Oguchi Onyewu made one of the biggest moves of the summer transfer season, leaving sporting for Malaga on a season-long loan. What awaits Onyewu at his new club? Champions League soccer and dates against two of the biggest clubs in the world.
Why Are We Here?
After a high profile move to AC Milan that saw him debut for the club in a friendly in Baltimore, Onyewu's career was in the upswing. Unfortunately, an injury a few months later in the USA's final World Cup Qualifier meant an extended rehabilitation period. When Onyewu returned to full fitness, his options at Milan were limited. That meant a loan move to Twente and eventually a permanent transfer to Portugal's Sporting. After 17 games and four goals with Sporting last season, the club left Onyewu off its European roster for 2012-13. That was all the evidence needed that a move was in the works, but Malaga still came as a surprise.
And Where Are We?
Malaga, a city of just under 570,000 in the Andalusia region of southern Spain. Onyewu has traded Lisbon on the Atlantic coast for a city on the Mediterranean. Let's just say Malaga is very, very old but for trivia's sake we'll point out it was Phoenician, later Carthaginian, and eventually Roman. As you might expect, tourism is big time in a city that can combine world history with beachfront property. It also helps that Malaga was the birthplace of Pablo Picasso.
And The Club?
Here's where it gets interesting. Malaga the city might be a bastion of history, but its club is technically quite young in name by European standards. The original Malaga went out of business in 1992. A quick name change for a lower division club that once upon a time was Malaga's reserve team, and Malaga CF was ready to go for the 1994-95 season and in the Primera Division by 1999-2000. Relegated at the end of the 2005-06 season, they were back in the big time two seasons later. Last season was their best finish, with no version of Malaga ever winning the Primera title or Spain's domestic cup. It wasn't cheap, with questions over how much Malaga's ownership will be willing to spend hanging over the club. Oh, and one more thing. Malaga are affectionately known as Los Boquerones, the anchovies.
How Tough Is the Primera?
Very if you happen to not be called Real Madrid or Barcelona. Let's put it this way, last season was the best in Malaga's history however you want to define it and they still finished 42 points behind champions Real Madrid. There's no parity in the Primera, leading to frankly ridiculous situations like Real Madrid putting up a +89 goal difference to Barcelona's +85. The next closest? +15 for third-place finisher Valencia. Fourth-place Malaga finished with a +1.
The Rose Garden, aka La Rosaleda, dating from 1941 and a World Cup stadium in '82 in its original format. Renovations have significantly reduced capacity, with the current circa 2006 version seating 28,963 fans. There are six stadiums smaller than Malaga's in the Primera, and once again it's those two super clubs setting a lopsided standard with the Bernabeu's 85,454 and the Camp Nou's 99,354.