Football Features

Where are they now? The Malaga side from the 2012/13 Champions League

By Steve Jennings

Published: 18:00, 15 August 2021

In 2010 the landscape of Spanish football appeared to have changed as Malaga, an unremarkable club with little prior success to their name, were taken over by a wealthy owner from overseas.

Foreign ownership has become the norm in the Premier League over the past 15 years but the same cannot be said of La Liga. There was significant intrigue then when Sheikh Abdullah Bin Nassar Al-Thani, a member of the Qatari royal family, bought the club for €36 million.

With Barcelona and Real Madrid miles ahead of any other club in Spain at the time, Malaga’s takeover gave hope that someone outside of the top two could eventually challenge at the top of La Liga.

Increased investment didn’t lead to immediate success as the club finished 11th in La Liga at the end of the 2010-11 campaign but following an eye-catching spending spree the following summer, they secured fourth in 2011-12 thus qualifying them for the Champions League.

The dream appeared to be over in 2012, though, as star players such as Santi Cazorla, Salomon Rondon and Nacho Monreal (in the winter transfer window) were all sold with replacements arriving either on free transfers or loan deals.

Despite that, Malaga went on to enjoy another fine season under the steady stewardship of Manuel Pellegrini, finishing sixth in La Liga and most notably, reaching the Champions League quarter-finals, where only two injury-time goals from eventual runners-up Borussia Dortmund, denied them a place in the last four.

However, Malaga are now a club in crisis in Spain’s second division and recently announced they would be releasing their entire first-team squad in an attempt to save avoid financial insolvency.

Undoubtedly these are troubling times for Malaga, but for one moment let’s take a look back to the happier period and see where the members of that 2012-13 squad are now.

Willy Caballero (Goalkeeper)

Malaga appearances: 133

Current club: Unattached

Malaga plucked Willy Caballero from Elche in the Segunda Division midway through the 2010-11 season and immediately installed him as their first-choice ‘keeper.

So good were Caballero’s performances for the club that his manager Manuel Pellegrini decided to take him to Manchester City in 2014 where he spent three years prior to signing for Chelsea, where he remained until July 2021.

Carlos Kameni (Goalkeeper)

Malaga appearances: 121

Current club: Unattached

One of the most decorated African goalkeepers of all-time, Cameroonian Carlos Kameni had to play second fiddle to Caballero after arriving in 2012 before establishing himself as the No.1 after his departure.

Following five years at La Rosaleda, Kameni sealed a switch to Fenerbahce in 2017, but left after playing 16 matches and is now a free agent.

Jesus Gamez (Defender)

Malaga appearances: 257

Current club: Unattached

A product of the club’s youth team and their captain during that historic 2012-13 season, Jesus Gamez made his senior debut in 2005 and remained a stalwart of the first-team for a further nine years.

In 2014 he moved to Atletico Madrid after their La Liga title win and he collected a Champions League runners-up medal prior to joining Newcastle United in 2016. He spent two years in England but is now without a club.

Martin Demichelis (Defender)

Malaga appearances: 113

Current club: Retired (last played for Malaga)

Following a successful seven-year spell with Bayern Munich, Martin Demichelis made the move to Spain in January 2011 by joining Malaga, where he stayed for two and a half seasons.

Like Caballero, he too left for Manchester City following Pellegrini’s appointment (only after originally signing a contract with Atletico Madrid) and won three major honours in England before ending his career back at Malaga in 2016/17.

Weligton (Defender)

Malaga appearances: 286

Current club: Retired (last played for Malaga)

Weligton moved to Malaga in 2007 and helped the club achieve promotion to La Liga in his debut campaign.

The Brazilian spent a decade at the club helping to establish them in the top-flight as well as playing an important role in their Champions League run.

At the age of 37, Weligton announced his retirement from the game in the summer of 2017.

Diego Lugano (Defender)

Malaga appearances: 11

Current club: Retired (last played for Sao Paulo)

After finding himself firmly out-of-favour at PSG, Diego Lugano signed for Malaga on a short-term loan deal in January 2013, featuring sporadically in the remainder of the campaign.

The veteran Uruguayan international was well travelled after leaving, turning out for West Brom, BK Hacken in Sweden, Cerro Porteno in Paraguay and Sao Paulo.

Sergio Sanchez (Defender)

Malaga appearances: 96

Current club: Retired (last played for Cádiz)

A versatile defender who came through the youth ranks at Espanyol, Sergio Sanchez joined Malaga from Sevilla in 2011 and spent four years at the club.

He embarked on a new challenge in Greece by signing for Panathinaikos but was there for just a year. Sanchez eventually returned to Spain, turning out for his boyhood club Espanyol on loan Rubin Kazan. He is now a free agent, having left Cadiz in the summer of 2020 following a loan at Albacete.

Vitorino Antunes (Defender)

Malaga appearances: 69

Current club: Paços Ferreira

Malaga snapped up Vitorino Antunes in January 2013 following the sale of Nacho Monreal to Arsenal and he sufficiently impressed during a loan spell to earn a permanent move from Pacos Ferreira.

