By Ben Hayward | Spanish Football Writer
Out of the frying pan, into the fire. Manuel Pellegrini know all about difficult owners, off-the-field problems, press scrutiny and elevated expectations from his time at Real Madrid and Malaga. So the Chilean should know exactly what to expect at Manchester City.
He has already been written off by some sectors of the British media as a big-spending foreigner with a modest trophy record, the same press pack hailing the appointment of David Moyes at City's local rivals Manchester United. The Scot, incidentally, has never won a major trophy. But that's okay because, well, he hails from the British Isles. Pellegrini? He's from Chile. When did a South American ever succeed as manager in the Premier League? Oh, and he has an Italian surname. Like Mancini. Cardinal sins, clearly...
Pellegrini won't care, of course. The Chilean coach is a former central defender turned trainer with a very accomplished record (including several trophies in South America) at almost all of his sides, mostly modest teams by the way, which makes comparing his win percentage with Mancini's a futile exercise. He is also a fully qualified civil engineer. How many British bosses can claim that?
Laid-back and likeable, Pellegrini will work with dignity and bring a brand of football which will please fans after the pragmatic play City fans have been fed by Mancini. A beautiful building must be strong and solid too, however, and El Ingeniero's sides sit on strong bases. Defensive stability allows creative flow. It is an approach mixing science and art, brawn and beauty. And it works.
|PELLEGRINI'S COACHING CAREER
|Universidad de Chile
"I didn't have a voice or a vote at Madrid," he told El Mercurio in an interview in 2010, while also lamenting his inability to build the side he had wanted at Real. "I can't get anything out of an orchestra if I have the 10 best guitarists but I don't have a pianist or a drummer."
It was essentially all over for Pellegrini after his Madrid side lost 4-0 at lowly Alcorcon in the Copa del Rey. Not even 96 points in La Liga (Real's best-ever total at the time) could save him, even though his team had been without Cristiano Ronaldo for almost two months and pushed Pep Guardiola's brilliant Barcelona all the way to the end of the season.
Duly discarded by Madrid, Pellegrini decided to rebuild his reputation at Malaga and took the Andalusians to within seconds of the Champions League semi-finals this term, despite summer sales (including the team's finest football, Santi Cazorla), uncertainty over unpaid player bonuses and chaotic behaviour from club owners, who left him very much in the dark over the finances and the future of the team - as well as his own.
All of that will help Pellegrini ahead of his Manchester City adventure. The Chilean has been strengthened by his experiences at Madrid and Malaga, and should feel much more comfortable with (Spanish speaker) Txiki Begiristain in the role of sporting director. It is a Barcelona blueprint in tune with Pellegrini's philosophy, while the Chilean's football ideology is also in keeping with the views of Begiristain, who is keen to install a 4-3-3 formation from top to bottom at City, in the youth sides all the way up to the first team.
That may take time. Pellegrini has favoured 4-4-2 or 4-2-2-2 for much of his career. He confectioned a spectacular side at Villareal with that formation, leading the small-town club to the semi-finals of the Champions League in 2006 and winning many admirers with a brand of football which succeeded in combining Latin American flavour with European efficiency. At Malaga, meanwhile, he has used both of those systems, as well as an effective 4-2-3-1. Stability, however, remains key and the 59-year-old is unlikely to agree to a switch to 4-3-3 unless he believes he has the players to succeed in that system - or until he can bring them in.
|I can't get anything out of an orchestra if I have the 10 best guitarists but I don't have a pianist or a drummer
- Manuel Pellegrini on his time at Real Madrid
Tactically, Pellegrini is an upgrade on Mancini. He has shown at Villarreal, Madrid and Malaga that he is comfortable using a number of formations and, wherever he has been, he has made the team better than before. In the two games against Dortmund recently, his defensive organisation frustrated the German side and had it not been for the Andalusians' late capitulation, it would have been Malaga in the semi-finals up against Madrid and not BVB.
Indeed, Pellegrini's pedigree in Europe is one of the things City will have been attracted to, especially following their two disappointing Champions League campaigns under Mancini, while the Chilean's man-management skills will help bring the best out of a side which seems primed for greatness. At Madrid, the players backed him until the end; at Malaga they love him. At City, they will too. And if he wins, will anyone really care that he isn't British?
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