Harsh judgment or more accurately pre judgment is something that we see all too often in the media when it comes to football. The prime example is of course players with a massive price tag on their head. Said player then automatically becomes back page news and nationally vilified if they fail to live up to said tag -ring any bells Fernando? The forward was of course subject to a rather unfortunate billboard above Stamford bridge quipping: “FERNANDO. We’ve got an onion bag you can actually find. It’s in the burger van mate. Get your hair net on.”
Managers and sporting directors too often get a hard go of it and whilst we would never advocate the media letting it slide should someone rejoin a club and brand one of their best players Yohan Kebab, when Manuel Pellgrini was appointed Manchester City manager, the reaction from some quarters was simply uncalled for not to mention unfounded.
To suggest the manager will be a failure simply because of his time at Real Madrid is as crazy as Arsene Wenger booking an open topped bus for the end of May 2014 – unless he is planning on sending Jose Mourinho a welcome back present of course. Pellegrini rocked up at Real Madrid already on the back foot with the media and Florentino Perez never taking to him, not to mention the fact that he was a Jorge Valdano appointment and a very unpopular one at that.
As even the Special One found out, if you don’t have Marca onside, you’re fighting a losing battle from the get go. Not to mention the fact that Barcelona were simply the best side in the world at that time – and the Chilean manager still ended up with a record number of points amassed, finishing second. Hardly an out and out disaster considering all outside factors.
His time at Villarreal proved to be nothing short of a success, taking them to a third placed finish in La Liga and coming so close to the Champions League final, only missing out through a failed Riquelme penalty against Arsenal in 2006. For most La Liga fans however, the highlight of his spell at the un fancied side came when he led them to a second placed La Liga finish, beating Barcelona to that spot back in 2008-2009. His Yellow Submarines played better football with each passing season the 59 year old was at the helm and were unrecognisable when he left from the side he joined in every aspect.
This of course led to the afore mentioned disastrous move to Los Blancos where a disgusting media campaign even by Marca’s lofty standards forced him out – such was the venom towards the manager, that headlines such as “OUT. Goodbye Champions, Goodbye Pellegrini” were front page news not even half way through the season. Not only this but the two players that the manager wanted to keep at the club – Wesley Sneijder and Arjen Robben were sold against his wishes – both of whom have won the treble with their respective clubs since. In essence, the manager was a dead man walking even before the ink had dried on his contract with the club.
Then came Malaga – another period to highlight on the manager’s CV. The club sat 18th in the La Liga table when he arrived and managed to finish 11th in the first season. Under Pellegrini’s tutelage, the side went from strength to strength and with more financial backing that at Villarreal, they quickly established themselves as a top four side. To the immense credit of the manager, when the various unsavoury and problematic issues with the owners arose, he became a voice for the players and ensured not only were all monies owed paid, but put his own reputation on the line to make sure the players and fans came first.
Add to this the sale of players like Cazorla, Monreal, Solomón Rondón, Joris Mathijsen and Ruud van Nistelrooy and it became clear that Malaga were a club facing bigger issues than Pellegrini could solve. Despite all this and a soul destroying European ban, the club were oh so close in the Champions League against eventual runners up Borussia Dortmund and the manager again left on a high.
As a manager, Pellegrini has his cautious side and shipping goals will certainly not be a feature at the Etihad – the play will be controlled and balanced yet easy on the eye – at all of his clubs Pellegrini has worked his way up to exciting football and will certainly know how to utilise the wealth of talent at his disposal. Add to this his already fluent English skills and personable demeanour and you can see why City chose him to take them to the next step.
The opening game of the season for the club was a blow away success with the likes of Edin Dzeko and Joe Hart looking revitalised. New signings such as Jesus Navas were also a revelation, and yes the Newcastle side faced was a very poor one, but Pellegrini navigated his first game like an old pro.
The fans may not have appreciated or agreed with the sacking of Roberto Mancini but at the end of the day, that is football and in Pellegrini, the owners and board have a manager who could build a dynasty – that’s if they don’t adopt a Roman Abramovich like merry go round instead.