Málaga owner Sheikh Abdullah has decided to act after seeing his team go into 2011 entrenched in the bottom three in the table, with the Qatari businessman sanctioning the signing of five players with the promise of more to come. The Sheikh is in danger of seeing his significant investment under serious threat, and it means the Costa del Sol club are in the unaccustomed position of being the biggest movers in Spain so far during the January transfer market.
First to arrive was ex-Sevilla and Juventus midfielder Enzo Maresca, who rescinded his contract with Greek side Olympiacos back in August and has been training with another of his former teams, Fiorentina, in a bid to maintain fitness. He was swiftly followed by the double-signing from Atlético Madrid of two Spanish youth internationals, goalkeeper Sergio Asenjo and central midfield player Ignacio ‘Nacho’ Camacho. Asenjo arrives on loan until the end of the season, having lost his place in the starting eleven last year due to the emergence of David de Gea, and 20-year old Camacho has penned a four-year deal for an undisclosed fee, with Atlético retaining the option to buy the player back until 2013.
Experienced Argentinian centre-back Martín Demichelis has also arrived on loan from Bayern Munich until June, linking up again with manager Manuel Pellegrini under whom he played at River Plate between 2001 and 2003. Demichelis appeared in all his country’s games at the 2010 World Cup, but fell out with Bayern boss Louis van Gaal at the start of the season when he was left out of the team for the season’s opener against Wolfsburg. He was previously a key member of the Bayern squad which did the double in 2005, 2006 and 2010.
The fifth and possibly most high-profile reinforcement arrived in the shape of attacking midfielder Julio Baptista. The Brazilian - whose former clubs include Sevilla, Real Madrid and Arsenal (loan) - was snapped up from Roma for a fee of £1.75m and has been given a three-year deal worth a reported £2.25m. Nicknamed ‘The Beast’, Baptista has played almost 50 times for his country and during his time at Sevilla scored an impressive 38 goals in 63 appearances, prompting a £13.8m move to Real Madrid - Málaga will be hoping for a similar return in their bid to beat the drop.
t looks as if the spending will not be stopping there either. River Plate winger Diego Buonanotte is also on the radar, but Málaga could have to fight off interest from Sunderland to land a player who was once labelled the ‘new Maradona’. Swiss left-back Reto Ziegler, currently with Sampdoria, is another to be strongly linked, with his agent flying into Málaga earlier this week to try and reach an agreement for the 24-year old. However, everything could depend on whether los blanquiazules can resurrect a deal for Sporting Gijón’s José Ángel, which was thought to be dead in the water two weeks ago but is now a possibility once more.