The fourth-biggest spending side in Spanish football over the last five years are on the verge of matching Derby County's unwanted 16-year-old record of 32 consecutive league games without winning. Almería have not registered a victory in LaLiga since last May, when they beat Mallorca 3-0. If they fail to beat Las Palmas this weekend (Sunday at 11:15 AM, on ESPN+), their winless streak will reach 32 matches.

It's probably not the kind of record supporters had in mind when the Saudi billionaire Turki al-Sheikh bought the club for €20 million in 2019.

Until this season, things have generally been positive under Al-Sheikh. His tenure began with the club-record signing of striker Darwin Núñez, now at Liverpool, for €15m while Almería were still in the second tier. Promotion did not immediately follow, but they eventually returned to LaLiga in 2022 for the first time since 2015.

After staying up on the final day last year, though, everything has unravelled. Pepe Mel was this week appointed as the club's third manager of the season -- plus one interim coach -- following the dismissal of Gaizka Garitano.

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With Almería 14 points from safety and with just 10 games to go, it's unlikely that Mel is expected to keep them up. Instead, he will be tasked with restoring some pride in a season that has already seen them smash records domestically for their winless run -- despite investing over €50m on new signings last summer. They have long since passed the mark for the longest winless start to a LaLiga campaign, set by Sporting Gijon at 23 in 1997-98. Monday's 2-2 draw at the club's rebranded Power Horse Stadium against Sevilla was their 28th fixture of the season and their 28th without picking up three points.

They have also surpassed Levante's 30-game run without victory in the Primera Division, which ended in January 2022. The only big domestic record left to beat is Sporting's points tally of 13 from that 97-98 campaign. With 10 already on the board, that is one record new coach Mel may think he can avoid.

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Meanwhile, with domestic records tumbling, thoughts have turned to the wider European area. Derby hold the record across Europe's big five leagues -- England, Spain, Germany, Italy, and France -- for consecutive matches without winning at 32. Almería could match that against Las Palmas on Sunday and move past it later this month against Osasuna.

Derby accrued 11 points across that 2007-08 Premier League campaign, which remains the benchmark in Europe's top leagues since three points for a win were introduced. Almería will not want to inherit that record from the English side, while they will desperately want to avoid becoming the first top-flight Spanish side to complete an entire league season without winning.

Almería's tough run is all the more remarkable considering the ambition shown since Al-Sheikh took over. Only Real Madrid's (€173.8m), Barcelona's (€161.3m) and Sevilla's (€68.3m) net spend outstrips Almería's (€38.4m) in Spain since he arrived five years ago.

Ahead of the current season, only Real Madrid (€129.5m) spent more on new signings than Almería, whose outlay topped €50m last summer. A large part of that was funded by the transfer of El Bilal Toure to Atalanta for €30m, with their net spend only reaching around €10m once the permanent arrival of Lazio goalkeeper Luís Maximiano for €8m was made official.

However, Almería's project and their attempts to disrupt the status quo have had their wings clipped by LaLiga's financial rules, which oblige clubs to only spend around 70% of their revenue on squad costs. At €66.8m, they have the league's 11th-biggest annual budget. Those restrictions were initially met with frustration by Al-Sheikh, who was not fully aware of how stringent they would be when he purchased the club.

Almería are edging closer to a historic record of 32 consecutive league games without winning, that only Derby County was able to achieve in 2008. (Photo by Jose Manuel Alvarez/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images)

"If we didn't apply certain limits, [Al-Sheikh] would turn everything upside down," the LaLiga president Javier Tebas said last year. "They were effectively a state club at first in the second division.

"He is a minister in Saudi Arabia and when I went to see him once. His plane, let's just say it made Air Force One look small. He has the capacity to do what he wants financially, but our rules of financial control have not let him."

Tebas is one of the biggest critics of State and Sheikh-owned clubs, regularly condemning Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester City, and he has been consistent with the clubs he oversees. In the past, he has vetoed sponsorship deals agreed by Almería because they were either deemed "fake" or struck at "inflated prices."

It makes Spanish football a difficult place for rich investors to prosper. Almería are unlikely to ever generate the type of revenue that would allow them to spend at the level of the country's biggest clubs. That said, they have adapted their model, transferring their biggest assets in three of the last four years (Núñez in 2020, Umar Sadiq in 2022 and Toure in 2023) for a combined €84m. And, given the state of the finances across Spanish football, Almería were still much more active last summer than the majority of LaLiga's cash-strapped clubs. They spent €14m on Mexican defender César Montes, €8m to make Colombian striker Luis Suárez's loan permanent, €7.5m on forward Ibrahima Koné, €6.5m on midfielder Dion Lopy and another €6m on Sergio Arribas.

