Every cloud has a silver lining. Young Malaga striker Youssef En-Nesyri, who had to endure relegation in his first full season with the club, has seen his efforts rewarded after being included in Morocco's final World Cup squad on Monday.
En-Nesyri, who was called up as a reserve in Hervé Renard's original squad, has taken the place of defender Badr Banoun as the French coach opted to accommodate an extra attacker, despite not taking part in any of the warm-up games so far.
Renard said: “I have decided to take three centre backs with [Caen midfielder Youssef] Aït Bennasser also capable of playing there. En-Nesyri is a very hard worker and will offer us the fighting spirit we will need.”
The Fez-born striker, who became Malaga's first-choice forward at the turn of the year following the appointment of José González as head coach, scored a total of four goals in 25 league appearances.
En-Nesyri, who has just turned 21, broke into the first team after a successful preseason under Juande Ramos ahead of the 2016-17 season. He scored six goals over that summer, earning him a contract extension and a promotion to the first-team set-up.
However, only sporadic appearances, mainly off the bench, would follow for the remainder of that campaign. This year, though, as Malaga searched desperately for goals, En-Nesyri was forced into the spotlight, usurping the likes of Borja Bastón and Adalberto Peñaranda to lead the front line.
En-Nesyri is Malaga CF's only representative at the World Cup. The South Africa edition in 2010 was the last time current Malaga players received the call from their country. They were Danish full-back Patrick Mtiliga, Portuguese midfielder Duda and Nigerian striker Victor Obinna.