Malaga's relegation to Segunda was confirmed on Thursday night when they lost 1-0 away to Levante. A goal in the 93rd minute from Emmanuel Boateng sealed their fate, blacking out any vague glimmer of hope of survival in Primera.
The end of the club's golden era came in the cruellest possible way with the late goal after a game in which the Blue and Whites played better than their hosts. Their inability to attack, however, let them down.
Brown Ideye had two good chances in the first half during a period of good pressure from the visitors who knew that defeat would end their ten-year stay in the top flight. The first was a header from a right-wing cross that was easily saved by Oier; the second was an effort at the near post blocked out for a corner. Chory Castro stung the palms of the keeper with a spectacular half volley from the left but Malaga were unable to capitalise on their dominance.
In the second half, Levante were able to get a foothold in the game and they could have taken the lead when Coke headed José Campaña's freekick inches wide of the left post.
However, the knockout blow came late on, just like at the Riazor two weeks previously, when Saša Lukić squeezed the ball across the face of goal from the byline for Emmanuel Boateng to score the winner deep in stoppage time.
“I ask the fans for forgiveness,“ said Malaga head coach José González after the final whistle. “We've not given what was expected, but we gave all that we had.
“The boys are devastated but this will only make them stronger.”
“Not a time for excuses”
Upon their return to Malaga last Friday, the playing squad and the coaching staff called a press conference to apologise to the fans for the disappointment of relegation.
“Today is not the time for making excuses,” said first-team captain Recio, speaking on behalf of the squad. “Today the whole squad would like to let all Malaga fans know that we are sorry for letting them down.”
The skipper went on to say that Malaga CF was a “feeling”, one that all players feel and continue to feel even after leaving.
“Saying 'sorry' isn't enough,” he continued. “Sadly there's no longer a way of getting out of this but we assure you that we will continue to fight for this badge until the final moment.”
No sign of the Al-Thanis
While the players and staff faced the music, there was no sign of anyone belonging to the Al-Thani family.
Club owner Sheikh Abdullah Al-Thani has not been in the city for almost a year while his children, Nasser, Nayef and Hamyan, all directors, have also been absent for the past weeks and months, with no family representation at games since Nayef's presence at the Valencia defeat when he was given his own box for his own protection.
However, Al-Thani senior did take to Twitter to apologise to fans and pledged that “the team will return”.
He also had words, albeit somewhat lost in translation, for Francisco Martín Aguilar, senior consultant, who has been involved with the club for the past 35 years and became centre of attention on Thursday after a video of him crying and being comforted by Levante president Quico Catalán appeared on social media.
For many fans, this heartbreaking image summed up the predicament of the club, with too few involved showing the same commitment as Aguilar.
Despite reaching the lowest point of the last ten years, Malaga CF wasn't short of support, especially from former players.
Isco, from Arroyo de la Miel and now a star with Real Madrid, posted a picture of himself during his time with the club, accompanied by the message: “The feeling never dies. Wherever we are, we always do it. We'll be back.”
Joaquín, another player from the golden era in the Champions League, said: “My heart cries. You'll be back where you belong... I've experienced what you're capable of.”