'I have nothing to prove to Italy' - Eliseu is Malaga's man of the moment following Serie A failure

The Portuguese has taken to Champions League football like a duck to water this season, but has had a long, rocky path to the top

By Nicklas Vinde

It is hard to believe that at the age of 29, Portuguese winger Eliseu has only just registered on European football’s mainstream conscience. However, since he and Malaga qualified for the Champions League group stages for the first time, he has given the football world more than just a glimpse of his sublime talent.

His sudden rise to prominence began with a double of outstanding quality in the 3-0 victory over Anderlecht at the start of October, helping the Andalusians continue their impressive start to the competition, having swept Zenit St Petersburg aside on matchday one.

Eliseu could certainly be labeled as the competition’s surprise individual package, but before his current success, much water has travelled under his metaphorical bridge. Along with countrymen Helder Rosario and Paulo Jorge, Eliseu joined Malaga in 2007. The Portuguese trio arrived at the club and immediately helped them return to La Liga after a two-year absence.

After two seasons in Spain he was spotted by Italian side Lazio, but despite signing a five-year-deal, the move did not work out as he had hoped.

He joined the club during a difficult period. Though appreciated by Biancocelesti fans, coach Delio Rossi left before the start of the season, due to an unstable working relationship with president Claudio Lotito.

When things succeed, as they do for us at the moment, it gives you a completely different confidence. After the problems this summer, the team is more united. We are a very happy group of players at the moment

The entrepreneur brought in Davide Ballardini as the new man in charge and a chaotic 12 months duly unfolded. Together with many other disagreements inside the club, the new coach led a campaign against star players such as Goran Pandev and Cristian Ledesma, who were desperate to leave the Stadio Olimpico - with Eliseu cast as a peripheral figure.

"It was a very difficult time in Lazio," Eliseu recalls to Goal.com.

"It was a different league and when I joined Lazio the club was in a difficult situation. Things were going wrong. It was very difficult, and the situation caused great confusion. I did not play much, and I did not adapt well to either the club or the team."

After just half a season in Serie A he packed his bags once again in search of regular first team football. A loan move to Zaragoza was the path he took next and he was key in helping the Aragonese outfit avoid relegation.

After half a season playing a starring role in their Liga survival, Eliseu returned to Italy and then cut his ties with Lazio for good, making a return to Malaga in the summer of 2010.

Since his return he has been an undisputed starter, firstly under coach Jesualdo Ferreira and more recently Manuel Pellegrini.

Eliseu's time at Malaga
Season Games Goals
2007-08 37 3
2008-09 36 7
2010-11 35 4
2011-12 26 2
2012-13 8 2
Following the arrival of the latter, the Portuguese was mostly used as a left -back, but after the purchase of Nacho Monreal, Eliseu returned to his natural midfield berth – though Pellegrini still believes he is capable of dropping back into defence with equal effect.

"Eliseu will be perfect in this position, as he was last year, and we conceded fewer goals," the Chilean coach told the club’s website before Saturday’s match against Valladolid, where Eliseu was deployed in defence following an injury to Monreal.

At international level, the former Belenenses player has often operated in a defensive role, but is a greater offensive weapon, a player who is known for his pace and his skill with the ball at his feet. But, regardless of the role he plays, it is clear he is happy playing football again.

“The move back to Malaga was really good for me. I have played a lot, and I have gone through a good development, I think,” he reflects.

“When things go well, as they are for us at the moment, it gives you a completely different confidence. After the problems this summer, the team are more united. We are a very happy group of players at the moment.”

Eliseu and his team-mates welcome an out of sorts AC Milan side to La Rosaleda on Wednesday evening, but even though his Italian adventure did not go as planned, he says that disappointment is firmly in the past.

“I have nothing to prove. Things did not work out well for me in Italy, but I should not hold on to that and get stuck in the past, I have to focus on what is ahead of me - the future.”

A future that would appear to burn bright.