x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Supporters breathe easy as Malaga ship steadies

The omens are good. Finally, Malaga fans can relax and enjoy the moment.

Malaga's players share a light moment in training at the Rosaleda stadium.
Malaga's players share a light moment in training at the Rosaleda stadium.

Malaga fans could not have hoped for any more six weeks ago. Following a close season when they should have been at their happiest having qualified for Champions League for the first time, they were instead worried that their club was going to implode.

Star players, such as the winger Santi Cazorla and the striker Jose Rondon were sold in what appeared to be the first stage of a fire sale, other expensively assembled stars complained they had not had their full wages paid, while rival clubs claimed they were owed money from transfers.

To compound the situation, local media reported that the club was up for sale and Malaga's Qatari owner - Sheikh Abdullah bin Nassar - did little to dampen the speculation by saying nothing.

That was then. Malaga did not implode. The government confiscated some of the money from Cazorla's transfer to Arsenal to pay debts, while Uefa withheld prize money for others.

Vague assurances were given by the owners that the they had to make adjustments ahead of the implementation of Uefa's Financial Fair Play, but the bulk of the team which finished fourth last season was retained under Manuel Pellegrini, the coach.

They also signed the Argentine striker Javier Saviola and then started the league in excellent form with three wins and a draw from their first four games.

Saviola scored and was man of the match in Saturday's 3-1 win against Levante which lifted Malaga to second in the table.

No Primera Liga team have conceded fewer goals than Malaga so far, but their most important triumph of this season was against Panathinaikos, a victory which ensured they qualified for the Champions League group stage.

Malaga will play alongside AC Milan, Anderlecht and Zenit Saint Petersburg, who spent €80 million (Dh360m) on two players - Axel Witzel, from Benfica, and Hulk, from Porto - in the transfer window.

The Russians visit Malaga, who spent a similar amount in the 2011 transfer window, tonight at a sold-out Rosaleda. That is the Zenit whom Saviola scored three against while playing for Sevilla. The omens are good. Finally, Malaga fans can relax and enjoy the moment.

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