The imminent exodus at Malaga

Posted: May 29, 2013 in La Liga
                                                 Joaquin & Isco – the two starlets that Malaga won’t be holding on to this summer.
                                                 
Before reading this, if you’ve seen this on SWOL, I’m the same writer. 

With one game left in La Liga, as of writing this, Malaga have all but confirmed a Europa League place. If the court overrule UEFA’s ban, then they’ll be in the competition next season. In a season that’s been hectic, brilliant and overridden with politics (welcome to Spain), the Malaga fans have stood strong and by their side; a side which has showcased some outstanding talents, ones that had already shone at previous clubs and others that had made their breakthrough with Malaga. This team, in the club’s first season in the champions league, were four minutes of added time away from progressing to the semi-finals. Sheikh Abdullah al Thani, the owner of Malaga, in a burst of utter stupidity following the cruel defeat to Borussia Dortmund, claimed UEFA were racist; to this day, no one’s even deciphered where any sort of racism was present. There were talks of UEFA getting together to ensure that Malaga were to be knocked out before the semi-finals because of their Champions League ban – this stemmed from the fact that Dortmund had scored an offside goal, but Malaga had done the same a few minutes prior to that. Amidst all the controversy, the team and fans have stuck together and done well in the league, having put all their eggs in the champions league basket. For a defeat as demoralising as it was, Malaga have gone on to register three wins, a draw and three losses – not the best, but fairly well taking into consideration the whole champions league saga.

Amidst the fairy-tale run, silly outbursts from the owner and a good league campaign, the Malaga fans have all but braced themselves for the storm that’s coming in terms of players leaving La Rosaleda. The well-documented Isco is the first name on anyone’s lips when speaking about Malaga. The Spanish midfielder has made waves in La Liga this season with his impeccable vision, footwork and quite stunning goals. It’s quite mind-boggling as to why no one tried to sign him in the January transfer window when his release clause was at a mere €17.5M; those who pondered on signing him will be kicking themselves now as Isco went on to sign a contract extension in the last week of January which bumped his release clause up to €35M. This wasn’t a sign of loyalty from Isco, as much as it was made out to be in the press conference when this news was released, but more of a masterstroke from the Malaga board in order double his price tag and make sure they’d get a worthwhile amount of money when he leaves. Malaga’s sporting director, Mario Husillos, stated in the press conference that many European clubs have looked into signing Isco all season. But where will Isco end up? There have been rumours floating around that he’s been spotted with Real Madrid representatives in order to manufacture a move to the Spanish capital. This is where the problem starts arising for Malaga: they’ll undoubtedly want him to move abroad as it’d stop the player from coming back to haunt them and strengthen other teams in the league. The problem is, Isco is suited perfectly to the Spanish game – it’d be foolish for him to move abroad, unless something special were to happen (discussed later in this post) – so Real Madrid would be the perfect move for him. Florentino Perez came out this week saying that Real Madrid have Kaka, Ozil and Modric and won’t be needing someone like Isco for the time being. The flawed thing about that comment is the fact that Kaka is almost certain to leave in the summer, whilst Modric hasn’t exactly set the world alight since joining for big money from Tottenham Hotspur.

But there’s one place in England that Isco could end up at: Manchester City. The solid rumours that Manuel Pellegrini will be filling the vacant managerial spot in Manchester is one of the reasons why I think Isco may end up under the tutalege of a man he’s recently described as his “footballing father”. Pellegrini showed faith in Isco, a youngster who couldn’t really breakthrough at Valencia, and gave him a chance as the focal point in Malaga’s midfield following Santi Cazorla’s departure. Pellegrini is going to be the biggest miss of all for Malaga; managers like him aren’t aplenty in football. He gets his team together, ensures that they all bond as friends and team-mates, and is fantastic at man-managing players. Tactically, as we saw against Dortmund, he is one of the best in Europe. The stark contrast between him and Mourinho was there for all to see against Dortmund. Pellegrini had a game plan and stuck by it throughout the two legs: keep a clean-sheet at home, get an early goal in Germany and play on the counter. And it nearly worked. Mourinho didn’t have any sort of plan; he went to Germany, not really adjusting his side to play better against the Germans, but instead stuck with his usual formation and team and expected to roll Dortmund over; they lost 4-1. The potential link-up of those two in Manchester softens the blow for Malaga as they wouldn’t be strengthening any sides in La Liga.

The lesser-profile names, to those who don’t follow La Liga, will be equally as damaging to Malaga as the aforementioned names. Jeremy Toulalan, in a period in football in which there’s a lack of classic defensive-midfielders and more pivot partners which share duties, is one of the best defensive-midfielders in La Liga. At the age of 29, his experience in France, at international level and in Spain means that he’ll be one of the first names on a club’s defensive-midfielders to buy list. For a mere €10M, Malaga will be losing one of their most consistent players; Atletico Madrid look odds-on favourites to land the French defensive-midfielder. Malaga’s other defensive midfielder, Ignacio Camacho, is one who may actually stay if Toulalan leaves. For €8M, it’s no surprise that teams like Arsenal, who are lacking some bite in midfield, are looking towards this 23-year-old Spaniard to add some steel to their midfield.

Two of the biggest losses will be Joaquin and Demichelis. The former looks all but set to join Fiorentina whilst we’re led to believe that 32-year-old centre-back, Demichelis, will be moving back to his boyhood club, River Plate. Those are the two over-thirty players who are extremely vital to this Malaga side’s great achievements this season. Joaquin still plays like he’s in his early twenties, which’ll be a massive trait that Fiorentina will undoubtedly tap in to and exploit.

There’s not much Malaga can do to keep this players as the club seems to be in deep problems with money and may decline next season – mostly due to the players they’ll be losing. Whilst many will be walking out of the revolving doors, there’s a few who’ll be coming in. One of which is Antunes, who’s been one of the best left-backs in La Liga since joining on loan from P.Ferreira in January, he’s rumoured to have a release clause of a little under €2M. The biggest change that Malaga have to ensure goes down well and efficiently is the appointment of a new manager. Replacing Pellegrini is a tough task, but they need to make sure that they bring someone in who shares the same qualities as the Chilean. It’s a time where Malaga will have to look towards their cantera (academy) and start promoting some talented youth players in order to see them through this transitional change.

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