Luís Maximiano was one of the players brought in last summer for Almería this season, becoming the team that spent the most on new signings behind Real Madrid across LaLiga. (Photo by Jose Manuel Alvarez/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images)

Some sources blame poor recruitment for this year's woes and are especially critical of Montes, but mainly single out the coaching appointments. Vicente Moreno was chosen to replace Rubí, who stepped down after achieving promotion to LaLiga and keeping Almería in the top flight. Moreno was fired after just seven games. He has since criticised the ownership for sidelining him from squad planning and transferring defensive midfielder Samú Costa to Mallorca just before the season started.

Garitano replaced Moreno, after Alberto Lasarte oversaw two games as interim coach, but was dismissed this week after failing to win any of his 21 league fixtures.

"Garitano had the backing of the club but recent decisions he made, not giving as many minutes to [Largie] Ramazani, [Lucas] Robertone, and Lopy, among others, led to his sacking because he was endangering certain summer deals," Aarón Martínez Segura, an Almería-based journalist, explained. "For example, Lopy is drawing interest from Germany and is valued at €15m. The risk right now is if he doesn't play, his market value reduces. That was a big reason for the change."

Mel, Garitano's replacement on a deal until the end of the season, will take charge of his first game this Sunday. It has all combined to put Almería on track to being remembered as LaLiga's worst-ever side, although they have had their fair share of bad luck, too.


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Suárez and Mali international Koné have hardly featured due to injuries, while they have remained competitive in nearly every match, even against the big sides. Rarely do they look like a team rooted to the bottom of the table. Barcelona needed a late Sergi Roberto goal to beat them 3-2 at the Olympic Stadium in December. Real Madrid came from 2-0 down to win by the same scoreline at the Santiago Bernabéu in January. Los Blancos' first two goals were awarded via contested VAR decisions, while their winner arrived in the 99th minute from Dani Carvajal. Almería were also the better side in draws with Girona and Athletic Club recently, while they held both Atlético Madrid and Sevilla to 2-2 draws this month.

They are seventh in LaLiga for xG (36.12), but rank 16th for goals scored (27). The 9.12 difference is the biggest in the league. It is harder to make a case for their defending, which has been poor at times, but they have still conceded many more goals (57, a league-high) than their xGA (48.36). Combined, it represents almost a 20-goal swing in their goal difference.

None of that, of course, will serve as consolation for a record-breaking season in the worst possible sense, which has cast the spotlight on Al-Sheikh's plans.

Al-Sheikh, 42, is an adviser at the Saudi Royal Court under the rank of minister and the chairman of the General Entertainment Authority [GEA]. He has previously been involved in Egyptian football, briefly owning the club Pyramids, while he is credited as being one of the key figures in the organisation of a string of high-profile boxing bouts held in his homeland, featuring Tyson Fury and Anthony Joshua, among others. It is a concern that his attention is elsewhere, rather than on Almería, which has slightly frustrated fans.

"As he's a minister in Saudi Arabia, he's not so present as he doesn't have a lot of time to be here," Martínez Segura added. "He was at Leganés in 2022 when promotion was achieved and in Barcelona for the game against Espanyol in 2023 when survival was secured.

"This season, it's true [not a lot has been heard from him]. He's always been active on social media, but he's posted less about Almería, which is a point of frustration for supporters. But, to give you an idea about Almería, people here are quite conformist.

"In other places, like Barcelona, Valencia, Sevilla or Madrid, people might be much angrier. In this case, there is some distrust, but not what there would be elsewhere. It's true people are troubled by the situation, but, for example in the stadium, there have not been any shouts or protests, which is to do with the way of the people in Almería.

"Things in general have been good [under Al-Sheikh]. The team was in the second division, closer to relegation than promotion. The aim was promotion in the third year, which is what happened. There's a good team there, a big investment was made at the start of the season, but nothing is a given in football and things have not worked out."

In Al-Sheikh's absence, director general Mohamed El Assy runs things on the ground. He insists that interest has not waned as undesirable records have been ticked off, that Al-Sheikh is not looking to sell, and that he remains committed to establishing Almería as a top-flight club, which was his pledge when he arrived.

"The club isn't going to be sold and we aren't going to leave," El Assy stressed in Feburary. "Turki is a person who has given a lot to the city and the club... and he hasn't received anything in return. He considers the club as his own, as a son, and he'll look after it. You have to respect him and recognise everything he's doing.

"If he had to sell the club, he would only sell it for a large amount of money and to a person who can improve our work, but it would never happen while in the second tier -- only in the top tier, having completed the project that he promised."