The best Málaga CF in team in history

The luck of having a millionaire investor in your football club can turn out to be a coin toss as it can cause you great economic and institutional problems or bring unprecedented successes. In this last group we have well-known cases such as Abramovich with Chelsea, Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha (yes, I wrote it on the first try) at Leicester City or Silvio Berlusconi at AC Milan, if we go a little further back in time.

Normally, behind the acquisition of a football club, there are different interests, from those who aspire to increase their fortune using the club as a business to those who seek sporting success either because of their desire for personal success or because of their love for the team. In the case of Málaga, it seems that there was a mixture of several of these elements that we mentioned. The club touched the sky but then the fall was quite strong.

Málaga CF

The history of the Málaga club is centuries old and covers several name changes as well as mergers with other clubs or separations to form independent clubs, as well as a long record of promotions and relegations.

Although they had some good teams like the one from the early 2000s, which played in Europe for the first time, there is no doubt that the one led by Manuel Pellegrini between 2010 and 2013 has been the most outstanding in the history of the institution. The Chilean manager arrived in Málaga with the help of Abdullah bin Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani (Al Thani for friends), a Qatari businessman and part of the royal family of that country, who had just bought the club for around 35 million euros.

Manuel Pellegrini

Manuel Pellegrini

Pellegrini began to become known in South America, first in his own country, then in Ecuador and Argentina, winning trophies in all of those countries. In 2004 he arrived in Spain, specifically at Villarreal, leading a solid team that reached a Champions League semi-final in 2006. His excellent work led him to Real Madrid, as the first manager for the second presidency of Florentino Pérez, who brought Benzema, Cristiano Ronaldo, Kaká and Xabi Alonso, among others.

He would remain with Los Blancos for only one season despite having reached a historic score in the league for the club up to that date (96 points) since they suffered elimination against Olympique Lyon in the round of 16 of the Champions League (something that affected the Chilean's image within the club) and the famous "Alcorconazo" in the Copa del Rey where a third-division side eliminated them. After that, he would be hired by Málaga.

A new Málaga

The Chilean manager arrived to be the one to lead the team that Al Thani wanted to form and for that some important signings were made in the 2010-11 season such as Julio Baptista, Martin Demichelis and Salomón Rondón. It was a big renovation since there was a significant amount of both player signings and sales, although the final result was 11th place in the league (the previous season they barely escaped relegation by finishing in the 17th position) and the elimination in the round of 16 of the Copa del Rey.

However, the radical change occurred in the following season when Málaga made a strong investment in the transfer market and brought in players such as Santi Cazorla (main Villarreal star at the time), Jeremy Toulalan (French international), Nacho Monreal, Isco (a then-young promise of the Valencia), Ruud Van Nistelrooy (veteran goalscorer from Hamburg), Kameni (goalkeeper with a lot of experience at RCD Espanyol) and Joaquín (a Valencia star).

With all these signings, the team took a considerable leap in quality that allowed them to reach a historic fourth place in the Spanish league that meant their qualification, for the first time, to the UEFA Champions League, and going to the previous round. Pellegrini brought in players with significant international experience such as Javier Saviola, Roque Santa Cruz and Diego Lugano to face the new challenge. In the qualification phase of the Champions League, Panathinaikos from Greece awaited them, against whom Málaga only needed a 2-0 victory at home to be able to eliminate them and reach the Group stage of the highest European competition.

There they were paired with the Russian Zenit St.Petersburg, Anderlecht from Belgium and the 7-time champion of the competition, AC Milan. With 3 wins and 3 draws, the Malacitan club qualified first in the group and undefeated, leading them to face a two-time champion of the tournament in the round of 16, FC Porto. The Portuguese won 1-0 (Moutinho) at the Estádio do Dragão but the goals from Isco and Santa Cruz in the second leg allowed them to continue advancing and making history.

Málaga's La Rosaleda Stadium
Málaga's La Rosaleda Stadium

Borussia Dortmund

Once again, a Champions League champion was Málaga's opponent, this time in the quarterfinals. La Rosaleda experienced a unique night in which they received a Borussia Dortmund team with important names such as Ilkay Gündogan, Robert Lewandowski, Mario Götze, Marco Reus, Mats Hummels and Nuri Sahin in addition to Jürgen Klopp as their manager on the dugout. The result of the first leg was a 0-0 draw, leaving everything to be decided at Signal Iduna Park. In the second leg, Joaquín put Málaga ahead and Lewandowski equalized after a great pass from Reus, to end the first half with a 1-1 draw.

In the 82nd minute, Eliseu scored 2-1 after a shot from Baptista, which seemed to put Pellegrini's team on track for qualification. However, Dortmund pressed and attacked until Reus scored the equalizer in the 91st minute. With the 2-2 scored, Málaga qualified by away goals but in the 94th minute, in a very controversial play, Felipe Santana scored the winning goal for Dortmund. A goal that today, with the VAR system, would have been cancelled, was what prevented Málaga from seeing a Champions League semi-final.

Málaga today

The club is currently playing in the third tier of Spanish football after many financial problems involving Al Thani, whose initial investment was reduced after the end of the 2012-13 season, in addition to some other irregular situations that have led him to be tried in courts. All of this led to progressively the most outstanding players like Pellegrini himself leaving Málaga and little by little the club's level was lowering.
Kelvin Tingling knows most things about football and also likes to write about it. Kelvin lives in Buenos Aires and his favorite team is Boca Juniors.