Crowds of football fans and wellwishers packed into the Plaza del Ayuntamiento in the Guadalhorce town of Pizarra on Tuesday to welcome home a local hero. Dani Pacheco, 27, has signed a three-year contract with Malaga CF and, instead of an official unveiling in the city, he opted to dress for the first time in his new blue and white strip in front of his family, friends and fellow 'Pizarreños'.
Local youngsters lined up to watch the player as he emerged from the town hall after the official unveiling event, juggling a ball with his feet and showing his delight at his new post close to home.
Earlier, in the council chamber, surrounded by reporters, photographers, relatives, the local mayor Felix Lozano and town councillors, the attacking midfielder expressed his satisfaction and gratitude.
"I couldn't be happier. Since I left [Pacheco went from the Barcelona youth academy to Liverpool, Norwich, Rayo Vallecano, Huesca, Alcorcón, Betis, Alavés and Getafe] this is the first real chance I've had to come home and it wasn't easy. It went on for days. I'm grateful to the club for its efforts. Caminero [the sports director] knows there were many calls and conversations. I wanted to be here and the club wanted me to be here," said the player.
Wearing the number 22 on his back, Pacheco is seen as something of a good omen, after four teams he has played for were promoted to top divisions while he was in their ranks: Betis, Getafe and Alavés in Spain and Norwich City in the UK.
"I'm sure [getting promoted] with Malaga would be even more special," he said on Tuesday, before signing autographs and taking photographs with the fans who braved the heat to welcome him home.
Unfortunately for Pacheco, however, neither he nor fellow new signing Mamadou Koné have been officially registered as players yet due to the salary cap regulations. This means that some of the other players with contracts who the club is trying to sell must go first.
The situation has not been resolved in time for the newcomers to play against Alcorcón at La Rosaleda on Friday night.