Where did Manuel Pellegrini go wrong?
From the rubble of megalomania
Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser Al Thani wanted to stir up the league with Malaga FC. But after a short time he turned away from the club - and left a heap of broken glass. Now Bernd Schuster saves what can still be saved - with a new recipe for success.
It was supposed to be nothing less than a huge sports complex. A new stadium for 65,000 spectators. Its own youth training center based on the model of the famous La Masia. Training grounds on an area of twelve hectares. Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser Al Thani had big plans when he took over Malaga FC in June 2010.
Investments were also made in the first team. Debt repayment in one fell swoop. Star obligations. Malaga FC should become the third strongest force in the Primera Division. Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser Al Thani prophesied a glorious future.
A good two years later, megalomania gave way to listlessness. All of a sudden the Sheikh turned off the tap. Without notice or apparent reason. Since then, Malaga has been struggling to survive.
Dramatic budget cuts and serious departures
The direct consequences hit the club in the marrow: The Andalusians could no longer pay salaries and transfer fees in time. UEFA reacted by imposing a one-year European Cup ban on the club for violating financial fair play.
But the long-term consequences are even more serious: The budget for the current season has been reduced from 100 to 40 million euros. Coach Manuel Pellegrini went to the still wealthy Citizens in Manchester, stars like Isco, Jeremy Toulalan or Joaquin had to leave the club.
And all the ambitious, sustainable construction projects? None of these have been implemented to date. In the summer, Malaga was in ruins.
Five-year contract for shoemaker
But between the ruins of the failed, if still ongoing, liaison with Sheikh Al Thani, Malaga FC dared to take a bold step. Bernd Schuster was signed as heir to the successful coach Pellegrini, who had led the Boquerones to the quarter-finals of the Champions League.
Schuster, who had not coached a club in the previous two years, was awarded a five-year contract. Even he was amazed: "In fact, it surprised me too when Malaga offered me a five-year contract," he admitted at his official introduction.
"You made it clear to me what the situation looks like. That is something positive," said Schuster. Against the background of the dramatic financial distress, the sheikh's unpredictability and an unclear future, an astonishing statement. Not many coaches could have seen the situation of Malaga FC positively at the time.
Modesty instead of transfer madness
But Schuster accepted the circumstances. "I didn't come here to soak up the sun, but to take on the challenge," he said fiercely. Since then he has been preaching modesty and trying to counteract the megalomania that had prevailed over the years.
For example, he collects "only" half a million euros a year. What sounds like a pipe dream to normal earners is almost ridiculously low compared to the salary of his predecessor: Pellegrini is said to have received this sum every month.
When it comes to transfers, the situation in Malaga is now different. While Pellegrini was allowed to sound out the market two years earlier with a budget of 60 million euros, Schuster only took 3.6 million in hand for new additions.
Instead of ready-made stars or coveted youngsters, he brought in a handful of unknown talent. More was not possible. Financially, cobblers' hands were tied. He had no choice but to sincerely ask for patience: "We brought in very young, hungry players. But they have to mature and need patience." Schuster doesn't make his transfers bigger than they are. The time of the castles in the air is history.
"I was expecting zero points anyway"
That became clear after the start of the season at the latest: Schuster's completely overhauled troop took only one point from the first three games - but the sadness about it was limited. On the one hand, because the opponents were Barcelona, Valencia and Seville. On the other hand, Schuster openly admitted, he had "counted on zero points from the first three games anyway".
A courageous, if honest, assessment. One that stands in contrast to the megalomania of recent years. Schuster also remained realistic in 17th place and asked for more time: "The nice game is still to come, without a doubt. But first of all we have to defend compactly."
Said and done. Five games later, Malaga are in tenth place and even have the third-best defense in the league - which amazed Schuster again: "That surprised me a little. We have a completely new defense with the exception of Jesus Gamez."
This will be put to another tough test on the coming matchday. On Saturday, Malaga will be playing at Real Madrid (4 p.m. in LIVE-TICKER) - where the Andalusians have never won a league game. Real Madrid, behind which a few years ago they wanted to place themselves as the third force in Spain. But this dream is on hold for the time being. Under Schuster, more modest goals are formulated: "Hopefully I can stay the five years I signed for. That would mean that everything went well."
FC Malaga at a glance
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