Relegation year. After the marvellous taste left in the mouth from the previous campaign, a settled feeling spread into the heart of La Rosaleda with Antonio Tapia in charge. However, a series of negative turns accompanied Málaga in its seventh consecutive season with Spain’s football elite. A record that beat C.D. Málaga, and its magical five-year stint in First, with Viberti at the helm and with two seventh placed league positions in the 70s. ‘Pichichi’ Salva Ballesta had returned. Also signed on were ‘Chengue’ Morales and Antonio Hidalgo who were to be key members in Malaga’s return to top-flight football.
Everything went awry from the beginning, with a defeat in that first game against Celta in Vigo that was marked by the serious injury of ‘Gato’ Romero, life of the blue and whites midfield. It was followed by a series of non-sporting questions that affected the malaguista squad creating a negative atmosphere and marred by the bad results seen Sunday after Sunday. An important man for Tapia was the Portuguese ‘bombardier’ Duda who, in a disciplinary action, was segregated from the team that was in freefall, and ended up in last place. This was in spite of the fact that at the start of the season Málaga scored the most goals in its history, in a match against Betis (5-0). But it was an oasis in the middle of a desert.
The Fuengirola trainer was relieved of his duties in the middle of the season by the then technical secretary Manolo Hierro, who left the office and put on a tracksuit in an effort to try and reverse the situation. The man from Vélez made his debut with a triumph against Athletic Bilbao in La Rosaleda (2-1) with goals from Litos and Salva, who later became the maximum goal scorer with 6 goals), reinforcements came from Brazil, Bovio and Gabriel, and Duda was allowed to return to the team…. But this was the only victory that Hierro’s team managed in the last 18 matches of the competition. Result? It was a traumatic relegation; the agony in the last games was really painful for the team, the fans and the city.
The 30th April 2006, in the 35th game of the First Division, a 2-3 defeat at La Rosaleda by Racing Santander mathematically confirmed Málaga’s relegation to Second. Bad refereeing, and bad luck aside, completed a disastrous campaign at a statistical level (bottom with 5 wins in 38 games) with a painful defeat in the final: 5-0 in Cádiz against the yellow team, another relegation side. Málaga returned to the abyss of Second Division, once again ending its time as an elite team.
Forward from Zaragoza Salva Ballesta, with 6 goals, was the top blue and white goal scorer. Hidalgo, Duda and Edgar with 4 goals, were next in the list of top goal scorers.