FFT's Spanish expert Tim Stannard explains why it didn't work out at the Bernabeu for the manager they call The Engineer...
The damage done to the reputation of Manuel Pellegrini by the normally supportive local press during his time as Real Madrid manager was so extensive that even now, many Madridistas will claim that the Chilean is a not a serious, top quality manager.
This is despite all the evidence to the contrary; the minnows to Champions League-titans journey with both Villarreal and Málaga, not to mention the impressive work Pellegrini is now performing at Manchester City, turning the English side into European heavyweights, and a team capable of steamrollering most of their Premier League rivals.
The campaign led by Marca throughout 2009/10 was so bitter and downright nasty that it may have come from within the club itself, with certain lofty figures within Madrid looking to spread the narrative that Pellegrini was an incompetent buffoon, in order to lay a path for the incoming saviour José Mourinho. That would certainly explain the lack of protection from a club which normally maintains a close control over the media and various headlines of the day.
RECORD AT REAL
June 2009 - May 2010
- Games 48
- Wins 36
- Draws 5
- Losses 7
- Win % 75
- La Liga 2nd
- Copa del Rey Last 16
- Champions League Last 16
The evidence laid against Pellegrini from his boisterous detractors included results, namely a calamitous defeat to Alcorcón in the Copa del Rey, a Champions League exit at the last 16 stage (again) at the hands of Lyon, and ultimately losing out in the title race to Barcelona. Of course, what is often overlooked is that Real Madrid picked up 96 points that season, scoring 102 goals in the process, and found themselves competing with arguably one of the best club sides in history. Indeed, that points tally was four better than the total achieved by Mourinho the following season.
Pellegrini’s problem was that he was far from first choice to lead the returning Florentino Pérez's new Galacticos project, with the president looking for a bigger, more dynamic figure as his coach. However, a series of rebuffed attempts to bring in figures like Arsene Wenger and Carlo Ancelotti led a reluctant Madrid to Pellegrini’s door. Indeed, that moment was one of the few that Pérez and Pellegrini had together, with the Chilean recalling after his one-season spell at the club that his relationship with the president was non-existent.
That would certainly explain how Madrid bosses sold Arjen Robben and Wesley Sneijder shortly before the season began, without communicating their intentions to the manager, leaving Pellegrini’s tactical plan for the year in need of a rapid rewrite.
Pellegrini’s big problem at Real Madrid was that he was too dignified and controlled, if such a thing was possible. He refused to climb into the ring. The constant attacks from Marca were left without response, when perhaps a more robust defence of his work at the Santiago Bernabéu was required - but that was never Pellegrini’s way. His press conferences were normally sparsely attended, with journalists aware that the manager was going to be nothing but polite almost to the point of being a little dull, not unlike his manner at Málaga and Manchester City.
Mourinho may trundle on, trying to get a reaction out of Pellegrini, commenting that he would never manage a club like Málaga, but the mild-mannered Chilean will continue to hold counsel, knowing that at Manchester City, he has found a club that matches his seriousness and desire for calm, long term-planning.