Where did it all go wrong at Malaga?

Spain and Malaga attacking-midfielder Isco

The idea for Malaga to release their Champions League kit—or even make one—prior to actually qualifying for the competition proper, seemed a really strange and regrettable move. Yes the club can now consider themselves genuine players in the transfer market, and there’s more than enough reason to believe the team can navigate out of the qualifying group. However, it appears that all is not well at the Andalusian club, with the Qatari owners seeming unwilling to bankroll the team as other owners are doing around Europe.

It started with the departure of Fernando Hierro late last season—a surprise move considering his position and ideas for the future. His parting statement was familiar reading, although not all that familiar when dealing with an apparently highly ambitious club. There was a disagreement in how the club should move forward, and Hierro decided to part with the new-look Malaga.

There should have been a lot of hope going into this next La Liga campaign: Here was a club who might genuinely be able to challenge Barcelona and Real Madrid in the foreseeable future, and they had the manager and players in place to start the process straight away. Champions League qualification was a big plus for the club in allowing them to move forward at pace. Providing they can qualify for the group stage, Malaga will set themselves up as a very desirable destination for some of Europe’s best talent.

Moreover, the club were in a position where the big names such as Robinho were being linked for a move. Ruud van Nistelrooy was a good signing for the short term, but the club really did need a little more star power to build on what they had. Like PSG and Manchester City have done, Malaga really needed to announce themselves Europe-wide.

The recent reports of Malaga’s players going unpaid should be a huge knock to the ambitions of the club, but especially to La Liga as a whole. Doubt is starting to creep, and Malaga could be just another one of those clubs who failed to match the might of the biggest two in Spain. More worrying, the club’s owner seems extremely reluctant to build on the promising summer of last year.

Just 12-months removed from signing one of La Liga’s stars, Malaga are reportedly willing to let Santi Cazorla go. With him will go their status as a genuine big club among Spain’s top-flight, and without a draw like Santi Cazorla, where does that leave a club with seemingly big hopes for the future.

In contrast to City and PSG, Malaga have gone about their rebuilding process in a slightly quieter manner, preferring to remain modest with their transfer fees (at least in today’s climate) and really only breaking the bank for the former Villarreal midfielder. The Champions League should have been an entrance into a greater market, allowing the club to show themselves as another major contender among Europe’s richest.

The truth is, Malaga do not have the foundation of PSG, Manchester City or even Atletico Madrid, for example. La Rosaleda holds less than 30,000, and the club’s name isn’t backed by a major European city. The owner seems afraid to dip into his wealth and help move the club another step up the ladder, rather insisting that the club sell it’s assets to address it’s debt.

Maybe Hierro saw that there was little future in the club, or at least that success wouldn’t come as quickly as some had hoped. Malaga are currently a great number of steps behind Manchester City and PSG, and the current issue regarding 40% of player wages still owed only acts as a blanket to what may be in the near future.

There’s a fair amount of uncertainty surrounding the club now, rather than a clear vision of what the targets should have been for the upcoming season. With the economy in Spain and the problems over revenue distribution in La Liga, lack of decisive ownership may see Malaga become just another hopeful to fall by the wayside.