Monday 14 October 2019

He has won no major honours as a manager, so why is Pellegrini seen as the answer to Man City's problems?

Manuel Pellegrini
Manuel Pellegrini

Mike Perez

Manchester City's reason for sacking Roberto Mancini was put down to the team's failure to achieve the "stated targets" this season.

In other words, failure to add any more silverware to the Barclays Premier League trophy they won 12 months ago and the Community Shield they lifted in August and to make an impact in the Champions League.

That apparent impatience with Mancini's relative lack of success therefore begs the question why exactly Manuel Pellegrini seems to have emerged at the top of City's wanted to list to replace the Italian.

The 59-year-old Chilean has not won a major trophy since arriving in European football almost a decade ago, and his 15 years of management previously in South America did not exactly reap bountiful dividends.

However, looking at Pellegrini's list of honours only tells a small part of the story - something the powers-that-be at City will be more than aware of.

Chief executive Ferran Soriano and director of football Txiki Begiristain will have seen at first hand during their time at Barcelona just what Pellegrini is capable of, and what he might be able to contribute to City.

The Blues have stated they are looking to develop a "holistic approach to all aspects of football at the club" and Pellegrini, a softly-spoken, calm, methodical and intelligent man with a degree in civil engineering, could be just the person to oversee the deposed champions' revival.

As a player, Santiago-born Pellegrini represented his country while spending his entire club career with local giants Universidad de Chile, making over 450 appearances as a defender before later becoming their coach.

Going into coaching was not something Pellegrini had planned do, though, as he combined playing with his university studies, and it was not until he was 30 that he first seriously considered football management.

He decided to follow that path after hanging up his boots at 33 and took training courses in Italy and England before returning to Chile to take charge of Universidad's youth squad.

After that 'El Ingeniero' (the engineer) took the reins at a number of leading clubs in South America, including Universidad, Argentinian giants River Plate and Ecuadorian outfit LDU Quito, with varying degrees of success.

In 2004 Pellegrini came to Europe, and his first port of call was at Villarreal, a small-town club in Spain, and it was there that arguably the magnum opus of his managerial career lies so far.

Villarreal had never even been in the top flight before 1998, and their best Primera Division finish prior to Pellegrini's arrival was seventh in 2001.

That was all about to change.

In his first season Pellegrini led the Yellow Submarine, boasting the likes of Diego Forlan, Juan Roman Riquelme, Jose Reina and a young Santi Cazorla, to a third-placed finish in La Liga and with it a spot in the Champions League.

That was no flash in the pan either, with Villarreal becoming a regular fixture near the top of the Primera Division standings during each of Pellegrini's five seasons in charge at El Madrigal, including a second-placed finish in 2008 - the only club outside of Barcelona and Real Madrid to claim a top-two berth in the last nine years.

Aside from that domestic success, Villarreal also won the 2004 Intertoto Cup and famously reached the semi-finals of the 2005/06 Champions League, only to lose 1-0 on aggregate to Arsenal after Riquelme missed a crucial penalty.

Villarreal also reached the Champions League quarter-finals in the 2008/09 season, only again to fall foul of the Gunners.

Following his success at establishing Villarreal as a major force in Spanish and European football, it was little surprise to see Real Madrid come knocking in 2009 after parting company with Juande Ramos.

Pellegrini's one year in charge of Madrid was a mixed one.

Critics will point to the fact that he failed to win any silverware, despite Madrid's massive summer outlay of around £225million on the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Kaka, Karim Benzema and Xabi Alonso.

However, Real did win 31 out of 38 league matches that season, accumulating a then club-record 96 points and scoring 102 goals in the process, and if they had not been up against Pep Guardiola's Barcelona dream team, they almost certainly would have won the title.

Had that happened, who knows what the future would have held for Pellegrini?

As it was, Madrid decided to cut loose yet another coach and go for Jose Mourinho.

Pellegrini's image in Spain was not unduly tarnished by his year at Madrid though - few managers have survived long in recent years at the Bernabeu - and struggling Malaga turned to the Chilean in November 2010 after dismissing Jesualdo Ferreira .

Like Villarreal, Malaga had no great history to speak of, but with Pellegrini at the helm and the wealthy backing of the club's new Qatari owners, the Andalusian outfit started to put themselves on the map.

Malaga recovered to finish 11th that season and in Pellegrini's first full campaign in charge the following year they secured a top-four finish for the first time in their history, and with it a maiden Champions League adventure.

And Malaga were one of the revelations of this year's Champions League, where they only missed out on a place in the semi-finals after conceding two stoppage-time goals - one hugely controversial - to Borussia Dortmund.

So, while Pellegrini's list of silverware may not be overflowing, there is much more to the Chilean.

He has proven himself able to build successful and entertaining teams, both on a budget and with millions behind him, and also ones that can compete in Europe.That could be just what City are looking for.

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