Manuel Pellegerini Interview: “Pep Guardiola Was Meant To Reach Manchester City, The Club Never Hid It From Me”
Posted by Jordan Clarke | Published on November 7, 2016
On 1st February 2016, Manuel Pellegrini sat before journalists and revealed his time was up in charge of Manchester City. It was unexpected, as the Chilean took control of the situation by himself, following his gut feeling. Since Pep Guardiola had revealed he wanted to manage in the Premier League, it wasn’t only Pellegrini who’s position was in doubt, Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger and Dutchman Louis van Gaal’s positions were in doubt, as serial winner Guardiola looked to venture into the so-called ‘toughest league in the world’.
At this point, Manchester City sat pretty in second-place in the Premier League, three points behind Leicester, who led at the top with 50 points. Since the early days of December, Pellegrini’s side began an everlasting run of results, not losing since 5th December. Almost two months later, the 63-year-old revealed he was stepping down when his contract ran it’s due course, but what followed in terms of results for Manchester City, was damning. The noisy neighbours lost their next three games in a row, and although the fielded team was full of youth as Pellegrini focused his priorities on the league and Champions League, the poor form that followed included a 5-1 defeat to Chelsea at Stamford bridge in the cup. Pellegrini believes Guardiola was always going to come to City, and he knew full well of it, insisting the club never hid it from him:
“I always knew my contract lasted 3 years, Pep Guardiola was meant to reach City, and they never hid it from me. I knew long before anyone. I do not read the press so I could not tell [what they were writing]. I signed for the club and they trusted me for my work.
I was very pleased with my assessment at the club. Besides winning the Premier League and 2 Cups in three years, we also managed to always play Champions League football and reached the round of sixteen twice and also a semi-final, something that had not been achieved in the history of the club.
In addition, if we go to the statistics, we were the team that claimed the most points during my time at the club. We obtained more wins and titles than any other club, so everything was very good. The important thing was to always try to work harder.”
Speculation followed Manchester City’s disappointed form following the announcement of Pep Guardiola’s appointment and whether or not it should have been announced whilst City was still in the thick of a title race, and Pellegrini believed it did impact the mentality of the players working under him, but feels his attitude never changed and still wanted to deliver success to his club:
“Unfortunately, the team felt the mental part at the beginning [of the announcement] and it ended up costing us important results. Personally, I continued working with the same demand, but maybe if I could re-live that moment, announcing my departure, I would handle it in a different manner. Was I angry or frustrated? No. I had a 3-year contract at Manchester City and I fulfilled it. It is always important to continue managing the best teams, but also I am always interested in new challenges.”
All the talk of the former Barcelona manager’s entrance perhaps masks what Manuel Pellegrini actually achieved at Manchester City. The Premier League wasn’t made for a coach with Pellegrini’s CV, as he made history being the first Chilean to manage in the Premier League and only the 5th coach from outside of Europe to be appointed in England’s highest division. Manchester City were arguably playing the most beautiful football in the club’s history, shown when The Daily Telegraph likened Pellegrini’s City sides style to “death by beautiful geometry“. Come 2014, Manchester City smashed Chelsea’s record of the quickest century in all competitions by eight games, scoring one-hundred goals in just 34 games and by the end of January, the club had scored 115 goals, the highest by any major club in Europe. Pellegrini had guided City to their 4th league title since they were founded in 1880, and a league cup to go along with it. Not bad for his first season in a new league. As modest as he is, Pellegrini says records like these are important for a team’s mentality and believes the people of England live and breathe football:
“It is always important to beat records like this because it reflects the mentality of the team. It was very important for my work, besides being the team with the highest goal tally in each of the three seasons we played. Probably because we always went out to win, all my teams play looking for the oppositions goal, either winning 1-0 or 4-0. We always go for more. The goal difference in the Premier League, is a factor for the competitiveness of the teams, there are 7 teams that can win the title every year, so the need for goals is important.”
“The speed and intensity of the Premier league surprises you. You can never say that a game is finished. Perhaps the Spanish league is more technical, but in England people live football in a different way.”
Manuel Pellegrini’s CV is impressive – clubs like Real Madrid, Manchester City, Villarreal and Málaga all were led by the Chilean at some point in time, but before joining Málaga, he was offered the job as Mexico boss. Although, much like Arsene Wenger, Pellegrini admits the day in, day out role of managing a club suits him better than an international role. However, despite Pellegrini’s dis-interest of a national team role, he didn’t rule out managing England one day, if the occasion presented itself:
“I have received offers from many selections and it fills me with great pride, but for now I will continue working in clubs. I like the day by day role. The work as coach of a national team I consider it very different from a club. Not either harder or easier. Just different. And I like more to work on a club. “The truth, I think the coach should be from the country of his selection, it’s only natural. But you never know. England has something different.”
