Thursday 27 October 2016

Why Chelsea must appoint Manuel Pellegrini as manager

Pep Guardiola has gone to Manchester City and Chelsea need to keep pace with the best in the Premier League - Pellegrini could be just the man

Alistair Tweedale

Published 03/02/2016 | 09:32

Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini
Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini

Manuel Pellegrini’s status as one of world football’s leading managers is strangely underplayed.

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He lacks the charisma of a Jurgen Klopp or the arrogance of a Jose Mourinho and therefore that added star quality that the elite clubs now crave so greatly.

His record, however, speaks for itself. Two major trophies in his first season at Manchester City and still competing on all four fronts in February of his third, he should be revered to a greater extent than he is at the Etihad Stadium.

Early in his career he enjoyed success just about wherever he went in South America. He took Villarreal from perennially on the fringes of La Liga’s best to the Champions League on multiple occasions and their best ever league position in 2008, when they finished second only to Real Madrid and 10 points clear of a Barcelona team including Xavi, Yaya Toure, Andres Iniesta, Ronaldinho, Samuel Eto’o, Thierry Henry and a blossoming Lionel Messi.

He was handed the reins at Madrid, where his side were only beaten to the title by a then-record 99 points for a certain Pep Guardiola's flourishing Barcelona, despite Real scoring 102 goals across 38 games.

Pellegrini then took lowly Malaga to a club-record points tally and the giddy heights of the Champions League.

Remember that rollercoaster quarter-final against Borussia Dortmund that brought about this interview with Klopp? Pellegrini was in the opposition dugout with the unlucky underdogs.

At City he has been gifted the luxury of near limitless funds but in an age where there are at least four genuine Premier League title contenders and the financial playing field is increasingly levelled by major television deals, his achievements – which could be even greater come May – should not be understated.

So in the wake of City’s decision to replace him with Pep Guardiola in the summer, where is Pellegrini left?

There is no indication that the 62-year-old wants any time away from the game, nor that he is looking to leave the Premier League. Given that there are certain other major English clubs who should be looking for a new manager during the off-season, why would he?

Chelsea are in need of repair. Guus Hiddink is doing a sound job in the interim period but has distanced himself from a permanent role.

This league campaign will almost certainly be a write-off and with Roman Abramovich’s options limited, Pellegrini has rightly become one of the front-runners to land the job.

Few of the others supposedly being considered can boast Premier League experience and, what is more, the Argentine has a hugely impressive record in England.

Only Jose Mourinho, with 73, won more of his first 100 Premier League games as a manager than Manuel Pellegrini, who has 65 after Tuesday's 1-0 victory at Sunderland. Of all managers to take charge of at least 50 Premier League matches, only Mourinho and Sir Alex Ferguson have a better win rate than Pellegrini’s 65 per cent.

He would have similar resources at Chelsea and the chance to bring in players of similar quality, but Pellegrini also has previous when it comes to building a team greater than the sum of its parts.

Both his Villarreal and Malaga sides he overachieved massively and this Chelsea could certainly do with a little of that magic.

He propagates the kind of open, attacking football that Abramovich believes should be played at his club and the fans might even enjoy a little more entertainment after the trophy-laden but inescapably defensively-minded stints of Roberto Di Matteo, Rafa Benitez and Mourinho.

He might not be considered the most popular choice or to truly be part of the group of elite managers that the biggest clubs are now so intent on chasing (and believe are the only route to real success). Nor does he provide the quips and sound bites that make the likes of Klopp and Louis van Gaal the journalists’ dream.

Nevertheless, in a time when options are limited and Chelsea are looking for a new direction, Manuel Pellegrini might just be the perfect fit.

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