The pall of uncertainty gathering over Málaga deepened ominously Wednesday with the south coast club announcing it had given Santi Cazorla permission to speak to Arsenal about a transfer. The Spain international wasted little time, boarding a flight to London early on Thursday to undergo a medical ahead of a 23-million-euro switch.
Cazorla is not likely to be the last Málaga player packing his bags in the coming weeks. As Manuel Pellegrini took a training session at La Rosaleda, further reports of the club's financial difficulties emerged. The Chilean coach has apparently not been paid, and neither have many of his players. Spanish Footballers' Association president Luis Rubiales said after a recent visit to the club that some 30 to 40 percent of players' wages had not been forthcoming. Meanwhile, Málaga's owner, Sheikh Abdullah bin Nassar Al-Thani, and his board are keeping very low profiles in Qatar. The method by which money arrives at Málaga is a convoluted one, with the sheikh making international deposits from the emirate. These have now dried up.
It is widely thought that the sheikh, who bought Málaga for 36 million euros in June 2010 and then spent some 65 million on players, has lost interest in the club and is hawking it to the highest bidder. In the meantime, the playing staff are continuing to train ahead of the start of La Liga on August 18, and a potentially lucrative Champions League play-off qualifier: entry to the main draw is worth around 10 million. Málaga will learn who its opponent is on August 31.
However, in the 2010-11 season Mallorca was prevented by Uefa from playing in the Europa League as it had entered voluntary administration.
Coach Pellegrini has not been paid and neither have many of his players
As with any business in trouble, the only recourse the club has now to pay the bills is to sell its assets, and Cazorla is the most valuable Málaga has. However, other players such as Jérémy Toulalan - a full France international until his part in the 2010 World Cup players' strike - striker José Salomón Rondón, Spain internationals Nacho Monreal and Isco Alarcón, and Netherlands defender Joris Mathijsen, many of them bought with the sheikh's check book, would appeal to other teams.
"It's impossible to ignore what's going on," vice captain Weligton Oliveira told a press conference on Thursday. "There are kids who play with my son who are asking me about it, crying, asking if the team is going to be relegated to Segunda B. It's difficult to deal with after everything that has happened, the big signings. We were all expecting more signings, more surprises, to continue being the team in fashion. But, for whatever reason, the chairman has now stopped investing money.
"It is clear that we are about to close the sale of a player and with that money we can resolve part of the big problem that we have. This situation cannot be maintained and we'll play the season with whatever we have left, with players from the youth team or whatever it takes."