Natxo González, during his first training session on Friday morning. / MARIANO POZO

Natxo González gets to work

The Basque head coach has filled the vacancy left by José Alberto until the end of the season, with an option to extend his contract a further year

BORJA GUTIÉRREZ / ANTONIO GÓNGORA

Malaga have turned the page and have begun a fresh chapter with the signing of a new head coach. Natxo González has been brought in to fill the vacancy left by José Alberto López until the end of the season, with the option to extend a further year if certain objectives are achieved, though promotion isn't necessarily one of them.

Born in Vitoria (Basque Country), the 55-year-old has 132 Spanish second division games under his belt. He has managed Alavés, Reus, Zaragoza and Deportivo, the latter being his most recent team during the 2018-19 season.

The following years saw González work abroad, firstly at the helm of Portugal's Tondela, before making the trip across the Atlantic to work for Bolívar, Bolivia's biggest club. There, he coincided with ex-Malaga player Sadiku, who now plays for Las Palmas.

Natxo fits the hard-working characteristic in the second division that Malaga was looking for, though he is not as well known as other coaches that the club had enquired about. He also falls in line with the economical requisites that the club had set out to be able to make the managerial change.

Return to Spanish football

According to people close to Natxo, the Malaga job presented itself as a big opportunity to return to the Spanish football scene, and he doesn't care that much if it's a short-term project, one that could last six months. He has been described as a good developer of football projects and can successfuly manage young players.

Looking back on his career, Natxo González's best season as a head coach was during his time at Zaragoza, who he was able to take to the play-offs, though they couldn't achieve promotion. In that side, Aleix Febas played an important role, and he signed for Malaga only a few weeks ago, on loan from Mallorca.

It'll be an interesting reunion, one in which the new head coach hopes to take advantage of the qualities of the Catalan midfielder, whose contract includes an option to buy. Natxo has a lot of working hours ahead of him. He doesn't have a lot of time to get up to speed with his squad and at the same time prepare the Blue and Whites' next game away at Mirandés (Sunday, 6.15pm).

Natxo also faces a crucial few days in which he has to give an opinion on what players the club needs to sign before the transfer windows closes at the end of the month, as well as settle the departure of others who were initially set to leave, such as the case of Antoñín.

Malaga already have multiple and various options they consider bringing into the club. They're working on signing at least one new player, though ideally they would want two. Sporting director Manolo Gaspar and his team are looking to strengthen the squad with more goalscoring ability and more defensive prowess, two areas where the team has been lacking, especially with their most recent results.

Natxo's mission is to realign the team's dynamic, which has been wandering aimlessly for two months and with a succession of poor results.