in part to the their 14 goal leading scorer, the Venezuelan Jose Rondon.
Malaga's playing budget for the season is €150 million (Dh795m). It was €25.7 million two seasons ago and expensive new signings have arrived throughout the summer such as Ruud van Nistelrooy, the Dutch striker from Hamburg, the Spanish wingers Santi Cazorla from Villarreal and Joaquin from Valencia, plus Nacho Monreal, the left-back, from Osasuna.
Jeremy Toulalan, the French international, also signed from Lyon. The fans - who had watched games at the 28,000 capacity Rosaleda in increasing numbers last season - spent half of the close season at the stadium seeing the unveiling of players, they could not have previously dreamed of signing.
Malaga spent €60m on new talent during the break, lavishing big time contracts on big time players. They have a squad stuffed with internationals and a European finish is a realistic aim, especially with Valencia's financial problems and Atletico Madrid losing Sergio Aguero and David De Gea.
Malaga also appointed Fernando Hierro, the former Spain international, as general manager to help oversee the project.
They have an early test with an opening league game against Barcelona at home on Saturday night.
Pellegrini, who was appointed last November, hopes to turn his expensive individual acquisitions into a functioning team quickly. So far, he is happy with progress.
"Despite having new players the team has come together quickly around our game plan," the Chilean said.
"We have a serious team that can play Sunday after Sunday, win games and try for the results everyone is expecting."
Cazorla, the club's €21m record signing, said: "Seeing that great players sign here is what attracts a player.
"Van Nistelrooy is a great player and I hope to learn a lot from him. Europe as a goal? It's mine, the club's, the team's, everyone's. The goal is to fight to enter into Europe next season."
Published: August 18, 2011 04:00 AM