This is Spain

Manuel Pelligrini

The Real Club de Campoamor Hotel and Sports complex hosted two former La Liga rivals over the last couple of weeks. First on the scene was Málaga CF who offered fans the opportunity to see some famous names and faces up close and collect an autograph or two, not to mention the ubiquitous mobile phone photograph, to share with friends and family around the world. Led by former Villarreal and Real Madrid coach Manuel Pellegrini, the Malaga squad were in town for a week along with household names such as their new signings, Maresca, Martin Demichelis, Julio Baptista and fan favourite, former Real Madrid and Manchester United striker, Ruud Van Nistelrooy

On Saturday, Málaga played their first pre-season friendly against a Pilar de la Horadada select, who held their heads high and put up a decent performance against the La Lifga squad, who only ever had half their first team on the field at any time. It was the first opportunity for the squad to play together and things are looking up for 2011-12 since after surviving a major scare and fighting for La Liga survival last season, they just about stayed up after the arrival of Argentinian Martin Demichelis and Brazilian Julio Baptista helped turn the team around. Full credit to the man responsible, Sheikh Abdullah ben Nasser Al Thani who purchased the club on June 11, 2010 and became president on July 28. He brought in Pellegrini to help change the fortunes on the field and Málaga was able to obtain five consecutive wins at the end of the season, a historic first for the club, climbing out of the relegation zone and eventually finishing in 11th place.

The good news for fans of Málaga is that Sheikh Al Thani is pumping more money into his club with the first surprise signing this summer being Ruud Van Nistelrooy, with promises of more strength in the squad to come. Unfortunately training was not completely without incident and Brazilian footballer Weligton suffered a torn internal meniscus of his right knee which was diagnosed by specialists at USP Hospital San Jaime in Torrevieja and examined by Doctor Ripoll at the San Carlos Hospital in Murcia, where he was operated on. The estimated down time is between 4 or 5 weeks.

During the week, midfielder Ignacio Camacho appeared before the media to give his analysis of the current malaguista outfit. Camacho said of the new team and signings that “Lots of changes have taken place in two years and all who come will be welcome, just like the day I arrived. They are integrating well, which is good for the team. We are going to try and work together so that the new players can integrate as quickly as possible so that the team will be ready for the start of the season.” He continued, “People are very excited. Fans have been suffering for years and now it’s time for them to enjoy. I’ve seen that we have a great project and now we have to show that we are good from the first day of the league and for that from the first session the team has been training hard because its going to be difficult to win a place as it’s going to be very competitive.”

The beginning of the season will not be an easy one for Málaga as it’s against the all- conquering Barcelona of whom he said “With the first (game) in mind, it’s better to get it over now. With what we are doing we could play this game to a good standard; we have the team for it and we could make the most of a Barcelona that meet us after a couple of tough games. This year there is no rival that we aren’t able to beat. Not only do we have to stay up (in La Liga) but we have to aspire for more.”

Camacho gave a positive oversight on all of the key players and new signing also noting that he was delighted in the arrival of Rudd Van Nistelrooy saying “He’s a physical marvel and pure goal scorer; a great figure up front. Ruud is a great person and companion.” Of all the players, Van Nistelrooy was one of the more visible, posing for photos and signing autographs late into the evening.

As Málaga headed south, Hércules arrived to go through their rebuilding process after being relegated from La Liga after just one season with the ‘big boys’. After a terrific start and a surprise win against Barcelona, they looked comfortable until around Christmas when they slumped to defeat after defeat and compounded with major financial difficulties, found themselves relegated. However, Hércules have stated that they fully intend to fight for promotion this year and so the rebuilding process has begun. Hercules have morning and evening training sessions and an expected pre-season friendly over the next couple of days, so you will still have the opportunity to watch them train and play.

Please note unless otherwise stated all posts are provided by Keith Nicol Please contact him for further information. © Keith Nicol 2011

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