In April 2013, Malaga were just eight minutes away from a historic Champions League Semi-Final, after leading Borussia Dortmund 2-1. The club was packed with recognisable stars, including a young Isco alongside the likes of Caballero and Demichelis. Seven years on, the club struggles to keep stability with its finances – how did things go wrong for a club esteemed with a rich history?
Malaga’s Rise to Stardom
Financial problems had hit the club back in 2008, when former player Fernando Sanz became president of the club after buying 97% of the club’s shares. His aim was to find potential buyers to rejuvenate Malaga – which eventually led to Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser Al-Thani purchasing the club for €36m and turning a new leaf for Malaga. The deal also included wiping the club’s debts, which brought a sense of optimism for fans for the future.
Their biggest season for transfers came in the Summer of 2011. After bringing in manager Manuel Pellegrini from his dismissal at Real Madrid in the previous season, the owners looked to make a statement to the rest of La Liga. This included purchasing Santi Cazorla from Villarreal for £20m, alongside the likes of veterans Jeremy Toulalan and Ruud Van Nistelrooy. In total, Malaga signed nine players, accumulating to a total of £53m and making the club a dangerous power in Spain, with a projection of qualifying for European football.
After an incredibly successful 11/12 La Liga campaign, Malaga would finish in fourth – sealing the Champions League spot the club had dreamt of under Al-Thani. Because of Malaga’s sensational UCL run, their league form in the 12/13 La Liga campaign suffered, with the club finishing in sixth. However, things would not go to plan for Malaga, and we would not see another European campaign for the club.
How FFP Created Malaga’s Decline
The hefty transfer fees and wages would come back to bite Al-Thani, as Malaga would begin to make a loss in their revenue. With limited commercial opportunities, it was revealed in April 2012 that the club had not paid the squad up to 40% of their wages. Alongside this, new Financial Fair Play regulations had been introduced, making Malaga the first club to be banned from a UEFA competition as well as a €300,000 fine. Over the course of the next few years, Al-Thani would begin to sell some of the club’s biggest assets, investing mainly in free transfers and loans to cut costs as the club’s status dwindled from mid-table in La Liga to eventual relegation in the 17/18 season.
Eight years on, the situation has become even more complicated. In February 2020, a Spanish judge ruled that Al-Thani was to be excluded from management and control of the club, citing irregularities in Malaga’s day-to-day running’s. This court case is still running as of today. Alongside this, the club has once again had to resort to cutting wages and the squad size.
A report from Marca in August 2020 cited that the club would only be able to hold onto players who would take a pay cut of at least 80%, which would amount to a salary of no more than €200,000 per year. With the club expected to face more issues due to COVID-19 and the ongoing court case, it looks as if the worst is yet to come for one of Europe’s once big-hitting clubs.