There's hardly any enthusiasm about Florentino Pérez remaining as Real president so he will buy popularity in the usual way - by spending oodles of cash this summer...
Atletico Madrid's Copa Del Rey win over Real on Friday wasn't just about short-term glory, says Tim Stannard, but a chance to build for better things ahead...
You have to hand it to the the Málaga players - if nothing else, they are certainly resilient. Rather than spending the summer basking in the success of Champions League qualification for the first time in the club's history and sitting on the sidelines pondering whether the likes of Gonzalo Higuaín would be signing on, the players were forced to witness talented teammates such as Santi Cazorla being sold off. They also had to occupy themselves trying to get their hands on the wages that were still owed to them by Málaga's supposedly loaded owner, Sheikh Abdullah Al Thani.
In fact, the footballers are still owed money with another promise of payment being broken at the end of October, to leave the players handing over tangerines to their families as presents rather than anything shiny from Tiffany's. Nevertheless, none of this made the Málaga players lose their resolve in the first chunk of the season. Instead, the southern side qualified comfortably for the knock-out stages of the Champions League to set up a tie with Porto, and went into the Christmas break in fourth, just two points off the shoulder of Real Madrid, after a 3-2 victory in the last match of 2012.
It was an incredible performance from a small squad, but Málaga's morale must surely have been sapped even further with a hammer blow from UEFA, for which the governing body themselves are being blamed in Spain, despite the real culprits being much closer to home.
Just a day after the draw for the last sixteen of the Champions League was made and a day before a box-office busting home clash with Real Madrid, Málaga were informed by UEFA that they had been banned from European competition for one year with a possible four years if supposed debts to third parties are not cleared by the 31st March.
The punishment was given to Málaga for breaking a financial fair play rule stipulating that debts must not be held with "clubs, employees of any authority." It was a fate which befell Mallorca at the end of the 2009/10 campaign, when the Balearic side was kicked out of the subsequent Europa League for owing other clubs for transfers. Whilst Málaga admit to debts to players, employees, agents, providers and the Spanish tax authorities - a sum of €10m - the club's leadership have argued that payment plans have been agreed with all which sees them free of UEFA's restrictions. It's a situation sides like Atlético Madrid and Levante are in, for example, two Spanish clubs also playing in Europe who escaped sanction.
The defence that Málaga will be making in appeals to come is that the ban is a "mistake, a misunderstanding," according to the team's Director General, Vicente Casado, and that UEFA did not have new information in regards to the team's financial affairs. Whilst Málaga are optimistic that their case is strong, they should not be at all surprised by the move made by UEFA. Last May, Fernando Hierro who was the club's Director General at the time, resigned after nine months, unhappy at how things were being run at the club off the field. "There are a number of things I don't like here. It's about the day-to-day and feeling comfortable," admitted the former Real Madrid defender.
Hierro had had to work with cash flow issues from the side's owners in Qatar which saw players unpaid despite their efforts, and transfer debts owed to the previous clubs of Nacho Monreal, Santi Cazorla and Isco - something that Hierro knew does not go down well at all with UEFA who imposed sanctions on seven other teams in Europe. Whilst the punishment is no surprise in Spain, the severity of it certainly is, with an editorial in Marca noting that "you have to ask yourself if such measures would have been taken with the same strength as with the big teams."
The reaction from the Málaga players when the news was announced was to beat Real Madrid, so there's no reason to believe that the team's performance levels will continue. But knowing that a Champions League finish in May could be for nothing, as well as fundamentally playing for free, must test the resolve and motivation levels of even the most loyal and dedicated of players at a club whose financial affairs remain a complete mystery to everyone but the owner, who certainly has some explaining to do.
Tim Stannard - available on Twitter