The rumblings of discontent at Malaga continue to simmer beneath the surface despite a first victory of the season against Real Sociedad at the weekend. Los Blanquiazules had set an unwanted La Liga record by not scoring in their opening six fixtures, a beginning to the campaign that has left fans wondering if the club may be in freefall since owner Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser Al-Thani decided to withdraw his financial backing three years ago.
Judging by postings on social networks the Malaga faithful are concerned an imminent crisis is brewing, particularly as three of the club’s brightest home-grown talents in Juanmi, Samuel Garcia and Samu Castillejo were all sold in the summer, while Sergi Darder was allowed to depart for Lyon. The combined fee for all four totalled a healthy €36m to pour into the coffers, yet supporters are less than impressed that their replacements have been brought in at minimal cost with just €1.5m being spent.
Unsurprisingly, feelings have been running high and while there has been no outright show of animosity towards Al-Thani by the vast majority, chants of “vete ya!” [Go now!] were heard after the recent 1-0 home defeat to Villarreal. In addition, slogans were painted on the walls of La Rosaleda some weeks ago imploring the Qatari owner to sell up and leave in light of interest shown by potential investors, most notably from China, while a roundabout in the city named in his honour was defaced.
Al-Thani’s 26-year-old son Nasser, named Vice-President following the resignation of Moayad Shatat in June after three years in the position, recently underlined his family’s commitment to the club, although his brother Nayef unnecessarily weighed into matters by issuing a thinly-veiled threat to Malaga supporters via Twitter.
“This is my Twitter account,” the post began. “Just try to insult my family in any way and see what will happen to you. The only thing you think about is winning. Well, that’s not football. Where exactly were Malaga in 2007-08? Think before you speak. Open your eyes, look what has happened at Malaga over the last five years, and you think we are going to stop? To be honest, I’m very proud of my father for building a great team.”
The owner himself then got in on the act, again via Twitter, by responding angrily to those who have questioned his commitment to the club and lack of funding in recent times, whilst defending his leadership and investment since taking over in June 2010. He also had words for Darder and suggested he come clean about his transfer.
“If you are a human being, which I am too, and if you love the club, there is nobody on earth who loves it more than me,” he posted. “Some fans ask me to do something but do I have a magic wand? I have put €290m in, more money than any other club, and have not placed a euro in my pocket. What is the money you are talking about? I’m sorry I can’t get the respect of people who do not belong to the club. They just want to talk and show discord. With regard to Sergi Darder, I ask him to hold a Press conference and tell the truth.”
The opening set of fixtures has pitted Malaga against five of last term’s top six in the opening eight games and has not helped their cause. However, a season-defining period will quite possibly arrive as early as between the end of October and the beginning of December, when they face matches against Deportivo La Coruna, Sporting Gijon, Real Betis, Espanyol and Granada, where they will expect to pick up a decent number of points. A failure to do so may have serious repercussions.
The one constant in all this has been the way in which the fans have got behind the players, despite reservations they are less than adequate acquisitions. Coach Javi Gracia has also had his name consistently chanted at home games and, while he was openly critical of the club’s hierarchy at the way in which Darder was sold, his work ethic and the way he quietly goes about his daily business and conducts himself has endeared him to everyone behind the scenes.
On the whole, an unhappy state of affairs on the face of it, one that will need to be resolved one way or the other, with results on the pitch sure to be the determining factor as the season progresses. Nonetheless, should things turn sour even before the end of the year the complaints could turn into outright revolt on the Costa del Sol.