If Malaga were ever to rise, it would have to be a huge spectacle. And so it has become.
The Andalusian club has certainly raised it’s recent profile after it’s solid performances on the pitch. Four wins and two draws would not be something that the club’s Chilean coach Manuel Pellegrini had expected nor did many of us after the club faced a few stressful months prior to the start of the season.
At first, it was the management-admitted reports of players not being paid. There were four in specific, Santi Cazorla, Joris Mathijsen, Salomon Rondon and Ruud Van Nistelrooy. All four of whom have either left the club or retired (Van Nistelrooy).
Then there was the official complaint lodged with the UEFA by Villareal on deferred payments (€3.5 million) on the sale of current Arsenal playmaker Santi Cazorla, to the club owned by the Qatari royalty.
The final blow came in the form of top players being sold. Players like Santi Cazorla moved on to Arsenal and the club’s top scorer last season – Venezuelan Salomon Rondon to Russian side Rubin Kazan.
However, as the current standings show, this was not to deter the Los Boquerones from putting up a fight to maintain the club’s dignity. With shrewd activity in the transfer market with the likes of Argentinean Saviola, Chilean Iturra and Cameroonian GK Kameni coming in for free along with the club’s loan signees, American defender Onyewu and Paraguayan Santa Cruz, Pelligrini’s men have comfortably substituted the star players who took Malaga to a fourth league finish and a shot at Champions League.
How has the team managed to transform itself so far?
The defense is worth mentioning. In the first six matches, Malaga had conceded only two goals. Although, none of the games were played against the top tier teams, it is still notable. The partnership between the two South American center backs – Weligton & DeMichelis had been rock solid just like it was last season.
Up front, you have the South American trio of Javier Saviola, Santa Cruz and Fernández leading the pack. The more experienced players like Joaquin, Eliseu and Toulalan and the younger generation of Spaniards – Ignacio Camacho, Isco and Portillo, support them. It is good to see Joaquin, who at one point was considered to be one of the best wingers in the world, come out and enjoy playing football they way he used to. This attack managed to smack three goals on Russian side Zenit in their debut Champions League game.
All this while the beast is yet to feature. The career of Julio Baptista, who had scored 10 goals in 15 games since his move to Malaga, has been plagued with injuries. The Los Boquerones will be anxiously waiting for his return to full fitness.
Do not be surprised if you observe Isco’s name being mentioned quite often in this spell of La Liga. The 20-yr-old attacking midfielder, Francisco Román Alarcón Suárez has managed to score three goals in nine games. That does not do justice to the type of performance the kid has put in his shifts.
There is still a long way to go to construct any sort of positive criticism for the team as we have seen teams rise and fall throughout the season in the past. With Anderlecht (Champions League), Atlético Madrid, Milan (Champions League), Real Valladolid and Espanyol in the immediate fixtures, the true resolve to survive will be witnessed here.
But for now, Malaga will need to sustain it’s momentum and pile up on as many points as possible before the harsh winter fixtures kick in.