Musampa: "Malaga did so well in my day because they were well-run from top to bottom"

Musampa, right, celebrates a goal with teammate Gerardo in 2001.
Musampa, right, celebrates a goal with teammate Gerardo in 2001. / Ñ.S.
  • The now-retired winger made almost 100 appearances for the Blue and Whites between 1999 and 2003, during a much rosier era for the club, which saw the team play in Europe for the first time

Former Malaga winger Kiki Musampa still makes the occasional trip to La Rosaleda, but his experience now is very different to how it was 20 years ago.

"I'm still watching their results," says the 43-year-old - currently enjoying some time on the Costa de Sol - though he admits: "It's a pity that they're in the second division. It's a club that certainly should be in the highest league."

Musampa, originally from Zaire - now DR Congo - arrived at the club in August 1999 from Bordeaux. His new club had just won promotion to the first division, marking the beginning of an upward curve. Fast forward two decades, the team is stuck in Segunda without much hope of an escape any time soon.

During his four-year stay, Musampa was part of a side that established itself in La Liga and qualified for the UEFA Cup in 2002 through winning the now-defunct Intertoto Cup. It was a huge triumph for Malaga, who had never competed in elite-level European competition before. They even reached the last eight, losing on penalties to Boavista in the quarter-finals.

He credits former club president Fernando Puche and manager Joaquín Peiró for providing the platform for players like him to succeed.

"He was a man with a vision," Musampa remembers of Puche. "He said that we had to stay up and that he wanted to get to Europe.

"He took a coach, Joaquín Peiró, from the second division who took them up. He kept him for all those years and had confidence in him. That gave the club a certain peace and made the atmosphere very consistent because you knew the people, you knew the way of working and year after year you could see the progress of the team."

Musampa played almost 100 times for Malaga and also had spells with Ajax, Atlético Madrid, Manchester City and FC Seoul. Part of a flourishing side, he fondly remembers his time on the Costa del Sol where he stayed longer than anywhere else in his career.

"I came from France back then and I didn't know the Spanish culture and I didn't speak the language. It always takes some time for you to settle in and in my case, it was no different.

"After a year, things really changed for me. I became a totally different person which also made me a totally different player."

Musampa, who has a serene, laid-back demeanour, is proud to call Andalucía his second home. He frequently visits Marbella and Fuengirola for holidays and chose the word 'adorable' to describe the place which made such an impression on him.

"You don't need much to enjoy life when you're out here. That is one thing that I like. You can just have a little coffee on the terrace and read your newspaper and enjoy that moment easily.

"The food is marvellous too. I'm a fish man so it couldn't be better here."

As Musampa sampled the joys of Spain, he and his teammates served their own treats on the pitch.

The 43-year-old belonged to an era which saw the club rise from relative obscurity to announce itself as a force in Spanish football, but those heady days now feel very distant.

"How the club is being managed is important," Musampa adds.

"In recent times, things haven't been managed very well by the new president. It's not worked out as it should have. There's no structure, and when it's like that it's hard for players to perform because any success starts with the club itself."

He believes there is a lot of work to be done if Malaga are to return to the top division. And while it's a lofty aspiration, Musampa knows the value of competing against the best opponents each week: "As a player it's wonderful [...] Those are the games that you can make the difference in. Those are the games you can make history."

When Musampa reflects on his playing days, his achievements at Malaga are hard to match, as he realises the tremendous effect the team had on the city.

"Those are wonderful times, wonderful moments that people will always remember because it was the first time for the club to play in Europe - especially with the team from those days because they were all lads from Malaga.

"Most of them came from the second division, and were at Malaga already, and I was one of the few changes that came around, so that's what makes it special."