Before continuing I must point out that it is only speculation at present about Pellegrini and the vacant role at Manchester City, the British media are prone to getting it wrong – just a few months ago it was convinced that Pep Guardiola was ready to abandon his yearlong sabbatical and join the madhouse at Chelsea FC, instead Guardiola announced he was to become the new manager of Bayern Munich and Chelsea turned to Benitez. So it is with a pinch of salt that we take the news of Manuel Pellegrini’s imminent appointment as Manchester City boss, but the lack of alternatives from the media, suggests the man from Chile is City’s only target.
I think that is a mistake. A huge mistake. Do not take that as an insult to Mr Pellegrini’s ability or his track record, in fact I would be willing to bet he would win the Premier League before David Moyes’ Manchester United. Such a statement may come across as odd, given the sentence before it I stated I felt Pellegrini was a mistake, but I’ll explain why now: Pellegrini is old, at 59 years of age he is not quite in Sir Alex Ferguson’s school year but only a few behind Arsène Wenger (63).
He will not be at City for a long period of time, in fact if the reports are to be believed he will be granted a two year deal, hardly building for the future. It all seems rather odd that City would go down this route, when on the day of The FA Cup final Patrick Vieira (the club’s Football Development Executive) said the most important thing was “to have stability” and the key to having stability is to have a project in place. Since City became oil-rich, they’ve appeared to want to go a different route to Chelsea’s hire-then-fire policy, which is commendable – although people will point to The Europa League being Chelsea’s eleventh major trophy in ten seasons under Abramovich, how many youth players have Chelsea promoted? The club is nowhere near to being self-sustainable, the median age of the squad only reduced this season because young players were bought, not developed.
City, whilst spending heavily on the first team, have taken a view (like their neighbours, United) that developing youth players is the key to a self-sufficient future, completely revamping their youth set-up in order to reap the rewards in several seasons time, taking a long term approach. This, for me, shows the club is serious about its own development and also taking the impending Financial Fair Play rules seriously, so then it was bemusing to see the club being linked so heavily with Pellegrini – a manager heading toward the end of his career, who failed at Real Madrid and likes to spend huge amounts of money on players.
People will look at his track record and point to his ‘success’ with Villarreal, indeed guiding them to a semi-final place in the Champions League is respectable. However, where are they now? Playing in the Segunda Division after terrible financial management, Malaga also had an extremely fortunate run in the Champions League this season, only bowing out to a 90th minute defeat in Dortmund, however from the summer onwards expect them to follow Villarreal’s path and look toward relegation as another of Pellegrini’s clubs has run out of cash and will sell all their star players (notice a pattern, bit like Harry Redknaap and Southampton, Portsmouth and now QPR).
Of course, there is an extremely low chance that Pellegrini could spend so thoughtlessly at City (although he was manager when Kaka was bought for £56m) and you suspect City would again look at their neighbours set-up and have a process whereby the managers targets are scrutinised by a board member (David Gill was happy to admit he and Sir Alex used to argue tooth and nail over certain transfer targets), but the reason I feel Pellegrini is a mistake for City is because, in two or perhaps three seasons time, it will the same situation. City will have departed with their manager, perhaps with another league title and progress in the Champions League having been made, but no nearer to building a dynasty like Liverpool did, like United did, like every other major team in European football has managed. At a club that talks a lot of the future and long-termism, it is a bafflingly short-term move to appoint the Chilean.
If they wanted somebody with experience of the Champions League, why not appoint Carlo Ancelotti? At 53 he is six years younger than Pellegrini, has won the competition twice at Milan and could build a house with the amount of league winner’s medals he has amassed (don’t forget the double with Chelsea). Or if the club did not want another Italian after Mancini then why not Benitez? Again another manager who has won the Champions League, has extensive Premier League experience and again is 53.
The list of potential candidates City could have appointed for their ‘project’ is rather long (look at Milan’s Allegri or Juventus’ Conte for two of the most promising young managers in Europe) but a 59 year old with no experience of the Premier League, or indeed any similar leagues having only ever been in Argentina or Spain and has limited experience of a club wanting to win the league title is not the right answer for a team wanting to be dominant for the next decade and beyond – Chelsea could have told them that after appointing World Cup winner Luiz Felipe Scolari only to get rid of him 7 months later.
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