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Dark Clouds On The Costa del Sol

Dark Clouds On The Costa del Sol

Andy Lewis, 9th August 2012 - 10:34

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Andy Lewis

Andy Lewis

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Andy is a digital media journalist at Everton, working for evertonfc.com and evertontv.

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No sooner had they achieved Champions League qualification with a highest ever fourth-place finish in La Liga, the rug appears to have been pulled from beneath Malaga.

In this case the rug was made of Qatari banknotes and was only two years old.

The humble but historic Andalusian club, beefed up by marquee signings, seemed destined to muscle in on the elite.

The respected Manuel Pellegini wielded the wad last summer and the big hitters queued to sign on the dotted line. A year later and the queue has reversed direction.

Gloomy chat of debt, tax bills and unpaid wages surfaced in the press and talk of ‘restructuring’ from officials was quickly followed by the departure of Spanish international Santi Cazorla to Arsenal for a loss after arguably the best season of the player’s career.

Instalments to previous club Villarreal reportedly lapsed and the Gunners planted the first boot through the cracked window as the looters gathered.

Russian upstarts Rubin Kazan were next through the hole as they plundered promising striker Salomón Rondón from under the noses of any number of Premier League suitors.

Other stars like Toulalan, Isco and Demichelis have also attracted plenty of column inches amid the Spanish tabloid transfer tittle tattle. With the financial plug seemingly pulled, reports of the owner looking to sell up have ensued and with all that is going on, manager Pellegrini's own future has come into question.

The Chilean has spoken about how the negativity is affecting his players, something all too clear in the words of Brazilian Wellington last week.

"It's impossible to ignore what's going on," the defender said. "There are kids who play with my son who are asking me about it, who are crying, who ask if the team is going to be relegated to Segunda B (the third tier).

"It's a difficult situation to deal with after everything that has happened, the big signings, the big player presentations.

"We were all expecting more signings, more surprises, believing that the team would continue to be in fashion. But now we don't know why all this has come to an end."

For Malaga supporters the disappointment must be amplified as no sooner had the club reached a modern day zenith than the problems surfaced.

The timing could not be worse with their next competitive action being a first taste of Champions League football – a two-legged qualifier that could lead to lucrative group stage participation.

That game looms large on the horizon and despite the undeniable distractions this is a big pre-season for the Spaniards.

Consequently the match against the Blues has an added importance compared to other friendlies and the visitors from Merseyside can expect a thorough examination.

Evertonians are well-acquainted with Pellegrini after his Villarreal side knocked them out of the Champions League qualifying stages in 2005.

The El Madrigal outfit played with a serious swagger and the South American ethos he encouraged there is in evidence again at Malaga.

The squad is laced with Argentine and Brazilian talent and the style is easy on the eye.

A player to look out for is the coveted playmaker Isco, who sits in the hole as Riquelme did for Pellegrini at Villarreal. Pinched from Valencia's crop of emerging stars, the 20-year-old was one of the finds of the season in Spain last term.

Blessed with exceptional balance and quick feet, the midfielder can glide past opponents with ease thanks to an ample trove of trickery and an incisive change of pace.

Despite the exit of key players, a talented group remains and will provide the level of opposition David Moyes would want for what is his side’s final hurdle before the advent of their 2012/13 Premier League campaign.

Los Boquerones suffered a 2-0 defeat to Juventus in pre-season action on Saturday with all their remaining big names present and the Blues can expect something similar.

For Malaga, whether those same big names are there at the start of the season is something that remains to be seen.

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