Getting rid of Roberto Mancini doesn't appear to be too popular among City fans. Here's why Manuel Pellegrini could quickly make them forget all about him.
At this stage of the season there is always talk of of managers leaving their clubs and this year is no different. One manager in particular has been heavily linked with a number of English clubs including Arsenal, Chelsea and most recently Manchester City. That man is the Chilean Civil Engineer, former footballer turned manager – Manuel Pellegrini.
Pellegrini for those who have never heard of the man was an ex-footballer turned manager. He only ever played for one club, Universidad Chile (Over 450 appearances). Since his retirement in 1986 he has gone on to manage 13 different teams in his 25 year managerial career, the latest three teams, all in La Liga.
In 2004 Manuel Pellegrini was announced the new manager of Villarreal, a club who had only been in La Liga five seasons prior to him taking charge. It was a big task, the team had finished the previous season 8th in the league, and this was after two back to back 15th in the league finishes, narrowly avoiding relegation.
What Villarreal didn’t know was their club was about to be changed, and for the better.
In his first season with Villarreal, ‘The Engineer’ qualified them for the Champions League after finishing third in the league (Second highest ever finish for Villarreal) and in that same season the team reached the quarter-finals of the UEFA Cup.
The following season, Villarreal were excellent in the Champions league, they entered into the third qualifying round where they passed Everton with ease, winning the two legged tie 2-4 in the end.
This meant that Villarreal had now qualified for the group stages, for the first ever time in their history.
They were drawn alongside Lille, Benfica and of course another English side in Manchester United. No problem for Pellegrini and his yellow submarine, they finished top of the group undefeated. Recording home and away draws against United which resulted in the English side finishing bottom of the table.
Onto the first knock-out round and a trip to yet another British side, this time Rangers. They managed to knock them out on penalties, and set up a tie with Italian giants Inter Milan, no problem – knocked them out as well.
Semi-finals, (Reaching the semi-final was massive in itself) but the semi-final against Arsenal football club, yet another English side. This, this was too much and in the end Villarreal who had done themselves proud throughout the whole tournament and of course even in both legs of the semi-final were now knocked out of Europe, by a single goal over the two legs.
Not too shabby for a team who had never entered the Champions League group stages before.
Pellegrini stayed for another few seasons, in one of those season’s he took Villarreal to their greatest ever finish in La Liga, 2nd, as he managed to split the Real Madrid and Barcelona monopoly.
In the end, his achievements were too good, every club was now after him and the rumours started to fly around, he shad this to say come the end of his last season: “Nobody from Real Madrid has spoken with me. I have a contract with Villarreal, we finished the league today, and tomorrow we go on holiday,”
The start of the following season and he was now Real Madrid manager.
Pellegrini was now in charge of one of the biggest football clubs in the world. He was under the guidance of a man who had returned to the Bernabeu for the second time, Florentino Perez the new president.
The duo’s first act was to spend money in the summer transfer window. Within six weeks of taking charge the club had bought the likes of Kaká from AC Milan for around £60m, Cristiano Ronaldo for £80m from Manchester United, Karim Benzema from Lyon for £30m and of course Xabi Alonso for £30m from Liverpool. It was a cool £200m or so spent since his arrival.
The new ‘Galácticos’ now had to show they were worth it, as did the manager.
From the word go almost, Pellegrini was under the microscope, everyone seemed to be against him. After just one friendly match, in which the team won, President Florentino Pérez criticised the team’s style of play and also moaned in regards to the physical exhaustion of the players. Weeks later and the president wasn’t the only one who wasn’t an admirer the press started to jump on his back, Marca’s front cover after the Copa del Rey shock exit to Alcorcon simply read – Alcorconazo.
This kept up for most of the season and after their Champions League exit at the hands of Lyon, the president was on his back again. Lose the league, lose your job.
Real Madrid finished that season (2009/10 season) with a record breaking points total of 96. The highest amount of points any Real Madrid side have ever managed up to that season (They’ve since beaten that total). It wasn’t enough though, Barcelona finished 1st on 99 points and Perez, sure to his word, sacked Manuel Pellegrini.
It was a tough, tough year for the Chilean manager and to be honest a very harsh reward for what he had done with the club in the league.
He wasn’t out of a job for very long and the offers came in quick enough, everyone wanted him as everyone knew how good he was. He was asked to be the Mexican national team manager, but in the end he took over the helm at another La Liga side, Malaga.
In the 2010/2011 season Pellegrini took charge in November after the sacking of Jesualdo Ferreira. Pellegrini with his same old tactics of a well organised group who is difficult to play against, hard to break down and will always give 100%, well those tactics saw him guide Malaga to safety during that first half season.
In his first full season 2011/2012, he brought in reinforcements, the team had spent big; they had bought the likes of Cazorla who had previously worked under Pellegrini, Toulalan, Isco, Monreal, Joaquín and others. Pellegrini and his men finished the season a record breaking 4th in the league (The highest they’d previously finished was 7th, in the 71/72 season). He had taking them from three points away from the drop to Champions league within a season and a half.
Now the problems with the cash and the owner had been boiling at the surface, and in fairness to Pellegrini he could have left and got a job elsewhere, easily. He didn’t, not even when the board sold the likes of Rondon, Cazorla, Diego Buonanotte and Nacho Monreal for around £37m in total.
It was obvious to anyone and everyone that the owner wasn’t all he said he was and that in the end, they ‘had’ to sell their main assets, players wages weren’t getting paid, the owner was nowhere to be seen. But to be fair to Pellegrini he stuck by, he dug deep, he railed the new team together, got some old players to stay with him and brought new players in (free transfers and loans) and they went on battling.
This season most footballing fans have been blown away by the performances of Malaga, the likes of Saviola, Toulalan, Demichelis, Willy Caballero and of course the sensation that is Isco, in fact the list goes on and on, the mix of new players and old players who were previously here have come together under the management of Pellegrini and shocked the world.
They have been sitting at least top six in the league the whole way through this season, even though they know they’re banned from European competitions next year, it hasn’t bothered them. They have taken everything seriously this campaign and have become everyone’s second team, mostly to do with their European run.
They entered the Champions league this season at the play-off round were they overcame Greek side Panathinaikos. They then were entered into the Champions’ League group stages for the first ever time in their history. They were drawn against Anderlecht, Zenit St Petersburg and Italian giants AC Milan. Pellegrini doing what he does best guided his team to top of the group, finishing like he did with Villarreal unbeaten. They were then drawn in the Round of 16 against Porto, after the two legged tie, Malaga were in dream land, they had knocked Porto out of the Champions league with a two legged score of 1-2.
Malaga, a team who had been through it all in recent years, found themselves drawn against Borussia Dortmund in the Quarter finals. Those who watched the tie will attest how close they came to a place in the Semi-finals where they would’ve faced Pellegrini’s old club Real Madrid. Only a herculean effort from Dortmund with two injury-time goals stopped their progression to the last four; an incredible achievement for most top European clubs, never mind Malaga
As I said at the start, the likes of Arsenal, Chelsea and more notably Manchester City are just few clubs to be linked with this wonderful manager. All I’ll say is whoever does get him better hold onto him as he’s a very special man indeed.