Instead of falling apart along with the financial situation at the club, Malaga players, along with head coach Manuel Pellegrini, are putting all of the troubles behind them, off to a fantastic start in the Spanish La Liga and the Champions League, contrary to all expectations and projections.
To be truthful, Malaga didn’t lose as many players as other teams in Spain and around the continent would have liked. The departures of Santi Cazorla, the team’s best player last season; and Samuel Rondon, the team’s top scorer in 2011-2012 were a big hit, but not a crippling one. There was enough quality, apparently, hiding just underneath.
The first thing worth mentioning is the defense. Through the first six matches (4 wins and 2 draws), not against the creme de la creme of the league, Malaga have conceded only two goals. Not just thanks to goalkeeper Wilfredo Caballero, but also the Demichelis-Welingto centre back duo that isn’t the fastest in the world, but is aided by a fantastic CM duo in Jeremy Toulalan, a player that was on the verge of leaving, and the young and talented Ignacio Camacho.
Up front, where the quality is, are the real surprises. Javier Saviola was brought back from his Benfica experience, scoring two goals so far. Eliseu and Francisco Portillo have been a pleasant surprise on the left wing, with the two of them giving three assists so far. Joaquin had a so-so debut season, but with the added responsibility and importance this year, it seems he’s enjoying football again, like he did during some years with Valencia and certainly way back in his Betis days, when he was considered to be one of the best wingers in the world.
Above all, with the most amount of potential, is Isco. If things would have gone a bit differently, the 20 year old attacking midfielder would have been already playing for Arsenal or Manchester United, but Malaga were never too interested in selling, while the British clubs probably needed a bigger name.
If anyone was oblivious to his talents before, his performance in the Champions League against Zenit and his ability so far in the La Liga, for those willing to look past the Barcelona – Real Madrid block, they aren’t anymore. Francisco Román Alarcón Suárez isn’t a superstar yet, having too many ups and downs in his matches, like most creative players tend to have before their big breakthrough (if it ever happens), but he seems to be on the right path. Just like his team, although the moment depth becomes an issue, the wonderful start will prove to be nothing more than point hoarding for a harsh winter.