There's no swerving the reality; Manuel Pellegrini is an exceptional football coach. It's easy to forget that, before he joined Manchester City, he had impressed at both Villarreal and Malaga. With the former, the Chilean managed to break the Barca/Madrid duopoly in La Liga by guiding El Submarino Amarillo to second in the table in 2008, while he was also a Champions League semi-finalist in 2006.
Furthermore, it's also easy to forget that his Malaga team were agonisingly close to reaching the last four in the same competition, denied by two stoppage time goals from Borussia Dortmund. As for his time at Real Madrid, he can hardly be accused of steering the club into embarrassment, finishing his only league campaign with 96 points, three behind that of Pep Guardiola's Barcelona.
It's interesting that Pellegrini's imbalanced Galacticos side lay in the shadows to Guardiola. Five years later, and it seems the spectre of the outgoing Bayern Munich manager is looming large over Pellegrini's ultimately doomed time in charge at the Etihad. But what has Pellegrini done wrong? Does he deserve to be faced with a barrage of questions regarding his future in every press conference? Is it just that he is likely to be quietly ushered out the door in the summer to accommodate a coach City have coveted for a long time? To be frank, absolutely not.
Manchester City fans, in the blur of their dizzying ambition to win the Champions League and conquer the world of football, may be negligent to just how good they've had it under Pellegrini. In his first season, City became adept at steam-rolling teams on a weekly basis, averaging well over three goals in a style likened to "death by beautiful geometry," as was their ability to score from every conceivable situation and angle. Pellegrini's City were a merciless attacking machine, pulverising defences into submission time after time until they finished the season with the Premier League crown in their hands, after amassing a stunning goal difference of +65.
Yes, Pellegrini's second season at the helm failed to bring further silverware, but not even that case of second season syndrome will end up costing Pellegrini his job. Yes, despite the fact that he took over the mantle from Roberto Mancini and brought attractive, exciting football that stabilised the club, there's always been a sense that Pellegrini has been warming the seat for a superior other. When City's new owners purchased the club in 2008, their main goal was to replicate the environment that enabled Guardiola to accrue an incredible 14 titles in four seasons at Barcelona - hence the hiring of Txiki Begiristain and Ferran Soriano, two esteemed Barcelona board members, as City's Director of Football and CEO respectively.
It's been a difficult environment with which Pellegrini has been forced to operate, already suffocating under the extreme pressure that comes part and parcel with a club of City's stature. Indeed, when the going got tough for Guardiola at Bayern at the end of last season after crashing out of the Champions League to his former club, reports indicated that he had an open offer to join City. The job was his if he wanted. Pellegrini would be informed of developments, without having a say in his future. Yes, he would be compensated handsomely, but he would have no power in preventing a less-than ceremonial conclusion to his time at the club.
But, the argument for the other side is that City, a club who have poured everything they have - financially and otherwise - into becoming the toast of European football, deserve the best. The harsh reality is that Guardiola fits that billing, not Pellegrini. The only thing left for Pellegrini to do is win his second Premier League title in three years and, who knows, maybe exceed expectations with a dash towards the Champions League final. The latter isn't as unlikely as previous years given that they're expected to comfortably see off Dynamo Kyiv over two legs in the upcoming last-16, but it's not going to change the mind of his employers.
It's difficult not to feel sorry for Pellegrini. The Chilean has always conducted himself with the utmost professionalism and courtesy, overseeing some of the most thrilling football the Premier League has ever seen. Yet, he's always been pacing the managerial corridor of uncertainty, his future dictated by the deeds of another coach. He can, at least, focus on the present - but it's despairing for a manager who knows the exit is on the horizon, regardless of events leading up to their departure.
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