Just as we thought the signings of Brown Ideye, Isaac Success and Maxime Lestienne had brought a close to a record-breaking transfer window, Malaga have secured yet another recruit: Mehdi Lacen is the eighth player through to the door at La Rosaleda this winter.
After the club missed out on the signing of Turkish defender Ahmet Çalik from Galatasaray by minutes (and their appeal was unsuccessful), sporting director Mario Husillos turned his focus towards the free-agent market.
With head coach José González insisting upon a player who would adapt quickly, Husillos moved to wrap up a deal for veteran holding midfielder Lacen who was released by Getafe on deadline day after six-and-a-half years at the club. Three days later, he was passing a medical and signing a five-month deal with Malaga with the possibility of an extension should he feature in a set number of fixtures between now and the end of the season.
The Algerian, who has been to two World Cups, trained with the team on Saturday and was immediately included in the squad that travelled to Las Palmas for Monday’s relegation ‘six-pointer’.
A change in strategy
While the lack of depth at the back has been left unaddressed, the availability of Lacen presented a different opportunity for Malaga - to strengthen in midfield.
With Zdravko Kuzmanovic and Esteban Rolón below the required physical standard, José Recio and Manuel Iturra are seen as the only reliable options in central midfield (González sees Adrián as an attacker).
What’s more, this is also a marked change from the strategy in the summer when owner Sheikh Abdullah Al-Thani scuppered a move for Javi García based on his age (he turns 31 on Thursday) in favour of the inexperienced youngsters, Emanuel Cecchini and Esteban Rolón.
Cecchini has since left the club on loan, while Rolón is well down the pecking order. Their places have now been taken by Iturra and Lacen, both 33.