Málaga made history in the 2011/12 season. This year will always be remembered by fans as Málaga finished fourth in the League – the highest position in over a hundred years – qualifying for the Champions League play-offs. Their 58 points guarantees them a place in European competition, 10 years after their first and only participation in Europe to date. The team’s success can be attributed to the arrival of Sheikh Abdullah Al-Thani, who strengthened the team with high-profile players including Van Nistelrooy, Santi Cazorla, Joaquín, Toulalan, Buonanotte, Isco, Sergio Sánchez, Monreal and Mathijsen. They all helped Málaga become the ‘fashionable team’ throughout Europe, thanks to the signings and famous faces in La Rosaleda. Málaga CF was one of the Clubs in Europe which made the biggest investment in players.
Manuel Pellegrini and the coaching team were able to plan the team during the pre-season, after his arrival half way through the previous year. This allowed him to put his mark on the team, with regards to the style of play, concentrating on possession and movement of the ball, which continued throughout the season. The team was also forced to overcome numerous setbacks over the year, such as the long term injuries of Julio Baptista, Toulalan and Willy Caballero, which highlights the quality and depth of the entire team.
Following a difficult start to the season, in which the team couldn’t get the results they wanted, Málaga slowly began to take shape. The significant match against Getafe in La Rosaleda (3-2), with a spectacular goal from Chile-born Baptista; the impressive draw in the Santiago Bernabéu against Real Madrid (1-1); the brilliant high-scoring matches against Rayo Vallecano (4-2) and Real Zaragoza (5-1), as well as the historic victory by 1-0 against Sporting de Gijón in the last League match of the season. The team was knocked out of the Copa del Rey in the last 16 by Real Madrid, but defeated Getafe in the previous round. Málaga was commended for their performance in the match against Real Madrid.
The day after the League had come to an end, veteran striker, Ruud van Nistelrooy announced his retirement from professional football, after an amazing career in the European football elite. He was named Best Goal Scorer of the last decade by the IFFHS in 2012.
Venezuela-born striker, Salomón Rondón, was again declared Málaga Club de Fútbol’s best goal scorer, scoring 11 League goals and two in the Cup. Santi Cazorla, who’s played 38 League matches, was the second highest scorer, with nine goals, the highest in his career.