After a turbulent summer of upheaval, Malaga's season finally got underway last night as they took on Valencia – but the result was just as deflating as the preceding months.
Once the most exciting project in La Liga, having been backed by Sheikh Abdullah Al-Thani, the last 12 months have been tumultuous to say the least. Financial chaos has resulted in a year-long ban from all European competitions and a mass exodus of playing staff over the summer.
Manager Manuel Pellegrini has been lured to England by the riches of Manchester City, with another former Real Madrid boss taking the La Rosaleda helm in Bernd Schuster. However, the German has lost many of his key players as the Andalusian side look to balance the books.
Defender Martin Demichelis, midfielder Jeremy Toulalan, winger Joaquin and forward Julio Baptista were four of the biggest departures this time around, but the man Malaga will miss the most is playmaker Isco. A local icon who spearheaded Los Boquerones journey to the quarter finals of the Champions League, the youngster’s departure represented the turmoil that struck the Southern side.
Reluctant to leave his boyhood club, Isco was aware of Malaga's economic distress and understood that the money from sale would give them the best chance of surviving in the long term. A stunning display at the European Under-21 Championships had the continent’s top clubs swarming around the 21-year-old, including Manchester City and Barcelona.
Now a Real Madrid player after a €30m transfer, the playmaker leaves a gaping hole in Malaga's team that is yet to be filled. A number of cheap but potentially promising signings have been brought in to keep Schuster's side competitive, though their slim defeat to Valencia on opening day hasn't boosted spirits.
Six debutants featured in the 1-0 loss, but it was a regular mainstay of the side who cost them the game, as goalkeeper Willy Caballero flapped at a high ball, only for Portuguese defender Ricardo Costa to stab home the winner, leaving Malaga fans with little to cheer about.
The immediate future looks somewhat bleak for the club. The days of Al-Thani declaring Malaga would be challenging Real Madrid and Barcelona at the summit of Spanish football seem a long time ago, and their disqualification from European competitions makes it difficult to attract new faces in order to replace the calibre of players they have lost.
With the club firmly in a period of austerity, Malaga need to assure that they maintain their La Liga status despite all their problems. It's early days, but their quest to prove the doubters wrong got off to a disappointing start.