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Unsettling times for Malaga as post-season shake-up begins

Malaga CF's sporting director, Manonlo Gaspar, in a recent photograph taken in La Rosaleda stadium.
Malaga CF's sporting director, Manonlo Gaspar, in a recent photograph taken in La Rosaleda stadium. / MIGUE FERNÁNDEZ
  • The elation of avoiding relegation remains fresh in the memory, but a precarious financial situation means the club hierarchy will be forced to take tough decisions

Malaga's on-field fight to remain in the Segunda División may be won, but perhaps a more strenuous battle still awaits - to stabilise the club financially while preparing a competitive squad for next season.

In charge of balancing the books are Manolo Gaspar, the club's sporting director, and legal administrator José María Muñoz, who must now restore economic stability at La Rosaleda.

Their key objective will be to ensure that the salary cap is not exceeded. Malaga's wage budget is expected to fall from around 10 million euros to five million. Should they fail, the club could face expulsion from Segunda, although they will hope to receive some leeway from La Liga, due to the financial blow the pandemic has had on Spanish clubs.

Malaga also have a 15-million-euro black hole in their finances that needs to be addressed, meaning multiple outgoings and loan deals are likely to prevail over exciting signings this off-season.

The financial dawn has already bitten many at the club. Miguel Zambrano, Malaga's kitman for 30 years, is one of 36 employees who will leave by the end of this month as part of a mass redundancy plan (ERE) to restructure the finances.

He is not the only long-standing employee to move on, with club masseur Marcelino Torrontegui, part of the Malaga family for 22 years, another who will be sorely missed.

Sadiku departs

On the pitch, Armando Sadiku - Malaga's top scorer in the season just finished - has concluded his loan spell and has said his good-byes. The Albanian will now return to parent club Levante in La Liga, leaving a goalscoring void in his wake unless a suitable striking replacement is found.

The number nine's future absence is only the tip of the iceberg, however. Forward Sergio Buenacasa has also departed, following the conclusion of his loan from Mallorca, while winger Aarón Ñíguez's contract is up and he leaves without having made a single appearance.

What's more, if the club can't renegotiate contracts on reduced terms (many are still on deals from the club's time in the top flight), Malaga may need to let go of a host of important players this summer, or risk losing them for nothing when their contracts run down in a year's time.

These players include captain Adrián and talented playmaker Juanpi, as well as Juankar, Diego González, Badr Boulahroud, Renato Santos, Esteban Rolón, Dani Pacheco, Keidi Bare and Álex Mula - the latter currently on loan at Alcorcón.

Defender David Lombán and winger Tete Morente also fall within this bracket, but firmly remain part of Malaga's plans for next season. Yet, should the right offer arrive, nobody is exempt from being sold.

Player exodus

If finding buyers wasn't hard enough, accepting the right deal could be trickier. Other teams will be wanting to profit from Malaga's plight and scoop up players for little or no money, in the knowledge that the Blue and Whites need to reduce their wage bill significantly. All this points to an ominous player exodus before Segunda football resumes.

Defender Mikel Villanueva will likely be the next out the door, with his contract set to expire imminently. Midfielder Luis Muñoz is likely to follow. Born in the city, his loyalty runs deep, but has had offers from other teams and he is growing frustrated with the club's direction.

Keeping hold of players will be especially difficult considering the club's current trajectory. Malaga only just avoided relegation last time out when their target was to push for promotion after comfortably finishing in the play-offs the previous campaign.

Now promotion seems more far-fetched, although not impossible. Despite their struggles, Malaga finished only eight points behind sixth-placed Elche who occupied the last play-off spot in a congested division.

Unfortunately for manager Sergio Pellicer, in danger of being left with a threadbare squad, his ambitions may have to be tempered given the current circumstances.

Reliant on youth

Pellicer, who was promoted from the reserve team, Atlético Malagueño, after the sacking of Víctor Sánchez del Amo, knows the club's youth academy inside out. As a result, and also owing to the circumstances the club found itself in, he didn't hesitate to give young players first-team opportunities, relying heavily on the likes of winger Hicham, and defenders Juande and Ismael Casas in the final months of the campaign.

They played an important part in Malaga's survival and they will be expected to play a key role next season. Iván Jaime, Julio, Cristo Romero and Gonzalo, who were also given minutes, can expect to feature more regularly after the summer break which will end on 10 August. The coach will have to manage the situation carefully, however, as a minimum of seven professional players must be on the field at all times.

'New signings'

One major pending issue is that regarding midfielders Álex Mula and José Rodríguez and right-back Iván. With the club in breach of the wage-cap limit, the trio couldn't be registered last season and were eventually loaned out. However, should the club be able to get to grips with the finances this summer, these three will finally be able to return and will be like new signings for the side.

For Malaga to avoid a serious catastrophe - such as one suffered by Spanish giants Deportivo who recently fell to the third tier - getting their house in order and establishing themselves in Segunda next season must be the first step, as the club enter an unsettling period.