Málaga CF

No rose garden at La Rosaleda as Anchovies decline

A fan’s guide – the club from early doors to today

Moneyed if wayward with it, Málaga Club de Fútbol had been looking to usurp Sevilla and Betis as the main club in Andalucia, even take on Atlético Madrid and Valencia as the main challengers to Spain’s big two.

These lofty ambitions seemed pretty hollow when the club was refused entry to the Europa League 2013-14 due to financial irregularities – their place taken by Betis. Only months before, Málaga came bitterly close to a slot in the Champions League semi-final, two injury-time goals by Borussia Dortmund sealing the tie.

During the three years of being backed by Qatari Sheikh Abdullah Al-Thani, Málaga have attracted quality players – only to be forced to sell them on. At least Malaguistas had seen their club, Los Boquerones (‘the Anchovies’), climb higher than at any point in their history.

That history, though convolutedly linked back to 1904, only directly dates from 1992. Taking the third-division slot of youth side Club Atlético Malagueño after the main club, CD Málaga, folded, the newly founded Málaga CF nearly fell back into obscurity before rising through the ranks.

By 1999, they made it as far as the top flight, where they have been a regular fixture. Key to their resurgence was coach Joaquín Peirò, a star at the great Inter side of the mid 1960s as a player. In his five years at Málaga, he got them to the quarter-finals of the UEFA Cup, a penalty shoot-out defeat to Boavista.

Under his successor, Juande Ramos, Málaga put in occasionally quality performances but inconsistency saw the Anchovies fall back to the lower flight. A last-game win over Tenerife in 2008 ensured a swift return.

In June 2010, Sheikh Al-Thani stepped in. Hired halfway through the first season, Chilean coach Manuel Pellegrini kept Málaga mid-table and survived an exodus of players – most notably Santi Cazorla to Arsenal – after a fourth-placed finish in 2012. Stars such as Martin Demichelis, Júlio Baptista and Javier Saviola drove Málaga to a quarter-final spot in the Champions League. Leading 2-1 at Dortmund, Málaga fell to two stoppage-time goals, one demonstrably offside.

The club still managed a sixth-place finish in the league, although had to offload the talented Isco to Real Madrid in pre-season. At the same time, Saviola went to Olympiacos, Júlio Baptista to Cruzeiro and Demichelis to Manchester City – along with Pelligrini, replaced by Bernd Schuster.

A mediocre 2013-14 saw the German ousted and experienced ex-Almería coach Javi Gracia step in for a creditable campaigns in 2014-15 and 2015-16. Things started to fall apart in 2016-17, with three managerial changes, and 2017-18, with relegation.

With the arrival of Moroccan World Cup goalkeeper Munir then, at crunch time, coach Victor Sánchez of La Coruña fame, Málaga made the play-offs at the first time of asking but fell to their manager’s former employers after twice going ahead at the Riazor.

A dreadful start to 2019-20 was compounded by the scandal surrounding Sánchez halfway through the campaign, a compromising video doing the rounds much to the amusement of Granada fans. Reserve team coach Sergio Pellicer stepped in but had resigned by the time dropping to the third tier was looking more likely than staying in the Segunda.

Málaga survived, still attracting some of the highest average gates in the division. An ageing side, however, did not bode well as 2022-23 dawned and with it, two Segunda derbies with Granada.

Stadium Guide

The field of dreams – and the stands around it

In 1922, the original Málaga club made their first home at the beachside Baños de Carmen, where you’ll find the El Balneario bar today. This remained their base for around a decade, until plans were laid for a new stadium, north of the city centre alongside the narrow Guadalmedina river: La Rosaleda, the ‘Rose Garden’.

Behind the project was local mayor Fernando Guerrero Strachan, an architect who died in 1930 but left a blueprint for fellow designer Enrique Atencia to follow.

A match between CD Málaga and Sevilla officially opened the stadium in September 1941 – although CD Malacitano had played the first match there against Ferroviaria de Madrid the previous April.

