Is Pellegrini right man for City?
Published: 16.05.13 / Written by: David Gold
It was cast in stone before the 1-0 defeat to Wigan after newspapers reported news of Roberto Manciniís imminent departure, so the shock FA Cup final defeat will have changed little.
But it may well confirm just why the Manchester City hierarchy are seemingly set to fire their Italian coach. Uninspired tactical changes such as the one to bring on James Milner or the Jack Rodwell option seemed destined for failure. These are not game changing players.
Of course Mancini will complain about the players he was not able to sign in the summer. Robin van Persie chief among them, but the Dutchman never wanted to join City. If ever there was a story of unrequited football love, this must be it. Daniele de Rossi similarly didnít want to sign for City, instead preferring to stay loyal to his home team of Roma.
Mancini has therefore presided over a miserable title defence and is now set for the exit door in the weeks ahead. And he appears likely to be replaced by Manuel Pellegrini. The Malaga coach is an interesting but sound option who could well take the club forward.
First of all it is important to stress the recruitment of Pellegrini will be well thought through. Ferran Soriano and Txiki Begiristain will have undergone a thorough process. Begiristain remember is the man who made the decision not to hire Jose Mourinho but to bring in Pep Guardiola to Barcelona five years ago. That was a pretty good decision. It was one made with an extensive check list which candidates had to meet. Guardiola met them all, Mourinho didnít. In this case, the same is probably true, substitute Guardiola for Pellegrini.
Pellegriniís main criticism is that he has not won a trophy. Valid but slightly unfair in truth. He has won trophies in his native South America, and has worked wonders in Spain. He must be the best coach in Europe not to have won a trophy. At Villarreal he took a small team from the lower leagues and made them into a European force. They competed on a par with Real Madrid and Barcelona, finishing second in La Liga and reaching the semi finals of the Champions League in 2006, being edged out by Arsenal that year. And on the way to those semi finals his Villarreal team knocked out Inter Milan, then coached by Mancini. City are replacing an under achieving coach with an over achieving one. That win for Villarreal against Inter sums that up perfectly.
Pellegrini didnít win anything at Villarreal, apart from huge plaudits and admiration for the way he guided Villarreal to compete at the top level of Spanish and European football. And with style too, his teams playing a refined, attacking and enterprising style of football, based on possession, pass and move football.
He was therefore plucked from El Madrigal to take over at Real Madrid. In his year in charge he won nothing, but he did get Real to pick up a gigantic 96 points in La Liga. Itís just that they were up against perhaps the greatest team in history, Guardiolaís Barcelona, who took 99 points, the Spanish Cup and Champions League.
Sacked by Madrid, extremely harshly, and replaced by Mourinho, Pellegrini has quietly rebuilt his reputation again at Malaga. He has been helped by an extremely wealthy Qatari owner, but the owner has not paid his players properly during his time at the helm. As a result, big players have been lost. Santi Cazorla and Nacho Monreal went to Arsenal, others will follow this summer you suspect, possibly to Manchester City with Pellegrini. But again Pellegrini has turned his team into a genuine force in Spain and overseas. Their debut campaign in the Champions League this season saw them become the first team to win their first three games in the competition. They almost knocked out Borussia Dortmund and have been a revelation in Europe.
This is what City will now get. A manager with a track record of getting the best out of his players, with an attractive, enterprising style, with a slightly pragmatic defensive side to it too Ė possession is not just a tool of attack, but of defence. Pellegrini should be an intriguing and potentially highly successful coach at City.