The Story so Far: Project Malaga


I’m sure, football fans across the globe were put on alert as two mighty projects were launched in Spain and France. The football world is rapidly falling prey to the “Big Property Showoff” between Russian oligarchs and Arab Sheikhs, Malaga and Paris Saint Germain are the latest renowned clubs from La Liga and Ligue 1 to be acquired.

Bankrolled by virtually endless money, these projects have been launched with the aim of bringing silverware to the gold laden countries in the middle east by virtue of winning club football championships and tournaments in European leagues.

Both clubs having been acquired by the Royal family members from the middle east, have undergone a total revamp on the pitch, coaches and backroom staff. Both the clubs have acquired prized signings, Santi Cazorla and Javier Pastore, have been going through a season of mixed performances.

We’ll look at both the Projects in this two legged blog. First lets have a look at Project Malaga.

A member of the Qatari Royal Family, Sheikh Abdullah Bin Nassar Al-Thani purchased Malaga for a reported 36 million euros on June 11, 2010. He announced his arrival a year ago with low key optimism and said, “Our goal is to help Malaga take the necessary steps to consolidate its presence in La Liga”, than saying that Malaga has arrived on the European scene and is ready to rub shoulders against the likes of Barca and Real. Well, foreign investment or acquisition seems to be the only way for the small teams in Spain to take heads on with big two due to their unfair TV rights system.

After securing the services of Manuel Pellegrini in November 10, club took its first steps towards the stability by signing Bayern’s Demichelis (on loan), Atletico’s Asenjo, and ex-Seville, Arsenal and Real Madrid hit man Julio ‘the Beast’ Baptista.

After a humiliating defeat by Barca’s B team on the final day of the 10-11 season, this season has been marked as a launch of the “Malaga Project”, and Ruud van Nistelrooy from Hamburg, french medio Jeremy Toulalan from Lyon, right back Sergio Sanchez from Sevilla, left back Nacho Monreal from Osasuna, centre back Joris Mathijsen too from Hamburg, Isco from Valencia, Joaquin Sanchez (once named Spanish Figo) with his unfulfilled promises arrived. Demichelis’ loan was made permanent and then Malaga confirmed it’s marquee signing Santi Cazorla from Villareal. This all zing bang arrived for no less than 52 million euros.

Although Malaga are sitting in the 8th place with 28 points, just 3 points behind 4th placed Levante and Champions League playoff round spot, there are worrying points.

1) The Form,

2) Goals at both the ends.

The season has been one with ups and downs. They started with a loss away at Sevilla, followed by 3 wins in a row (vs Granada, Mallorca and Bilbao), a draw and a win again (vs Getafe), propelling them to 4th place.

Then the wheels came off. Malaga played next three games vs extremely cash strapped Levante, giants Real Madrid and a neighborhood club Rayo Vallecano and lost all 3, conceding 9 goals and scoring nothing in reply.

Next 4 games saw a win against Espanyol, draw against Betis and two consecutive wins against Racing Santander and Villarreal.

June when the things seem to have got back on track, Malaga hit a form which can be termed no less than a calamity. A set of next 3 matches before the winter break saw them  losing dramatically to Real Sociedad in 91st minute to an incredible goal, drawing to Osasuna and losing tamely to Valencia. Meanwhile they managed to see off Getafe over two legs in round of 32 of Copa Del Rey.

The return from the winter break was equally disastrous. The draw to Atletico Madrid was sandwiched between losses to Real Madrid in both the legs of Copa Del Rey round of 16. Malaga lost again to Sporting Gijon and got trounced 1-4 at home to Barcelona. They finally beat Sevilla 2-1 at home on 29th Jan 12, which was their first victory since 28th Nov 11.

Till today in January window, Carlos Kameni, once highly rated goalkeeper from Espanyol has been signed.

Pellegrini seem to have settled on 4-4-1-1 formation. Caballero in goal, Jesus, Demichelis, Mathijsen, Monreal in the back, Joaquin on wide right, Duda and Toulalan in the centre and Santi Cazorla on the left. Teenager Isco is being preferred ahead of Baptista, Juanmi to play behind striker Van Nistelrooy.

However there doesn’t seem to be any consistency in the starting line up. Only Martin Demichelis  has started in all the 24 games. Toulalan has made 22 starts, Mathijsen 19. At right back, Jesus Gamez has made 15 starts where Sergio Sanchez has made 10 starts (9 RB, 1 CB). The story at the left side of the defence is same. Monreal has started in 14 games and Eliseu in 10. Joaquin on the right has started 14 times where as Seba has started in 9 games in the same position. Cazorla has started 17 games on the left, 4 in the center and one on the right. Ruud has started in just 14 games.

The goals are coming in far lesser numbers than expected out of this attacking line up. Malaga has scored only 24 goals in 20 league matches and 5 in 4 Copa del Rey fixtures. 16 of those 24 have come at home and 8 away. No less than 15 players have been on the scoresheet.

Santi Cazorla is leading the pack with 4 goals and 6 assists, all of the goals have come in first 4 matches, leaving him with a barren spell of 20 matches. Seba, Rondon and Ruud van Nistelrooy all have scored 3 goals each.

At the back, Malaga have shipped a whooping 29 goals in 20 League matches, 14 of them being conceded at home and 15 away. Malaga’s Home and Away form has hit a strange symmetry. Having played 10 games each, home and away, their record reads 6-2-2 at home and 2-2-6 on the roads.

Although Malaga has made a mixed start, with 18 games still to go, they’ve got to get some stability and right balance. The players surely need to lift the game and in turn lift Malaga up the table with an ambition to compete in European tournaments next season.

With Fernando Hierro as a Sporting Director, gritty coach like Manuel Pellegrini, stars like Santi Cazorla and Sheikh Abdullah Bin Nassar Al-Thani’s limitless money at disposal, nothing seems out of bounds.

We will have to wait and see when the Project Malaga really kicks off.

to be continued with Project Saint Germain.

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