x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 20 July 2017

Qatari sheikh buys Malaga for Dh161m

Deal made after months of negotiation and new coach to be appointed soon as Spanish club look to build on escaping relegation last season.

Malaga players celebrate avoiding relegation last season.
Malaga players celebrate avoiding relegation last season.

Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser Al Thani, a member of the Qatar ruling family, has bought the struggling Spanish Primera Liga club Malaga for US$44 million (Dh161m). According to metronews.ca, Sheikh Abdullah was introduced on the pitch of the club's Rosaleda stadium and had told a press conference: "I am overjoyed to be in one of the world's best leagues."

The deal follows months of attempts by the former owner (and ex-Real Madrid president) Fernando Sanz to find a buyer who would be able to invest in the club. Malaga's supporters will see similarities in Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed's purchase of Manchester City, the English Premier League side, in 2008, which was followed by a big investment in the team. Sheikh Abdullah has not ruled out buying elite players but said he hoped the club would be able to groom most of its talent from its youth team.

A new coach is expected to be presented tomorrow. Jesualdo Ferreira, the former Porto coach, reportedly will be named to replace the current manager, Juan Ramon Lopez Muniz. Malaga, who have spent the last two seasons in Spain's top flight, escaped relegation on the final day of last season. Their highest league finish was seventh. They have been a "yo-yo" side over the last 30 years and returned to the top flight again in 2008.

"The agreement has already been notified to the [government-run] Spanish Sports Council and will be completed shortly, given that said public body has provided its verbal approval of the agreement's terms and conditions," the club said on their website. Sheikh Abdullah, 43, manages a business empire based in the UAE which employs around 3,000 people and operates in more than 30 countries. He is also vice chairman of the Doha Bank.

"Our goal is to help Malaga take the necessary steps to consolidate its presence in La Liga and to reinforce the excitement and hopes of the supporters," Sheikh Abdulla said on the club website. The deal had been rumoured in the Qatari press. A business associate of the sheikh, Abdullah Ghubn, said negotiations process had lasted four or five months. "In principle the agreement is to take over the shares owned by Fernando Sanz for a price of 36 million euros that includes the club's debt," Ghubn told Reuters. @Email:apassela@thenational.ae