Football Friends Online – When 90 Mins Is Not EnoughLa Liga big two may face competition from rich Malaga - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough La Liga big two may face competition from rich Malaga - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough

La Liga big two may face competition from rich Malaga

With both teams adding to already impressive squads, La Liga may be on course for another year in which Real Madrid and Barcelona fight it out for the title in what is a recurrent theme. Barcelona have drafted £22 million striker Alexis Sanchez into their League and Champions League winning squad while their dogged pursuit of Cesc Fabregas is ongoing. Jose Mourinho has entered the transfer market to bring the highly-rated youthful trio Nuri Sahin, Fabio Coentrao and Rapheal Varane to the Bernabeu. Add into the fact it is now four years since the El Clasico duo have been split at the summit of the table and you would be forgiven for thinking this forthcoming year may see a repeat of their dominance as Mourinho seeks to finally topple his Catalan tormentors from their perch.

However, it may not be that simple as there seems to be a new force in town and it comes armed with bags of money. The last time Barcelona finished anywhere else but top of Spain’s football pyramid, Malaga were preparing for a second year in the Segundo division after narrowly escaping relegation into Spanish footballing oblivion following a drop from the Primera Liga the year before, where they amassed a paltry 24 points. Juan Muniz oversaw the rise back into the top flight before returning a year later to consolidate their position. Then came their watershed moment, in the summer of 2010, Qatari business man Abdullah Al Thani purchased the club on June 11 and employed Jesualdo Ferreira to guide the club into the new era. He was sacked with the club positioned in the relegation zone and Al Thani turned to former Madrid coach Manuel Pellegrini who initiated a revival. Julio Baptista, Enzo Maresca and Martin Demichelis all arrived in January and Malaga finished the season in a respectable eleventh place.

Coming into this season and there is a feeling of high optimism on the Costa Del Sol. With strong investment from Al Thani, they have acquired a total of nine players, the latest being Santi Cazorla who has turned down interest from Arsenal to make the £18 million switch from Villareal. 19 year old attacking midfielder Isco arrives from Valencia with bags of potential while Joaquin also makes the move from the Mestalla. The defence has also been strengthened with the purchase of Nacho Monreal and Sergio Sanchez from Osasuna and Sevilla respectively. The signings of these players is also symbolic as they have been taken from rivals, signifying a change in power amongst the clubs outside of the group of two Spanish elite. Malaga may be the Spanish Manchester City, taken over by a wealthy Eastern based owner and have duly set about putting a project in place to achieve success in the long term. Like City’s, the majority of business has been done on young, exciting talent; there signings have an average age of 25.4, and have been signed from direct opposition, similar to City’s targeting of Arsenal.

From outside of Spain, Jeremy Toulalan joins from Lyon to add some steel to the midfield and will line up alongside academy graduate Antonio Benitez, known as Apono, who has all-round midfield ability and can chip in with goals as well as the hard working side of midfield play. Furthermore, two experience signings have been made from Hamburg with Joris Mathijsen coming in to bolster the defence and Ruud Van Nistelrooy, who comes in at the age of 35 on a free transfer, to add his goal-scoring prowess to a strike force of Julio Baptista, seemly coming of age after his unimpressive spells with Arsenal and Roma after he scored nine goals in eleven appearances in last year’s la liga. Van Nistelrooy will also link up with Colombian Solomon Rondon, who hit 14 goals last season as he finished top scorer. Out of the nine pieces of the £51 million worth of business Malaga have done, only two players, Toulalan and Cazorla have cost above £5 million and they have signed astutely, bringing in valuable experience with a blend of youthful exuberance; a far cry from Pellegrini’s days as coach of the Madrid Galacticos, this is sensible business.

While it may be extremely hard for an invasion of the consensual top 2, there is no denying that the small club in the Andulusia region of the south coast of Spain may be onto something promising. Backed by Sheikh Al Thani and coached by a man with a point to prove in Spain in the form of Manuel Pellegrini, there is a feeling that Malaga could well disturb the status quo. It remains to be seen whether these players can gel quick enough to provide the required consistency for a successful season in La Liga, but it is undoubted they have formed an exciting squad of players. Malaga is now an attractive proposition, and in this coming season, they may become a formidable one.

Adam Gray,

Twitter: @MonkeyLunch21

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