Romero: "I'm capable of taking this project forward"

Romero (right) with sporting director Francesc Arnau
Romero (right) with sporting director Francesc Arnau / P. Hérvele
  • The new head coach has a lot on his plate as he looks to build on a stop-start first half of the season

Marcelo 'Gato' Romero was presented as Juande Ramos' replacement as head coach last Friday and was keen to get on with business. He came across as humble, yet showed conviction that he is the right man for the job. He is, after all, not a beginner in the world of football.

"I know there were a lot of names in the hat," he said, "but the sheikh [owner Abdullah Al-Thani] saw the situation clearly. He knows how I work with groups so I think he has got the decision right and I am grateful for his confidence in me."

Romero, who first joined the club as a player in 2001, believes that now is his time. "I'm close to the players, I know the team and I'm capable of taking this project forward."

'El Gato', as he is known, rejoined the club as assistant manager to Javi Gracia and is now in his third year after being kept on by Juande Ramos when he took the helm in the summer. After having his playing career prematurely curtailed because of injury, the Uruguayan returned to southern Spain to coach in the lower leagues.

"I am a grafter," he said. "I always have been and I have to continue showing that. I know that many will have their doubts [about his credentials] but that is an extraordinary motivation for me. I will try my hardest to show that it wasn't a mistake to hire me."

Romero inherits a side sitting in eleventh place, having only won five of the first 16 matches. His biggest challenge will be to create a clear identity for his charges who have often looked like strangers to one another since the departure of Javi Gracia. The 40-year-old wouldn't be drawn on how his team would play, only stating that the Blue and Whites would be "competitive" and "committed".

Problem positions

With a lengthy injury list, he will find it hard to find a settled line-up, for the time being, at least. But his most pressing selection dilemma is in the goalkeeping department. Denys Boyko has been unconvincing since replacing the error prone Carlos Kameni between the sticks, but Romero refused to answer the question, simply stating "the one in best shape will play".

With the departure of Weligton confirmed, Malaga's defence will now be under even greater scrutiny, especially as Diego Llorente and Bakary Koné have struggled when called upon.

It is expected that the faith shown in youth will continue, mainly through necessity, but also because of Romero's role in helping the progression of the likes of Javi Ontiveros and Pablo Fornals.

However, a foray into the transfer market is inevitable, with sporting director Francesc Arnau, who played with Romero and who was present at the press conference saying that the club was looking to add "quality and quantity" during this January window.