With a 15-million-euro overspend on the club's wage bill, Malaga’s judicial administrator, José María Muñoz, took drastic action on Monday, informing 11 players that they would be let go as part of an ERE (collective redundancy plan) filed to urgently reduce the club’s expenses and comply with La Liga regulations.
Though all players on professional contracts have been officially listed on the ERE(even including new signings Orlando Sá and Cristian Rodríguez), the players that will be affected, as confirmed by SUR, are goalkeeper Munir; defenders Cifu, Luis Hernández, David Lombán and Juankar; and midfielders Juanpi, Adrián, Renato Santos, Esteban Rolón, Dani Pacheco and Badr Boulahroud. They were told on Monday morning, a day after the majority of them featured in the side’s 1-0 friendly victory over Valladolid in Marbella.
“Malaga CF is obliged to take this step for the good of the entity and hopes that season ticket holders and fans understand and support this new effort, the sole objective of which is to create an acceptable and competitive structure,” read a statement published by the club.
Exempted from the ERE, it must be noted, are defender Diego González and midfielder Keidi Bare. It is understood that in these cases the players have attracted some interest in the transfer market and the club is confident of sealing a transfer away. Midfielder Álex Mula, meanwhile, has completed a transfer to Fuenlabrada.
Until now, sporting director Manolo Gaspar had been urgently trying to find buyers for these players since taking over the role last year. However, with their inflated wages there have been no takers. Gaspar also tried to negotiate new contracts on reduced terms but agreements over what would be significant wage cuts have not been forthcoming.
However, this view is contested by the Spanish Footballers’ Association (AFE) which calls the measure “disproportionate” and “unjustified”. “Many of these players have been in talks over reducing their terms or spreading out their earnings over a longer period. Some even came to an agreement just a few days ago and now they are being made to go through this process,” the statement read.
It continued: “Malaga is not unique in the situation it finds itself. The mismanagement of the club and its perilous financial situation are not the players’ fault.”
The AFE concluded by saying that if the redundancy plan isn’t withdrawn, the players would make an official complaint against the club for the non-payment of wages.
A long process
This, of course, is not the first time the administrator has resorted to filing an ERE. Earlier in the summer 50 backroom and administrative staff were included in an ERE which, after negotiations, resulted in 36 dismissals.
That same process must happen now with the playing staff. First, a representative must be appointed to head the group and lead negotiations which typically last anywhere between 15 and 30 days. As a result of these negotiations, some players, with limited appeal in the rapidly closing transfer market, could well end up staying if they agree to an 11th-hour renegotiation of terms.
A delicate balancing act
All this means that coach Sergio Pellicer must perform a delicate balancing act. Until their departures are actually secured, the 11 players will continue training under Pellicer’s orders.
The coach spoke with the affected players for around 20 minutes when they arrived for training on Tuesday but his words are unlikely to lift the mood around the camp.
A much-changed side took to the field for Wednesday’s 2-1 friendly defeat to Cadiz, with the majority of the 11 absent. Munir, Luis Hernández, Esteban Rolón and David Lombán, however, did make an appearance as substitutes in the second half.
A whole new squad
With around a dozen departures expected overall (between the ERE and sales), the Malaga squad must be completely overhauled in time for the new season which will begin in little under three weeks.
The sole survivor from last season will be Tete Morente. The winger, alongside promoted academy player Juande, midfielder José Rodríguez (loaned out last year to Fuenlabrada) and new signings Orlando Sá and Cristian Rodríguez, are currently set to be the only professionals on the books.
However, this latest manoeuvre should open the doors for a host of new recruits with midfielder Alberto Escassi, goalkeeper Dani Barrio and right-back Iván Calero all set to join from Numancia.
A further obstacle, however, will be the delay before new recruits can join up with the rest of the group because of the two negative PCR tests required. This could see Malaga fielding mostly youth sides in the opening fixtures of the new season.