Almost 110 days have passed since then sporting director Mario Husillos sat down for a meeting in Valencia to gauge the interest of Juan Ramón Muñiz in taking over as Malaga head coach. Muñiz, who had just been sacked as Levante boss, had his reservations, but now, almost four months later, the vacancy has been filled by the man who had been the favourite all along.
Muñiz signed a two-year contract on Wednesday morning to lead Malaga CF, albeit only as a head coach, not in the general manager role mooted (and then discarded by owner Sheikh Abdullah Al-Thani) a matter of weeks ago - the second time Malaga approached the 49-year-old.
While it looked like the move would never come to fruition and the club’s new sporting director José Luis Caminero started to shortlist candidates once again, Muñiz’s name returned to the table after his family made it clear to the coach that their heart was set on a return to the city and that they were devastated when it fell through. What’s more, Muñiz was the first choice of Husillos, club consultants Abdallah Ben Barek and Antonio Benítez, Al-Thani and now Caminero.
This is the Asturian’s third spell in charge of the team. Muñiz was first at the club as assistant to Juande Ramos in 2003, before taking up a role as head coach with neighbours Marbella. However, he returned to Malaga as coach in 2006 and earned promotion to La Liga for the Blue and Whites in the 2007/08 season.
Shortly after, he joined Racing Santander but was released at the end of the season and returned to Malaga for a short-lived second spell in late 2010 where he led them to safety but was not kept on after a last-gasp 17th-place finish just before Al-Thani’s arrival at the club heralded a new era and the appointment of Jesualdo Ferreira.
Muñiz then travelled to Ukraine to the reunited with Juande Ramos at Dnipro, where he acquired a detailed knowledge of the European market.
In 2015, he was appointed Alcarcón boss, earning a move to Levante the following season with whom he gained promotion back to La Liga in his first season. Their return didn’t go to plan, however, and Muñiz was relieved of his duties this May.
However, it is his experience of twice earning promotion back to the big time, as well as his close ties with the club, which attracted Malaga.
Even though fans were calling for his head at the end of his second spell in charge, his work in getting Malaga to La Liga in 2008 has not gone unnoticed. During a time in which he was also acting as sporting director, Muñiz restructured the squad completely and turned the side, which narrowly escaped relegation to the third tier the year before, into one that finished second, an automatic promotion spot.
Muñiz will be officially presented later today, Wednesday.