Blue period for home of Picasso and tourist draw

Teams, tales and tips – a guide to the local game

The story of football in Malaga, principal city on Spain’s sunny, moneyed Costa del Sol, has not always been a happy or simple one. The current set-up is equally opaque. Backed by Qatari money since 2010, flagship club Málaga CF were refused participation in the Europa League 2013-14 due to financial irregularities.

Star players were offloaded, the big names who had helped Málaga to a record fourth-placed finish in 2012 and a debut in the Champions League. A heartbreaking, last-minute defeat to Borussia Dortmund in the quarter-final put paid to a creditable campaign.

Relegation in 2018 was almost followed by immediate promotion. Since then, even Segunda survival has been a struggle.

El Balneario/Harvey Holtom

Málaga CF came into existence in 1992, when then local flagship Club Deportivo Málaga folded and subsumed their youth team, Club Atlético Malagueño, in the third division.

Club Atlético Malagueño, meanwhile, had their own historic links to a complex merger in 1933, three decades after the original Málaga FC were formed.

In the early 20th century, there were two main clubs in town: Málaga FC (later Real Málaga FC, later Málaga Sports Club) and FC Malagueño. Both were founding members of the Spanish third division in 1929. The two merged soon afterwards, and became Club Deportivo Málaga with the unveiling of La Rosaleda stadium in 1941.

With the huge property developments along this stretch of coast in the 1960s and 1970s, money poured into the area, typified by the jet set hub of Marbella. The opening of nearby marina and tourist complex Puerto Banús in 1970, by the same Siberian architect who had worked in Beverly Hills and Acapulco, took everything to a whole new level.

Hotel NH Málaga/Harvey Holtom

Serious wealth arrived, as did serious local corruption and drug smuggling from Africa, just over the water. The coast became known as the Costa del Crime, a haven for untouchable villains from the UK, fraudulent real estate and the Russian mafia.

Málaga couldn’t fail to be caught up in it all. Once a sleepy Andalusian backwater that produced Pablo Picasso, the town became an international gateway as its airport expanded. In 1971, the CD Málaga club president was murdered, allegedly by the mafia.

The money that had brought CD Málaga to the top half of the Spanish league slowly dried up. By 1992 it had disappeared completely.

Taberna el Repique/Harvey Holtom

Meanwhile, a new phenomenon appeared, the Brit expat Málaga fan, by no means linked to any criminal element. Based at the Tavern Pub in Marbella, the Peña Internacional Malaguista accounted for nearly 2,000 season-ticket holders at La Rosaleda.

Having backed the recently successful Málaga CF, Qatari entrepreneur Sheikh Al-Thani is said to be looking at a multi-million euro development east of Marbella, a five-star rival to Puerto Banús.

Málaga have set up nursery links with fellow Andalusian club Real Jaén and Córdoba CF. Meanwhile, the rivalry with Granada, the Derbi Andaluz, is now a second-tier fixture.

Getting Around

Arriving in town, local transport and timings

Malaga Airport is 6km (4 miles) south-west of town, connected by a regular suburban train (€1.65) to María Zambrano main train station, 8mins from terminal 3. 

A taxi into town carries a minimum fare of €15-€19, plus a minimum €5.50 supplement. Radiotaxi Malaga (+34 627 71 20 30) has a set tariff of €20.

City transport consists of buses, accessible with a targeta EMT smartcard available at kiosks around town. One journey is charged at €1.20, ten at €8.

Where to Drink

The best pubs and bars for football fans

Malaga is a great drinking town. Of the plethora of places to sup and see the match, Plaza de la Merced contains Café La Merced 14 and the Celtic Druids at No.17. Other pub-like places include Morrissey’s (Plaza del Siglo 3) and O’Donnell’s (Plaza Uncibay 8).

Nearby Rolling Birras (Calle Beatas) has a more international appeal while locals might prefer Los Gatos (Calle Granada 33) and Taberna el Repique (Calle Cárcer 9), also decent and downtown.

El Balneario/Éva Nagy

Towards El Pedregalejo, the row of beachside bars and restaurants some 2km east of town, El Balneario (Calle Bolivar 40) is a tremendous terrace bar/restaurant at the Baños de Carmen, where you’re bound to get a pick-up game going on the beach. Hard to imagine, but this was where the Malaga had their first real football ground.

Finally, mention must be made of the Tavern Pub on Calle Peral by Plaza de los Naranjos in Marbella old town, seat of the Peña Internacional Malaguista supporters’ group, who organise buses to the stadium on match days. Over in Puerta Banús, Portside and Lineker’s Bar stand out amid the many football-focused pubs.

Where to stay

The best hotels for the stadium and in city centre

The Malaga Tourist Office has a list of all local hotels and click-through links.

In the general direction of the stadium from town are the Hotel Suite Novotel Málaga Centro, the NH Málaga and the Ibis Malaga Centro Ciudad.

Away from the chains, the Hotel del Pintor is stylish and centrally located. The mid-range Hotel Alameda and Bahía are also convenient. Cheaper still is the Hotel Sur.