Malaga's head coach, Pablo Guede, during an interview with SUR. / SALVADOR SALAS

Guede: 'When I signed for Malaga I couldn't stop crying'

The Malaga head coach guided the team to safety within two months of returning to the club of his dreams and has big things planned for the upcoming season

ANTONIO GÓNGORA / BORJA GUTIÉRREZ

Pablo Guede is still adapting to his role as head coach of Malaga, two months after being appointed, at the start of his fairytale journey with what he describes as the club of his dreams.

With eight games under his belt after his return to the Blue and Whites, and with the sole objective of securing safety from relegation having already been completed, the Argentine has now turned his focus on the upcoming season. "Sacrifice and humility" are two key aspects that Guede expects from his squad for the next league campaign.

The Argentine's arrival at the Costa del Sol club came after a long and emotional journey. His appointment was a total surprise. Malaga's sporting director, Manolo Gaspar, called Guede out of the blue and asked: "Pablo, do you want to come to Malaga? It's possible that we might change coach." At the time, Guede was with his mother in Buenos Aires, mourning his father on the first anniversary of his death.

Hard to reject

In his mind, Guede wanted to wait until June or July to see what job offers were available after a bad time with Mexican club Nexaca. He was yet to have a break. "I wanted to pause my career," he said. But the pull Malaga have was too much for the Argentine to reject.

One flight to Mexico, a three-hour drive to the airport and another flight to Malaga via Madrid later, Guede, alongside his wife and children, suddenly found himself putting pen-to-paper on the contract that completed his return to the club. "It was silly, but I couldn't stop crying," he said.

Guede took stock of the complex end-of-season performance by Malaga. Personally, he's as happy as he can be because he's at the club he so dearly loves; but professionally he knows he owes a debt to the fans, starting with a win at La Rosaleda, which he hopes to achieve next season.

But before that, there are a lot of decisions that have to be made, from top to bottom, especially as the Argentine arrived at the club in a tricky situation. "I found myself with a squad bruised by bad results, not by bad performances," he said. "I told them that the ship had set sail on an eight-game voyage, and whoever wanted to come aboard should do so."

Pre-season planning

And before Guede even thinks about which players to clear out, which to keep and which to bring in, he confessed that he first wants to sort out the team's pre-season. He's obsessive with the size of pitches on which they train, the type of grass or the tools at his disposal. "I'd love to work with drones, but you're not allowed to at La Rosaleda," he said, as the stadium is too close to the city's airport.

The Argentine has also made it clear that he doesn't want to get directly involved with Manolo Gaspar when it comes to signing players; he completely trusts the sporting director. "I'm not going to ask for anyone," he said, though he doesn't rule out giving his opinion when asked.

However, Guede does know what he wants from his future squad. "I want them to win games."

Restoring faith

The club has gone through a rough patch, from nearly disappearing to almost being relegated to the third division. "You can't forget what the club has suffered in the last two years. Those bad years are the best to learn not to make the same mistakes and to continue growing," the Argentine said.

But for Guede, the hardest part about next season will be convincing Malaga fans that this time things will be different. He himself asked, on his way to the press conference after the game against Burgos, how he would convince people to do the same thing they did all season all over again.

For him, words aren't enough. He knows that the fans' passion and commitment were impressive. "They gave me everything in exchange for nothing, but that's Malaga; it's a feeling you can't abandon."