Why Pellegrini Is the Ideal Man to Replace Mancini in the Manchester City Dugout
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Invariably when a club opts to part company with their manager, then the new figure in charge tends to be the polar opposite of the man just given his marching orders, as we have just seen in the case of Manchester City.
Roberto Mancini, who was sacked by the north-west club last month, could not be more different from incoming trainer Manuel Pellegrini if the Chilean had just landed from Mars—which, judging by some of the British press’ reaction to the arrival of the former Malaga head coach at Eastlands, one may have thought he had.
For while the one-time Fiorentina, Lazio and Inter Milan boss may be deemed at times as aloof, arrogant and a touch dramatic, one could certainly call his successor at the Etihad cool, calm and collected.
However, it would be wholly wrong, and inaccurate, to suggest that City chief executive Ferran Soriano and director of football Txiki Begiristain went for Pellegrini solely because he was the anti-Mancini, although that would have definitely counted in the 59-year-old’s favour when the Spanish duo came to drawing up their managerial short list.
For one thing, it was well known around the club that the pair, who only arrived at City in their new roles in August and October of 2012 respectively, had grown tired of Mancini’s many public outbursts, whether that be against his own players, administrators or whoever, and were keen for a new manager with a less abrasive style whom they could both work with more easily.
But there are many other more relevant and important reasons as to why the ex-Villarreal and Real Madrid coach was headhunted to replace Mancini, one of which was revealed in the official statement that City released explaining their reasons for sacking the popular Italian. The club claimed it was partly due to a need to "develop a holistic approach to all aspects of football at the club."
One thing that Mancini could never be accused of during his four-year spell at City was either giving youth its head or even spending much of his time ingratiating himself with the club’s academy setup.
In stark contrast, though, Pellegrini comes to the Premier League with a glowing reputation in this field from his five years spent in charge at Villarreal, where he managed to build up a youth system that was the envy of the whole of La Liga, Barcelona included.
And it can certainly be no coincidence, either, that the Catalans’ director of football during that time was none other than Begiristain, who has by all accounts held the incoming City manager in high esteem ever since.
But perhaps an even more important factor in his appointment is the style of football that Pellegrini is set to play at Eastlands, which again will be in direct contrast to much that has been seen in the north-west under Mancini’s watch these past four years, especially in the Italian’s final season in charge.
Pellegrini himself touched on this when talking recently about his possible appointment at City, boldly declaring in the Daily Mirror that: “My career has been all about sporting challenges. I am leaving Malaga for a very important project and I will stay true to the values I have built up over many years. I have always tried to get my teams to play with a certain style.
“But this time I know that the style I employ also comes with a need to deliver titles."
And already some of his soon-to-be new charges appear greatly enthused at the prospect of finally being let loose under the Chilean’s guidance at the Etihad next season, with France midfield player Samir Nasri observing in the Daily Mail:
I think that [Manuel Pellegrini] is a great manager.
He proved himself at Villarreal and Real Madrid as well even if he didn’t win the title but he finished with 96 points. And with Malaga as well.
All his teams play attractive football. And I think that is what people want to see.
You pay (for your) ticket to go to football to see something great and he is the kind of manager who can do it so we will see what can happen in the summer.
Meanwhile, sometime club captain and player of the year in the previous campaign, Argentinian right-back Pablo Zabaleta, also put forward a similar view in the Independent, commenting:
I have never worked under Pellegrini before, when he was at San Lorenzo I was in the second team.
I don't know him as a person but he did well at Real Madrid, Villarreal and Malaga.
We will see if Pellegrini signs for Manchester City.
His way to play football is great. Somebody told me he is a great manager so we will wait to see what happens.
Hopefully if he comes to City he can just carry on with his football.
And then finally there is Pellegrini’s record when it comes to competing in Europe’s premier club competition, which when help up in comparison with what Mancini has managed to achieve on the continent during his managerial career is quite illuminating.
The smooth and suave Chilean has the enviable distinction of being the only coach in the modern history of the UEFA Champions League to have ever guided one, let alone two, debutants past the group stages, as he did with both Villarreal in 2007 (semi-finals) and then again with Malaga last season (quarter-finals).
Is Pellegrini the right man to succeed Mancini at Eastlands?
His predecessor at Eastlands, bankrolled by investment of roughly £930 million, produced two successive limp group-phase exits in his two Champions League campaigns in charge of the mega-rich Premier League outfit, while overall Mancini has never made it beyond the last eight of the European Cup in his 12 years coaching at the very highest level.
Many observers, Sir Alex Ferguson included, were said to be surprised by City’s decision to sack Mancini last month, labelling it as unfair. However, sometimes these harsh choices need to be made for the long-term good of the club. The Blues fans, while clearly disappointed to see the departure of the man who brought them their first top-flight title for 44 years, should at least be comforted by the thought that their team will be in very safe hands going forward.
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