Malaga fans celebrating Wednesday's emotional 2-0 Champions League play-off win over Panathinaikos were brought down to earth less than 24 hours later when midfielder Enzo Maresca said he could be the next player to leave the financially troubled club.
Former West Brom, Juventus and Sevilla star Maresca, who started the deserved win over the Greek side, on Thursday confirmed that he was tempted by a contract offer from Serie A side Sampdoria given the behind the scenes turmoil at Malaga.
"The club know my personal situation very well," Maresca said. "I have one year of contract left, and for a month I have a two year contract offer from Sampdoria on the table. My priority remains Malaga, but we will see. For me it is very important that people know it is not about money, but the length of contract."
The former Italy U-21 international said he could still stay at Malaga, but only if the club – known not to have always paid players wages on time in recent months - were serious about holding onto him.
"At 32, two years are very different than one," he said. "At a moment when there are economic problems, asking the club for one year more is difficult. But I have waited until now, and we will see what happens in the next few days. If Malaga want me to see out the year of contract, I am a professional. But there are also realities and facts that the club know."
Financial problems currently plague the Costa del Sol club, which until recently had been bankrolled to the tune of €150 million by Qatari owner Sheikh Abdullah Bin Nasser al-Thani. Al- Thani was expected to further invest this summer, but instead key players including Santi Cazorla and Salomon Rondon were sold to cover money owed in taxes, back wages to players and transfer fees to other clubs.
After 41 days without making any public comment on the situation Al-Thani used his personal Facebook page to congratulate the team on its victory Thursday night, but unless that gesture is followed by further financial support, Maresca will likely not be the only player leaving the club before the transfer window closes on August 31st.
Portuguese left winger / left-back Eliseu, who scored Los Boquerones second goal against Panathinaikos, remains close to a move to Benfica, while Jeremy Toulalan, Nacho Monreal and Isco have also been linked with various teams looking to pick up bargains.
Cut-price arrivals at the Costa del Sol club could include Benfica attacker Javier Saviola, Birmingham centre-forward Nicola Zigic and Sporting Gijon left-back Roberto Canella, as coach Manuel Pellegrini and newly installed sporting director Antonio Tapia look to wheel and deal with the limited funds available.
Qualification for the lucrative Champions League group stages would bring Malaga at least €15 million, easing their problems somewhat, but to claim that they must still come through a second leg in Athens next Tuesday.