Spanish side Malaga CF are the focus of our 'Big Spenders' feature for La Liga and it isn't hard to see why. Since the takeover of the club by Sheikh Al Thani last June, wholesale changes have been made to secure their safety and progress the club onto the bigger stage.

Having brought in Jesualdo Ferreira as coach upon his arrival, Al Thani's much anticipated tenure as owner of the side began poorly, and the manager was sacked with the club staring relegation in the face. Cue Manuel Pellegrini to save the day, helped in no small part by the money from the Sheikh, as the former Real Madrid boss steered the side to 5 successive wins and an eventual 11th placed finish last term.

The target this season will undoubtedly be European qualification, and by the looks of the club's new transfer policy, they are hoping to bypass the Europa League altogether. The rebuilding process began in the winter break, with high profile signings such as Martin Demichelis from Bayern Munich and Julio Baptista from Roma.

Enzo Maresco, Ignacio Camacho and Diego Buonanotte all followed, and the Andalusians did not stop there, with record signing Santi Cazorla representing their 10th new signing of the summer already.

Here we will look at how some of the big names compare to the existing ranks and consider how the influx of new signings will fit into the structure of Pellegrini's formation.

Last month Malaga bolstered both their attacking and defensive ranks with the signings of vastly experienced Dutch duo Joris Mathijsen and Ruud van Nistelrooy, both joining from Hamburg. While the former United and Real Madrid striker, 35, was a free transfer, Al Thani is believed to have forked out a modest €2.5m for 31-year-old Mathijsen.

The defender has 72 international caps for Holland and is likely to fight it out with current centre-back Weligton for a place alongside Argentina international Demichelis, with the stats showing that he could have a real battle on his hands to get in the starting XI.


Hey Big Spenders: La Liga - Malaga

Having made 1.8 tackles per game Mathijsen ranked lower than all 3 centre-backs at Malaga last term, with Demichelis dominating with 3.4. Although his 3 interceptions per game led the way for Hamburg last season, this figure is considerably weaker than both Demichelis and Weligton from last year. Add this to the lowest clearances per game (2.5) and blocks per game (0.5) rates of the 4 and Mathijsen has plenty to do in order to earn a starting berth.

Like Mathijsen, van Nistelrooy may well act as cover for the Spanish outfit next season, with his infamous goal-poaching instincts set to come in handy in a bit part role at the club. The veteran striker will need to catch up with both top scorer Rondon and Julio Baptista, who made an immediate impact following his January signing, building up a decent combination with the former.


Hey Big Spenders: La Liga - Malaga

In 19 starts in the Bundesliga last term, van Nistelrooy netted 7 times, which isn't bad at all, but considering Baptista score 9 in just 11 games for Malaga last term, he doesn't come close. Meanwhile 21-year-old Rondon showed great promise, ending the campaign with 14 goals.  The Dutchman was also outdone by his new teammates in terms of aerial success having won just 33% of his duels, and key passes per game with 0.5, though he did pick up 2 assists where Baptista failed to get any. Despite this, it seems that Ruud will be doing most of his poaching from the bench next season, but who better to have when you need a goal than the man that epitomises the phrase 'fox in the box'.

Monreal for Mtiligia
Malaga's defensive reinforcements did not stop with Mathijsen after the club signed left-back Nacho Monreal from Osasuna for a fee €6m. The 25-year-old will be seen as a direct replacement for the released Denmark international Patrick Mtiliga, and his statistics prove that he should have no problems filling the 30-year-old's boots.


Hey Big Spenders: La Liga - Malaga

The Spaniard completed an impressive 2.8 tackles per game and 3.5 interceptions per game during his 31 appearances for Osasuna last term. Compare this with Malaga's most used left-back Mtiliga's 1.4 and 2.9 in the same regards and you can see why the new recruit was targeted. Monreal bettered Mtiliga's figures in every category analysed, including blocks per game (0.4-0.2), clearances (3.3-2.5), crosses (0.7-0.2) and assists (2-1).

Toulalan Bringing Midfield Metal
Perhaps the most eye-catching of all of Malaga's dealings this summer is the club's €10m coup of French international midfielder Jeremy Toulalon. The experienced defensive playmaker joined from Lyon and provides the side with the steel required to break down teams such as Barcelona and Madrid.

The 27-year-old has competition on his hands but should slot into Pellegrini's system in a double pivot alongside any one of a number of candidates. 21-year-old defensive midfielder is one of those following his January transfer, but last season's most used pairing of Apono and Recio will also be hoping to hold down a starting place alongside the new recruit.


Hey Big Spenders: La Liga - Malaga

Toulalan started more games for Lyon than his 3 new teammates at Malaga with 27 and showed his strength in midfield by making 3 tackles per game, with Camacho's 2.8 the best of the Spanish trio. In terms of pass accuracy the Frenchman doesn't rank up to the Malaga midfielders however, with his 77% well beaten by Recio's leading score of 87%. Of the four players it is Apono who comes out on top in terms of interceptions with 3.1 and the 27-year-old's stats perhaps compliment those of Toulalan the best.

The new signings high number of tackles counter-balance Apono's score of 1.7 while the tables turn in terms of interceptions. Toulalan's less attacking game would provide Apono with the base to build on his 1.1 key passes per game and 5 assists from deep, in comparison to the France international's 0.5 and 1 in the same regards, highlighting that they could form a strong partnership in Pellegrini's double-pivot.

Spain vs Portugal - Cazorla / Joaquin & Eliseu / Duda
Having strengthened their options out wide with the signing of former Spain international, 30-year-old Joaquin, the club have gone onto sign Villarreal's Santi Cazorla in a deal which the Spanish media claim could be worth up to €20m, paling the meagre €4m spent on the former into insignificance.

Cazorla had a fantastic season with rivals Villarreal last year and clearly Malaga see him as the man to inspire the club to European success. The two new wingers will have to compete with the likes of Portuguese duo Duda and Eliseu, both of whom had successful seasons of their own at Malaga last season, but Cazorla's versatility across the attacking three in behind Pellegrini's lone front man, along with his hefty price tag, should ensure him a regular position in the side.


Hey Big Spenders: La Liga - Malaga

What is immediately obvious when looking at the stats of the four wingers analysed is that the new signings bring with them a high pass accuracy rate of 84% each compared to Duda 74% and Eliseu 77%. Both are also more prone to dribbling the ball down the wing rather than crossing, suggesting a switch in tempo from Pellegrini next season. Joaquin completed an impressive 2.4 dribbles per game while Cazorla's 1.4 is still markedly higher than Duda's 0.4 and Eliseu's 0.7 respectively.

However, Duda's crossing figures of 3 per game and key passing stats of 2.6 a match lead the way by some margin, suggesting he will push Joaquin all the way for a starting berth by offering something different. If it is balance on the wing's that Malaga are after though, it appears obvious that fielding both new recruits on either flank will bring this, with 17 assists and 9 goals between them ensuring plenty of fire power.

Possible Starting XI
With so many new signings now in place, there will inevitably be some unhappy faces in the Malaga ranks next season, and some potentially high profile ones at that. Assuming Pellegrini sticks to the same formation and style of play, here is how the team could line-up next term, with notable exclusions including the likes of Mathijsen, Camacho, Duda, Eliseu and van Nistelrooy.

Hey Big Spenders: La Liga - Malaga