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Football world shocked by the death of former Malaga player and sports director

Francesc Arnau.
Francesc Arnau. / MALAGA C.F.
  • Francesc Arnau still maintained close contact with numerous friends on the Costa del Sol, both at the club and his padel group in Benalmádena

Tributes have poured in from the world of football after the sudden death of Francesc Arnau at the age of 46.

The former goalkeeper, captain and sports director of Malaga CF, who until now had been working in the latter role for Real Oviedo, died after falling onto a railway track near the Asturian capital.

Born in Las Planas (Gerona), Arnau came through Barcelona's academy and spent several seasons as a back-up to the likes of Vítor Baía, Ruud Hesp and Pepe Reina. In order to find first-team football, he moved to Malaga in 2001, albeit against the wishes of then-coach Joaquín Peiró. Eventually, however, he established himself as first choice under the management of Juande Ramos and Antonio Tapia and became a leader on the pitch, eventually earning him the captain's armband.

After making more than 100 appearances, Arnau hung up his gloves at La Rosaleda stadium after the last league match of the 2010/11 season in a match, coincidentally against Barcelona.

The club was quick to offer Arnau a management position and he remained there in various roles for most of his professional career until 2017.

First of all Arnau was the deputy director of the club's youth team under the tutelage of Manel Casanova, then manager of the Academy, before eventually becoming the sports director after the departure of Mario Husillos at the end of 2015.

This period didn't go exactly to plan. After a good start, relations between Arnau and president Sheikh Abdullah Al-Thani began to deteriorate, with the latter refusing to sign off on the personal terms offered to star midfielder Pablo Fornals. As a result, the player departed on a cut-price deal and the summer ahead of the 2017-18 season was a disaster. It eventually resulted in Malaga's relegation from La Liga, but Arnau was fired just months into the new season.

Close ties with the area

After leaving Malaga during his more than decade and a half of stay on the Costa del Sol, Arnau still maintained close contact with numerous friends both at the club and in other areas, such as his padel group in Benalmádena.

He was signed a year and a half ago by Oviedo, the club that published the news of his death early on Saturday morning.

Social media networks were filled with messages of shock and sadness. Among them, of course, was one from the Malaga club, "A member of the Malaguista family as a player and executive at La Academia, he leaves us too young. A big hug to his family and friends," said the message.

The squad, led by coach Sergio Pellicer who knew Arnau well, held a minute's silence in his honour before training.

The first hypotheses about Arnau's death point to suicide.