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Dioni at his presentation on Tuesday. Salvador Salas
Dioni the first face through the door as Malaga CF rebuild starts to take shape

Dioni the first face through the door as Malaga CF rebuild starts to take shape

The forward, 33, will take the place of top scorer Rubén Castro who has informed the club that he will be listening to offers from elsewhere

Borja Gutiérrez

Malaga

Wednesday, 14 June 2023, 20:50

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The complete rebuild of the Malaga CF playing squad got under way in earnest this week as the club's first recruit came through the door: 33-year-old forward Dioni Villalba.

"I'm delighted, on cloud nine," he said at his presentation on Tuesday. "Stepping onto the field at La Rosaleda is a big motivation and a huge source of pride."

Experienced forward

Dioni is an experienced forward in the third tier. In fact, he's the third-highest scorer in the Primera RFEF, with 31 goals across two seasons, and the ninth-highest in the old Segunda B, where he scored 138 in 326 games across 12 seasons.

In the season that's just concluded, he scored 14 goals from 37 games (of which he started 35) in his second campaign for Atlético Baleares.

Back to his roots

Dioni, who was born in Malaga, also came through the ranks in the club's youth system before joining Deportivo La Coruña at the age of 20.

From there, he embarked on a nomadic career with stops at Cadiz, Leganés, Hércules de Alicante, Oviedo, Racing de Santander, Fuenlabrada, Cultural Leonesa and, lastly, Atlético Baleares. He also spent a brief time in Poland with Lech Poznan.

However, the forward believes that experience at this level holds the key. "I think the key to success will be signing players from the division because it's a unique challenge; it can be a real slog," he said.

"We're going to go to grounds where they'll be waiting for us and they'll be out to get us."

Rubén Castro set to depart

Dioni will take the place in the squad vacated by last season's top goal-scorer, 41-year-old Rubén Castro.

The veteran forward has told the club that he would prefer to listen to offers from elsewhere rather than sign a new deal.

Goalkeeper Rubén Yáñez, meanwhile, has also decided to depart. The side's number one from last season will play for Sporting Gijón in Segunda, explaining to fans: "My heart said one thing but my head said another."

Malaga's hopes of keeping hold of Lago Junior also hang in the balance with the Ivorian having received offers from several sides in Segunda and an unnamed Greek club.

Left-back Cristian is also likely to move on, with the club having received an offer of 300,000 euros to join Real Zaragoza.

Meanwhile, despite expressing his wish to stay, Malaga have confirmed that Alberto Escassi doesn't form part of their plans for next season.

Genero and other youngsters to stay

As promised, sporting director Loren Juarros is hoping to deliver a "Malaga-centric" project. Part of this is to build the squad around young talent from the local area.

Central midfielder Genaro, Loren announced this week, will remain as part of the squad for next season, while youth team keeper Carlos López will be promoted to be the second choice between the sticks.

Midfielders David Larrubia and Dani Lorenzo, who both spent parts of last season on loan at Mérida, will also return to the first team. As too will winger Kevin who tasted action in the Portuguese first division last season with Gil Vicente.

Having all got first-team game time last season, it is hoped that they should be ready now to make the step-up with Malaga.

Dani Lorenzo, Kevin and Larrubia during preseason last year
Dani Lorenzo, Kevin and Larrubia during preseason last year SUR

Three signings on the radar

Externally, Loren is also scouring the market for players to reinforce key positions.

In goal, the first choice is believed to be Alfonso Herrero, 29, whose contract with Mirandés has just come to an end.

The former Real Madrid academy graduate and Marbella stopper started last season as second choice but had to step in throughout the campaign after injury to first choice Ramón Juan.

Defence is another area that needs attention. Einar Galilea, also 29, is looking for a club in Spain after calling time on his four-year spell with Croatian side NK Istra. Formed in the Deportivo Alavés academy, the centre-back has also played for French side Sochaux and would bring a wealth of experience to the team.

Jokin Gabilondo, meanwhile, heads the shortlist for the vacancy in the right-back position. The 24-year-old just finished an excellent campaign in Primera RFEF with Real Sociedad B but his contract, too, is coming to an end.

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