Relegation to Segunda for Malaga CF has not only left a gaping hole in the finances of the La Rosaleda club after ten years in the top flight, it has also left a city (with some 600,000 residents, plus those on the Costa del Sol) in the unusual situation of being in the second division. Malaga, however, are not alone in Europe. Across the continent there are a number of teams with distinguished pasts now plying their trade outside the elite and still maintain a vast following.
One such team were Malaga's opponents in Marbella just a week ago, Nottingham Forest. European champions in 1979 and 1980, Forest have not played in the first division this milennium (they went down in 1999). A similar thing occurred with Leeds United, Malaga's opponents in the 2003 UEFA Cup, but soon after ran into financial trouble and were relegated. They have not been promoted since.
With more than 15,000 season tickets sold for the coming year (and with hope that this number could rise to 20,000 by the start of the season), Malaga are set to become one of the best-backed second-tier sides in Europe.
Twitter account @DeporFinanzas has created a list showing the attendance figures across the second division teams on the continent. Unsurprisingly this is dominated by English and German teams, with the exception of French side Lens who made it into the top 20 in fifteenth place.
Aston Villa, top of the pile
English side Aston Villa, who missed out on promotion to the Premier League through the play-offs, had the best gate receipts last year with an average home attendance of 32,097. They were one of only three sides to exceed 30,000 - the other two were Leeds and FC Nürnberg. These figures will be out of Malaga's reach, though, with La Rosaleda's capacity at 29,500.
The best Spanish side was Sporting de Gijón, with an average of 20,809 - one of the 22 European clubs with over 20,000. Among the other representatives of La Liga 123 (the Spanish second division) are Real Zaragoza (24th), Real Oviedo (34th), Osasuna (40th), Cordoba (41st) and Tenerife (42nd).
In any case, during the past few weeks, the supporters' groups in the Fondo Sur (South Stand), known as the Grada de Animación, have been promoting a video campaign, which features comedian Tomás García. In it, supporters are encouraged not to be scared to show their love for blue and white and to wear their shirt with the pride of one of the big teams.