Prior to the 2011/12 season, Malaga’s biggest achievement was lifting the Intertoto Cup.
For those of you who can’t remember the Intertoto Cup, it was five inches big and essentially a Champions League for mid to lower table teams.
But the investment of Qatari cash in 2010 brought with it a wave of optimism. How could you not get excited when signing Martin Demichelis and Julio Baptista?
With Manuel Pellegrini at the helm there was hope that Malaga could put something special together heading into the 2011/12 season.
Especially after one of the most aggressive transfer windows in Spanish history.
Every team needs a creative genius. Every team needs a hometown lad. But it’s rare you get two for the price of one.
Malaga rescued Isco from Valencia’s reserve, returning the boy from Benalmadena back to where it all started.
But he wasn’t the only creative schemer signed by Malaga during the summer.
Club record smashed
Malaga’s transfer record heading into the 2011/12 season was a meagre £3million, which they paid out for Uruguayan striker Sebastian Fernandez. Not exactly one to sell shirts.
But that all changed when Santi Cazorla arrived from Villarreal for £20m. Worth it just to watch him take penalties and corners with both feet.
The silver fox
You’ve got your no.10. You’ve got your two-footed playmaker. Now you need to protect them.
Who better for the job than silver fox Jeremy Toulalan? Toulalan cost £9.35m from Lyon, where he’d been protecting Juninho Pernambucano.
The best money you never spent
So far we’ve told a tale of writing out cheques for transfer fees left, right and centre. So now it’s time for a freebie.
Ruud van Nistelrooy had been kicking his heels since leaving Hamburg. But he wasn’t quite ready to hang his boots up.
Malaga swooped and offered him the chance to play alongside Salomon Rondon. How could he turn them down?
A new back four
You can’t build a house on dodgy foundations. Neither can you build a decent side without a strong defence.
Unfortunately Malaga had spent most of their money on flashy attackers, so they had to make do with Carlos Kameni, Joris Mathijsen and Nacho Monreal.
Still, it was only a year ago that Mathijsen had been playing in the World Cup for Holland, so money well spent.
Has there ever been a player who flattered to deceive as much as Joaquin? One minute he’s looking like David Beckham, the next David Bentley after two years of retirement.
But Malaga were drawn in by the highs, rather than the lows, and spent £4m on the 29-year-old.
Joaquin actually wanted to be a bullfighter growing up, so we can’t really blame him for finding the whole football life a bit dull.
A new beginning
Diego Buonanotte was one of the many Argentinian no.10s labelled with the ‘next Lionel Messi’ tag growing up.
Unlike most of them, he made it into the River Plate first-team and was progressing well up to December 2009, when a car he was driving crashed, killing the three passengers.
He overcame his injuries to get back on the pitch in 2010, signing for Malaga a year later. A new beginning for a very talented footballer.
So what happened next?
Pellegrini’s season started in defeat, but ended in Champions League qualification as Malaga finished fourth.
However Malaga struggled to keep hold of their top players, with Cazorla and Monreal heading to Arsenal, top scorer Rondon leaving for Rubin Kazan and Van Nistelrooy retiring.
A pulsating quarter-final defeat at the hands of Borussia Dortmund, in which they conceded two injury-time goals, saw any European dreams crash and burn.
Worse was to come when UEFA handed down a European ban for mounting debts and Isco, Joaquin and Toulalan all departed.
The mini galactico experiment was officially over. Was it worth it? Of course it was.
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