The longest season in history due to the global COVID-19 crisis was the fifth in the silver division under the MCF name. Both on and off the pitch, a host of events marked the complex future of the Blue and White team and the entity from the start.
Following the bittersweet end to last season, without achieving the dream promotion, but featuring a magical unity between team and fans that went viral around the world, Víctor Sánchez del Amo’s project 2.0 faced numerous difficulties. As the Club exceeded the permitted salary cap, LaLiga failed to grant the signings of Okazaki, José Rodríguez and homegrown players Mula and Iván Rodríguez (Sadiku, Lorenzo and Benkhemassa were the only signings permitted). As such, only 18 professional players were allowed, which carried the subsequent risk of an improper line-up practically from the start, in Santander, where the maximum number of reserve team players (4) were in action, for the majority of the matchday 1 win at El Sardinero (0-1).
Ten matches went by without a win until Málaga accumulated two consecutive victories, against Dépor in A Coruña and at home against Real Oviedo. The solid defence, several draws with short results and the homegrown players taking centre stage, with special mention going out to the surprising appearance of Antoñín on the attack, were the highlights before the sad end to 2019 in the Copa del Rey with defeat by the modest Escobedo, before a convulsive start to 2020.
In parallel, the Club was experiencing a constant situation of instability. In addition to the well-known litigation between hotel company Blue Bay and president Sheikh Al Thani due to shareholder issues, a number of layoffs followed under the instruction of North American Richard Shaheen during his short time as general manager. In terms of sport, Caminero and Víctor left abruptly, the latter at the start of the second round of the league competition on matchday 22 (5th January) following the 1-1 draw with Oviedo. Two men of the house, Manolo Gaspar and Sergio Pellicer took the reins – as an interim measure – as sports manager and in the dugout, respectively.
In the midst of a war of words with LaLiga, with the Club requesting a payment plan to reach the end of the season, and with the shadow of the Reus case firmly in mind, Málaga entered the winter transfer market with restrictions, signing Buenacasa and Tete Morente for a minimal salary, and later Aarón Ñíguez after he was not registered with CD Lugo. The team, with Pellicer at the helm, maintained a solvent defence and showed a greater level of practicality in terms of results, sitting in a mid-table position. Three wins on the bounce against Numancia, leaders Cádiz and Racing highlighted the improvement.
The players knew how to remove themselves from another situation that changed the future of the entity. A day that will go down in history, 19th February 2020, Sheikh Abdullah Al Thani was removed from the management of the Club after a decade as president, following a police intervention at La Rosaleda and the granting of the lawsuit filed by the Association of Small Shareholders of Málaga, which led to a new cycle with José María Muñoz heading up the Judicial Administration of Málaga Club de Fútbol.
Muñoz soon started to make decisions. Shaheen, who had planned the unnatural dismissal of Gaspar and Pellicer, was dismissed ipso facto and Manolo and Sergio were re-appointed to their posts. The sale of Antoñín to Granada CF gave a crucial respite to the Club’s coffers to comply with the demands of LaLiga, just before the COVID-19 crisis hit. A virus that in the form of a pandemic brought the world, the good moment for Málaga, and the competition itself to a standstill for three months, between March and June.
Nevertheless, the team returned to show its commitment and faith as LaLiga SmartBank resumed. To seal continuity in the Second Division, with the standings closer than ever, Pellicer’s men achieved three wins and six draws in the final 11 games of the season, keeping a clean sheet in eight of these matches, played behind closed doors, with a pace of play far from the norm as a consequence of the halt in competition due to coronavirus. The consolidation of homegrown players such as Ismael and Juande, the emergence of a decisive Tete Morente and a highly effective formation of three centrals and two fullbacks, led the team to mathematically secure their place in the division in the penultimate game after the 2-0 win against Alcorcón at La Rosaleda on a very warm 17th July.
In terms of players, the goal had a first and last name: Armando Sadiku. The Albanian striker scored 13 goals (5 out of 5 penalties taken) and remained a goal away from the best league stats of the decade achieved by Rondón and Sandro. And in goal, Munir Mohand won the historic Zamora Trophy in a category in which Málaga CF was the team to have conceded the fewest goals for the first time, in what was an extraordinary, incredible 19/20 season.