Through his career, the 63-year-old has always been known as a gentleman, something he was widely praised for during Pep Guardiola’s appointment, although Pellegrini admits there is another side to him behind closed doors, despite believing in man-management and handling every player with respect.
“Many times I have screamed privately in the dressing room, to demand more, but at the bench you must demonstrate and manage stress, because under uncontrolled emotion, the possibility of making a wrong decision is much more likely. I do not think the passion and temperament is assessed in the way of losing your temper, but respecting everyone is important for me. That’s the important part of the dressing rooms, whatever happens behind the doors should stay within the team. Although often the voice rises, respect is always there.”
“It can be very difficult because everyone has their ego. Everyone always wants to play, and you can only choose 11 starting players for each game. Managing players is a key factor for the manager. That’s where the distinction is made, in the group management of the different moments during the season, which can define the outcome.”
On the topic of managing egos, having worked with someone of the best players around, Pellegrini named Cristiano Ronaldo as one of the most professional players he has worked with, and also the most complete:
“The most professional? There are many. Raul, Cristiano Ronaldo, Pires, Senna, Van Nistelrooy and I could name a lot more. But he most complete for me, was Cristiano Ronaldo.”
Despite putting Cristiano Ronaldo one over Lionel Messi, Pellegrini revealed the Argentinian forward would be the one player he would have most liked to have signed. Keeping it short and sweet, “Leo Messi”, he says.
The former Manchester City boss went onto reveal that the best managers aren’t judged by titles, but what they brought into the game. And despite playing against some of the best managers around during his career, he revealed no manager brought the best out of him, as every game he would attempt to work at the highest level:
“No-one in particular, everyone makes me work at the highest level. Perhaps some made me focus on specific points of defence or attack longer and harder than others, but at the end you are always looking for that one win, and if you want to win or give your maximum you will acheive that win.”
“In terms of the greatest tactician, it is not the manager who won more titles that is the best. Titles are related to teams that you managed. I think Rinus Michels, Arrigo Sacchi, Johan Cruyff, Pep Guardiola all introduced important things into football.
Pellegrini is the next man to take the bold move of joining the ever-growing Chinese evolution in football. On 27 August 2016, Pellegrini was named manager of Chinese Super League club Hebei China Fortune, replacing Li Tie. Many who move to China are believed to be using the rich Chinese economy as their motivation, but Pellegrini is different and feels to prospect of lending a hand in the growing of a new club interested him:
“The possibility of developing a complete club that was born only 4 years ago interested me, and the club wants to grow in all areas. It was great pride that they looked to Chile to appoint me especially, for my footballing philosophy. Because of the project that they presented me, it became ann interest. Throughout my career I have been guided by the projects that clubs offered me, having to meet certain objectives, which is fundamental to me.”
“Hebei has a planned and serious project. Football in China is booming and they are trying to develop at the highest level as a country. As it’s shown in the CSL (Chinese Super League), it has been growing exponentially year after year.”
The taking of a new role in China meant Pellegrini was again a long distance away from his home country, but he revealed that although it isn’t familiar, football has meant his family grew stronger:
“Football has pros and cons like everything in life, but I think I made a decision that favored personally on my realization and my family relationship. Football united us, defeats and joys made us grow together. It is a tough decision, living away from home, but my family visits me a lot.
During the years of 1988 and 2003, he managed Universidad, Palestino, O’Higgins and Universidad Católica, located in his home nation, Chile. Pellegrini coached LDU Quito for three years, which was also in South-America, before three more years in Argentina, at San Lorenzo and River Plate. In 2004, Pellegrini joined Villarreal and In 2007 he moved across Spain to footballing giants Real Madrid, and signed the most expensive footballer in the world at the moment in time, Cristiano Ronaldo, who has now gone on to become one of Madrid’s biggest legends in the club’s history. In what is perhaps his most known job, Pellegrini joined Manchester City in 20013, in which he delivered their 4th league title. His ever-lasting career continues in China and whilst many words can be said about Pellegrini, gentlemen being at the front of it, he chose to sum up his career in three words; Study, Conviction, and Demand.