Are Malaga in crisis?
It has been just two years since it was announced that Andalusian outfit Malaga had followed in the footsteps of Premier League champions Manchester City by being taken over by a rich Qatari based consortium. Sheik Abdullah bin Nasser Al-Thani acquired the perennial relegation strugglers in Spain’s top flight in June 2010 and since then there has been wholesale change at the club with sizeable names such as Ruud Van Nistelrooy, Joaquin, Santi Cazorla and Julio Baptista agreeing to join the club. The takeover however was not to be a case of simply purchasing superstars in the hope they will automatically achieve success a la ‘The Harlem Globetrotters’ but it was to be much more a case of calculated and sensible spending with players being brought in who may not have necessarily been the most fashionable name but the ones most likely to do a job for the team for example the signing of cultured French midfielder Jeremy Toulalan from Olympique Lyonnais. It would be naive to believe that Malaga did not flex their newfound financial muscle in the transfer market with their wage structure being increased dramatically to accommodate the new players and this is what has caused the rumoured financial problems that have engulfed the club this summer. However following two years of getting a squad together and finding the right coach which they seemingly have now done in the form of former Real Madrid manager Manuel Pellegrini, Malaga achieved their goal and qualified for UEFA Champions League football for the 2012-2013 campaign providing they come through the play-off stage of the competition.
Things appeared to be completely rosy at La Rosaleda as Malaga looked set to prepare for their first ever season in the Champions League although no major waves had been made in the transfer market as yet this summer by the Qatari owned club, however the clubs pre season preparation was thrown into disarray when it was leaked that up to four members of the first team squad had filed official complaints in relation to a certain percentage (rumoured to be around 40%) of their wages from last season not having been paid. It was later revealed that these complaints had been made by players who were key to Malaga’s current squad and future plans with explosive midfielder Santi Cazorla and Venezuelan forward Salomon Rondon being two of the players whose wages had yet to be paid in full. The news of this failure to pay wages in full quickly spread throughout Europe with Malaga rumoured to be on the cusp of a financial meltdown and this further led to vulture esque behaviour from other clubs with teams rumoured to be interested in taking advantage of Malaga’s apparently perilous financial predicament by purchasing the club’s most prized assets on the cheap. However as the situation has progressed it has been confirmed by Malaga that all the players who had filed a complaint about their wages not being paid in full had in fact withdrawn their complaints and as far as Malaga were concerned the matter was now closed. This was in fact an interesting development in the sense that a matter of this importance could be dealt with in such a time efficient manner and many are still questioning whether or not the problems have gone away or whether they have been brushed under the carpet.
There may well still be a hangover from this saga with the relationship between Malaga and the key players in question potentially strained beyond repair, Santi Cazorla has already attracted significant interest from London rivals Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur with Spurs looking to try and replace the creativity that they look set to lose with the impending departure of Luka Modric to Real Madrid. Spurs’ interest in Cazorla appears to have intensified since the news broke yesterday that Luka Modric had gone AWOL and not travelled with Spurs on their pre season tour to the United States of America as he looks to force through a move to the Spanish champions. Although the potential loss of their key players may be the least of Malaga’s worries with the unpaid wage debacle bringing to light potential flaws in their as yet perfect financial plan in the two years following the Qatari takeover, if there was indeed a financial crisis at Malaga it could well spell the end of the good times at La Rosaleda before they have even started, the spine of their successful squad would have to be sold in order to raise funds and they would be replaced by players of a lesser quality who would command lower wages. If this was to be the case you would have to feel for Malaga who have waited a long long time to dine at Spain’s top table and you would find it hard to begrudge a team that has to compete annually with the might of Barcelona and Real Madrid a little success.
Malaga have come forward and stated they are not in a position to listen to offers for their star players which suggests to the public that rumours of an apparent financial crisis are quite far off the mark and the recent payment dispute may have been merely a blip of the Andalusian’s radar as they look to conquer Europe next season however it will be interesting to see whether after a player has filed a complaint against his employers the relationship will continue as it had during the course of the previous twelve months and it is this that will contribute to whether or not either Cazorla or Rondon leave for pastures new. It remains to be seen whether Malaga are actually in crisis and a lot will depend on how they act this summer in the transfer market, if it is to be a summer where they do not continue to spend big it will lead many to point to a financial crisis at the club which many have already started to do, and this will only be intensified should Cazorla and Rondon leave the club without suitable replacements being brought in, however at this time any potential financial crisis at Malaga appears to be a result of a misunderstanding regarding payment and intense media speculation following that, only time will tell whether Malaga are genuinely in the midst of a crisis.
Written by Chris Winterburn