Nobody can say Txiki Begiristain
has not thought long and hard about Manuel Pellegrini's managerial qualities – the Manchester City director of football has been watching the Chilean coach closely since at least 2006 when his Villarreal side were so nearly Barcelona's opponents in that year's Champions League final.
They were beaten by Arsenal in the semi-finals, but refused to shuffle back into the shadows. The following season, Barcelona, where Begiristain was sporting director, were looking up at Pellegrini's team as his first European creation had the audacity to finish above them.
They were a humble, but highly effective copy of Barcelona, from the possession-based football to the incredibly-productive youth system and Pellegrini held it all together. He left in 2009 and four coaches down the line Villarreal are now in the second division.
"The priority is always possession," he said during that five-year spell at the club.
When he turned up at Villarreal – a one-hotel town not on most maps of Spain in 2004 – the youth academy had come a long way since the Roig family took control of the club in 1997, but it needed an alchemist to finish the job.
The dream was self-sufficiency and Pellegrini so nearly made it a reality. 'Villarreal B', in effect the club's youth team, won promotion to Spain's second division in 2006 – some achievement considering they only came into existence in 1999.
Manchester City's new 80-acre, 17-pitch training complex complete with live-in youth academy will be a far cry from Villarreal's modest production line when completed; But Pellegrini's philosophy that a club should feed itself and not just off other clubs is what has helped convince Begiristain that he is the perfect fit.
The greatest concern over Pellegrini's imminent arrival among Manchester City fans seemed to be the year he spent at Real Madrid winning nothing with the most expensively assembled team in La Liga history. But Begiristain's knowledge of how easy it is to fail at the Bernabeu will mean that that season barely registers in his weighted considerations.
Pellegrini had no input into signings; he had club veterans Guti and Raul undermining his authority, Cristiano Ronaldo was injured for six weeks; and Arjen Robben and Wesley Sneijder, who the Chilean coach had requested not be sold, both reached the Champions League final with their new clubs.
If Manchester City are modelling themselves on anybody then it is Barca, not Real Madrid. Pellegrini's years of almost beating Begiristain's Barca at their own game look like earning him his Premier League chance. (© Independent News Service)