Coach: Javi Gracia
Key signings: Nordin Amrabat, Duje Cop, Charles
Key sales: Samu Castillejo, Samuel Garcia, Juanmi
Last season: 9th
This season [predicted finish]: 10th
Predicted finish is the average prediction of the Football Espana team.
Malaga finished ninth last season after a poor run-in ended their Europa League aspirations and Coach Javi Gracia will harbour hopes of going one better this term, although it has not been an easy summer for the Costa del Sol outfit.
Supporters have been up in arms over the departures of home-grown youngsters Samu Castillejo and Samuel Garcia to Villarreal and Juanmi to Southampton, while Vice-president Moayad Shatat resigned to be replaced by owner Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser Al-Thani’s son. There was also the uncertainty surrounding reported takeover bids for the club, most notably from China, which were rejected out of hand to the disappointment of the majority of Malaguistas.
Unhappy fans have been placated to some extent by the players that have been brought in: frontmen Charles and Duje Cop have arrived from Celta Vigo and Dinamo Zagreb respectively, with promising winger Adnane Tighadouini snapped up from NAC Breda. Charles is no stranger to Gracia, having worked with him at Almeria, and Cop impressed on loan at Cagliari last year with four goals from 16 appearances despite the Sardinians suffering relegation. There are also big things expected from Tighadouini, another who stood out in a relegated team with a creditable 14 goals from his 33 outings.
The midfield has been reinforced by Fabio Espinho’s arrival from Ludogorets, a player with Champions League experience, and the defence added to by the loan signings of former Eibar defender Raul Albentosa from Derby County and Sporting Braga’s Juan Carlos, to cover Sergio Sanchez’s loss to Panathinaikos.
However, the best piece of business done by Malaga was to secure crowd favourite Nordin Amrabat on a permanent deal from Galatasaray. The Moroccan international winger has proved a hit in his 18 months on loan at La Rosaleda and seems a snip at €3.5m after Los Blanquiazules exercised their option to buy him.
Even so, much will depend on whether they can manage to hold on to the engine room of the team in Ignacio ‘Nacho’ Camacho and Sergi Darder. Camacho, in particular, is crucial to the team’s functionality and if he displays the form that earned him a call-up to the Spain national team last year, and steers clear of injury, then fans could once again start dreaming of European football.
Like many La Liga clubs, Malaga’s lack of finance has meant they have had to scour the market in search of both experienced and promising players, yet a decent pre-season – the 3-1 win in Uruguay over Penarol was a particular highlight – has given rise to hopes that this version of the team possibly has more goals in it.
Either way, a top half finish should be the minimum requirement provided top-flight safety can be secured as early as it was last season.