José Alberto López was officially presented as Malaga's new head coach on Friday. The 39-year-old Asturian was first seen arriving at La Rosaleda on Tuesday morning to iron out the final details ahead of his appointment, which was confirmed later the same evening.
The young coach, who joins from Mirandés, has already started work planning for next season. "Now we have a lot of work ahead of us to build the best possible team within our constraints," he said on Friday. "Once we see what pieces we have, we can start to build a system of play that is bold and aggressive with and without the ball. Set pieces will also be very important in my plans - it can be a deciding key factor in this division."
Alongside sporting director Manolo Gaspar, José Alberto has already sat down to discuss the current playing squad and areas in which the side needs to be strengthened over the course of the summer.
The key will be to get the main components of the squad in place for the start of pre-season at the beginning of July, with the final pieces to be added before the start of the next campaign.
The location for the pre-season training camp also needs to be decided but finances are expected to play a major role.
A similar challenge
The challenge facing the new coach remains similar to that of the season that has just ended, though the club will have slightly more money available for recruitment, with sanctions on squad size to come to an end and an expected increase in capital.
Sergio Pellicer, who has left the club after 18 months, led the team to a respectable 12th-place finish despite having the lowest allocated budget in Spanish professional football. He had to mould together an entire new squad after eight players (Juanpi, Renato Santos, Rolón, Cecchini, Luis Hernández, Diego González, Dani Pacheco and Boulahroud) were released as part of a mass redundancy plan (ERE). What's more, with several injuries and suspensions, he also had to manage a delicate balancing act to ensure that enough professionals were on the field at any one time.
Next year, however, while avoiding relegation will be starting objective, the return of fans to stadiums and a larger squad to work with will provide a major boost.
José Alberto is cautious, however. "We're not going to set ourselves big targets beyond being competitive in every game. It would be wrong to set ourselves the goal of reaching the play-offs now."
While Malaga were never in any serious danger of being relegated last season, a lack of consistency cost them a push for the play-offs.
Two spells in particular were particularly troublesome. The first was at the halfway point in the season when they went six games without a win (three points from 18 available); the second was the worst as was brought to an end with Sunday's win over Castellón (two points from 21).
Their poor record against the top teams also demonstrated the gulf in quality. In their games against Espanyol, Mallorca, Almería and Leganés, Malaga only picked up one point.
The side's disastrous home form was another of the major contributors. The Blue and Whites picked up just 25 points at home, compared to 28 on the road. With no fans present all season long, their return cannot come soon enough for Malaga.
A lot of positives can be taken from Malaga's season. Pablo Chavarría (before getting injured) and Yanis Rahmani's first half of the season (he finished with five goals and as many assists) were the highlights, along with the leadership of Alberto Escassi and the development of Juande into a dependable centre-back. Likewise Luis Muñoz discovered a goalscoring touch as a more forward-thinking midfielder and home-grown players, such as Ramón, proved to be capable when called upon.
However, much like his predecessor, José Alberto will have a rebuild to do this summer, with many players set to depart. A new era begins - again.