The Portuguese international spent two and a half years at Malaga and, after spells with Dynamo Kiev and Getafe, is back in his native country signing for Paços Ferreira after enjoying a spell at Sporting CP where he lifted the Portuguese championship.

Eliseu (Midfielder)

Malaga appearances: 213

Current club: Retired (last played for Benfica)

Eliseu made his name with Malaga between 2007-09 to earn a move to Lazio but he returned to Andalusia in 2010 after finding first-team opportunities in Rome hard to come by.

He was a first-team regular in his second spell with the club but left for Benfica in 2014, but he’s since hung up his boots.

Ignacio Camacho (Midfielder)

Malaga appearances: 201

Current club: Retired (last played for Wolfsburg)

Regarded as one of Spain’s best up-and-coming prospects after graduating through Atletico Madrid’s youth system, Ignacio Camacho sealed a move to Malaga in 2011.

Camacho established himself as one of La Liga’s best defensive midfielders, making more interceptions (115) than any other player in the division in 2016/17. But limited appearances for Wolfsburg have prevented him topping any Bundesliga rankings.

Jeremy Toulalan (Midfielder)

Malaga appearances: 59

Current club: Retired (last played for Bordeaux)

A diligent defensive midfielder, Jeremy Toulalan signed for Malaga ahead of the 2011-12 season after previously representing Lyon and Nantes.

He was one of the high-profile departures in 2013 as the exodus started signing for Monaco, where he stayed for three years before linking up with Bordeaux.

Toulalan left the French side in 2018, requesting for his contract to be terminated after manager Jocelyn Gourvennec was replaced with Gus Poyet, and subsequently retired from the game.

Isco (Midfielder)

Malaga appearances: 84

Current club: Real Madrid

Like Camacho, Isco’s reputation as one of Spain’s best young talents persuaded Malaga to acquire him from Valencia in 2011.

Despite featuring only seven times for Valencia’s first team, Isco immediately became a fixture of the Malaga side and was their talisman during the run to the Champions League last eight.

His form resulted in a move to Real Madrid in 2013, where he has won four Champions League titles and two La Ligas despite having spells in and out of the team.

Joaquin (Midfielder)

Malaga appearances: 71

Current club: Real Betis

One of Spanish football’s most highly-rated players at the turn of the century, Joaquin arrived at Malaga in 2011 following five years at Valencia.

He enjoyed two seasons with the club prior to joining Fiorentina and then Real Betis, where he had started his career and remains as captain.

Julio Baptista (Forward)

Malaga appearances: 33

Current club: Retired (last played for CFR Cluj)

Nicknamed “the Beast” due to his imposing physical frame, Julio Baptista represented the likes of Sevilla, Real Madrid, Arsenal and Roma before signing for Malaga in 2011.

Injuries hampered his time with the club and he was allowed to leave in 2013, signing for Cruzeiro. He would go on to represent Orlando City in the MLS and CFR Cluj in Romania before calling it a day.

In September 2017, he turned out for Bolton’s U23 side as part of an unsuccessful trial with the Championship club.

Duda (Forward)

Malaga appearances: 343

Current club: Retired (last played for Malaga)

A loyal servant and club legend at Malaga, Portuguese international Duda racked up 343 appearances for the club during 14 years which were spread out over two separate spells.

Now 40, Duda left Malaga at the end of his contract at the start of July 2017 but has since returned as the director of the club’s youth academy.

Javier Saviola (Forward)

Malaga appearances: 36

Current club: FC Ordino (Assistant manager)

One of many footballers to have carried the ‘next Maradona’ tag following an explosive start to his career with River Plate.

Javier Saviola was never able to live up to expectations shown by the fact he joined Malaga on a free transfer in 2012.

After leaving Malaga in 2013, Saviola took in short stints with Olympiacos, Hellas Verona and River Plate and is now assistant manager of Andorran club FC Ordino.

Roque Santa Cruz (Forward)

Malaga appearances: 109

Current club: Olimpia Asuncion

The well-travelled Paraguayan striker moved to Malaga on a season-long loan deal in 2012-13 and did enough to secure a permanent contract the following summer.

Roque Santa Cruz left Malaga for Cruz Azul in Mexico in 2014 but returned to the club for a third spell on loan in 2016. Now 39, he is seeing out his playing career in his homeland with Olimpia Asuncion where he started his career.

Manuel Pellegrini (Manager)

Malaga win percentage: 41.1%

Current club: Real Betis

Manuel Pellegrini left Malaga at the end of the 2012-13 season to take over the reins at Manchester City, where he won a Premier League title and two League Cups.

He was removed from his post at the Etihad following Pep Guardiola’s appointment in 2016, and after a short spell in China the Chilean returned to England with West Ham United but was relieved his duties following a disappointing start to the 2019/20 season. Pellegrini is now back in Spain taking over as manager of Real Betis last summer.