The Tactical Evolution of Manuel Pellegrini: Madrid, Malaga, Premier League?

Sam TigheWorld Football Tactics Lead WriterMay 22, 2013

MALAGA, SPAIN - OCTOBER 24:  Head coach Manuel Pellegrini of Malaga CF gives instructions during the UEFA Champions League group C match between Malaga CF and AC Milan at the Estadio La Rosaleda on October 24, 2012 in Malaga, Spain.  (Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images)
Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

Manuel Pellegrini admitted today that Malaga's game against Deportivo La Coruna will be his last at la Roselada.

The Chilean is a world-class tactician who seems set for an English Premier League job in the 2013-14 season, but which club will snap him up?

Malaga coach and reported Manchester City target Manuel Pellegrini confirms that he will leave Malaga at the end of the season.

— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) May 22, 2013

Manchester City have been linked with him since before Roberto Mancini was officially sacked (via BBC), but he's been paired with Chelsea by The Telegraph too.

So what's the low-down on the new manager likely arriving on British shores?

Pellegrini made his name in Europe as Villarreal manager, leading them to a historic second-placed finish in La Liga and reaching the UEFA Champions League semifinals.

He became famous for his obscure 4-2-2-2 tactical setup, and his flexibility on the team sheet ensured he enjoyed five glorious at el Madrigal.

In 2009, Real Madrid activated the release clause in his contract and took him to the Santiago Bernabeu, the task at hand: lead the second coming of the Galacticos.

Dutch tactical writer Nikos Overheul summed up the Chilean's tactical approach at los Blancos extremely well to me during private conversation:

During his time at Real Madrid, Manuel Pellegrini proved himself to be an adaptable tactician.

Kaka, Raul, Rafael van der Vaart, Esteban Granero, Guti and Cristiano Ronaldo were all excellent players, but they didn't fit together in an obvious tactical set-up. Pellegrini would switch formation from game to game, often employing a 4-2-3-1 or a midfield diamond.

No matter the formation, Pellegrini's Madrid would regularly play with four creative midfielders while largely maintaining defensive stability. This is the main characteristic of Pellegrini's tactical set-ups.

Like Carlo Ancelotti he excels in building a system that allows for creative expression, but not to the detriment of his defence.

Although he used his resources extremely well, he was never able to build a side in his own image due to the hierarchy dictating the transfer policy.

After Madrid, Pellegrini landed at current club Malaga and restored his reputation as one of tactical football's true greats.

He has unlocked the very best in wunderkind Isco, allowing him to drift into midfield and find the ball irrespective of position, thus stopping teams from double-marking him or figuring him out.

His strong coaching and systematic work has allowed players like Ignacio Camacho—who was a forgotten talent—rise to the fore and become one of La Liga's premier defensive midfielders, while he's also sculpted one of the nation's meanest defences from a modest set of players.

Despite los Boquerones consistently selling players, he's been able to use the transfer market to replenish the team: A Nacho Monreal-less Malaga were just minutes (or yards) from a Champions League semifinal.

He's done things so differently throughout his career, he can truly be labelled one of the most tactical reactive and flexible managers in world football. Where possible, he likes to use an enganche and a strike partnership, but he will always devise the optimum formation given the players at his disposal.

If you're looking for a new manager, you can't go wrong with Manuel Pellegrini.