Future looks bright for ambitious and deep-pocketed Malaga

June 6, 2011

In our latest post on Spanish soccer, Iain Rogers in Madrid looks at Qatari Sheikh Abdullah al Thani’s ambitious plans for Andalusian club Malaga and an impressive victory for Spain over United States that underlined the world champions’ strength in depth. 

Future looks bright for ambitious and deep-pocketed Malaga

It’s been a long road back since they went into voluntary administration in late 2006, but for Malaga the future looks extremely promising.

Sheikh Abdullah al Thani, a member of the Qatari royal family who bought the south-coast club last year, appears genuinely ambitious and looks to have deep enough pockets to turn his plans into reality.

Certainly if his choice of automobiles is anything to go by.

On a visit to the club’s La Rosaleda stadium last week to interview vice-president and CEO Abdullah Ghubn, we passed through the car park where several of the sheikh’s prize possession were being housed — including a Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG and a Pagani Zonda.

We were in Malaga for the inking of an agreement between the club and UNESCO and also happened to be there on the day Ruud van Nistelrooy turned up to put the finishing touches to a deal to join from Hamburg SV.

That the Dutch striker, who will be 35 in July, was persuaded to play out the final days of his career at Malaga speaks volumes about the seriousness of their project.

Ghubn, who runs the club on behalf of the sheikh, tapped former Villarreal and Real Madrid coach Manuel Pellegrini to lead the first team after he was dumped by Real at the end of the 2009/10 season.

They were struggling at the start of this year but spent wisely in the January transfer window, Brazil forward Julio Baptista proving a particularly astute purchase.

Since the 2010/11 campaign ended a few weeks ago, they have been linked in local media with players including Palermo’s Argentina midfielder Javier Pastore and Olympique Lyon’s France midfielder Jeremy Toulalan.

“We have a plan to do something very big and very huge so our dream is not limited to one level,” Libya-born 31-year-old Ghubn, who is of Jordanian nationality, told us in the interview in the club’s corporate suite.

“We have an agenda, we have a philosophy, we have time to do something very special for this club.”

Spain show strength in depth with rout of U.S. 

Spain’s form in friendly internationals since they won their first World Cup in South Africa last year has been patchy but they came good on Saturday with a 4-0 trouncing of United States in Boston.

The victory was all the more impressive given that coach Vicente del Bosque included only five of the players who started the final against Netherlands in Johannesburg in his starting 11.

Spain were 3-0 up by halftime and the goals were scored by two players who were not even in the World Cup-winning squad: Villarreal midfielder Santi Cazorla (who missed out through injury) with two and Sevilla striker Alvaro Negredo (who was overlooked) with one.

Borja Valero, another Villarreal midfielder, came on for the second half and marked his debut by providing a fine assist for Fernando Torres to score Spain’s fourth.

With some of the heavyweights who will hope to take Spain’s European crown next year suffering in Euro 2012 qualifying, the ease of the Iberian nation’s win underlined the country’s impressive strength in depth.

“I think we have to be happy, above all the way we approached the match,” Torres, whose clinical finish was only his second goal this calendar year, told reporters.

“Given it was the end of the season, it seemed like people were going to already be thinking about the holidays or relaxing a bit but we felt very comfortable,” he added.

“I am happy with the goal and with the image of the team.”

PHOTO: Ruud van Nistelrooy of the Netherlands gestures to supporters during his official presentation at La Rosaleda stadium in Malaga June 2, 2011. REUTERS/Jon Nazca.

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