From an original capacity of 8,000, La Rosaleda was expanded, most notably when it gained upper tiers for the 1982 World Cup. Scotland’s 5-2 win over New Zealand and fateful 2-2 draw with the USSR were played here.

The stadium had already gained a museum and improved seating in all areas before the arrival of Sheikh Al-Thani, who soon had the VIP and technical areas revamped.

Current capacity is 30,000. Arranged in four zones in the sideline Preferencia and Tribuna stands, categorised according to views of the action, and two zones in the Fondos Norte and home Sur, La Rosaleda is a Primera stadium hosting Segunda football. 

With average gates in the low five figures, capacity is never an issue these days. Away fans traditionallyl enter through gates 15-16 on Camino La Palmilla to find their places in the upper south-west corner of the stadium between the Tribuna and Fondo Norte – although the club has also been working with the idea of using the north-west corner, sectors 533-535-537. A couple of dozen Ponferradina fans probably don’t mind where they sit.

getting there

Going to the stadium – tips and timings

La Rosaleda is a 20-minute walk along the dried-up river Guadalmedina from town. Bus 15 has a stop at Avenida de la Palmilla/Campo de Fútbol but doesn’t go via anywhere downtown. 

The 2 runs from focal Alameda Principal to stop just the other side of the river from the stadium at two Jorge Silvela stops at either end of the arena. Here also, the Fray Domingo Pimentel stop is served by buses C2, 26 and 30.

getting in

Buying tickets – when, where, how and how much

Tickets are eminently affordable at Málaga these days, starting at €15 in the Fondo behind the goal, rising to €17-€23 in the Curva, €25 in the covered Anillo Inferior Cubierto, €30-€40 in Preferencia and €35-€50 in the Tribuna. These sideline stands are categorised and priced according to zone, 1-4, while the Fondos have two zones, ie proximity to the pitch, and price categories. 

Children get in for €10 across the board, so a family of four on holiday in Málaga can see a game without having to break into the piggy bank.

Availability is almost never an issue, either, so tickets should be sold on the day, from the club shop (see below) during the week or taquillas (gate 1) in the run-up to kick-off. The club also sells online – the purchase page switches to Spanish but it’s relatively straightforward to follow.

what to buy

Shirts, kits, merchandise and gifts

The club has three outlets. One is behind the Fondo Sur home end (Mon-Fri 10am-2pm, 4pm-8pm, Sat 10am-2pm, match days) at the stadium, one sits near the Picasso Museum at Plaza de la Judería/Calle Granada (Mon-Sat 10am-2.30pm, 4.30pm-9pm), and one is way out at the Centro Comercial Rincón de la Victoria (Mon-Sat 10am-10pm), by motorway exit A7 east of the city.

Along with the familiar sky-blue-and-white stripes, the current away kit is a psychedelic mélange of pinks and crimsons, the third choice black with grey dots and hexagons. T-shirts carry the optimistic foundation date of 1904 but look stylish anyway, in retro lettering, and some child, somewhere, will want their own branded anchovy for a cuddly toy.

tours & Museum

Explore the club inside and out

The Málaga CF Museum&Tour (€10/€5 children) is given in English and Spanish four times a day (Mon-Sat 11am, 1pm, 4.30pm, 6pm) except on match days. 

You’ll be taken through the corridor of history, to two museum areas, one for the club, one for the stadium, to the press box, mixed zone, dressing room, VIP area and finally, via the players’ tunnel, to the pitch. Meet at Gate 0 ten minutes before the set time.

Where to Drink

Pre-match beers for fans and casual visitors

Bars and kiosks surround the stadium. In the immediate vicinity, on the south-east corner, you’ll find the Bars Nataly and Rosaleda, as well as a number of mobile bars where fans gather before and after the game. 

If packed, there are a couple of venues across the river on the approach to the ground, along Calle Actriz Rosario Pino: the Cafeteria Oasis and the Mesón Segalerva.