Manuel Pellegrini is a man of quiet authority but immaculate intellectualism. The Chilean is thus one of the few football purist intelligentsia still around. His love for football to be played in a certain way – the attacking way – oozes out from all his teams.
What however contradicts him is that his teams rarely produce such tantalizing displays when required to.
Before his 4-1 demolition of Manchester United in the Manchester derby a few weeks ago, Pellegrini had overseen four goalless draws against the same club. At the same time, there was nothing majestic about how his Malaga disposed of Porto in last season’s round of 16 tie. That they managed to win on the away goals rule did not speak much about his swashbuckling scintillating type of football.
Above all however, the Chilean is a man whose teams play better than they ultimately perform. It is probably why on occasion he has taken the pragmatist approach. Because for all the great feats he achieved with Villareal and Malaga, there was no denying that those teams just did not have the individual quality to compete at the highest level.
As such, it is why those feats are more memorable. Bridging that gap between the actual quality of his side and the quality required at the top level is part of the reason why he is considered a fine manager.
In two Champions League seasons with Villareal, his side got into one semi-final and one quarter final. Eventually, he would lose out on both occasions to Arsene Wenger – a purist with the type of resources that he craved.
In light of all this, it thus becomes perplexing that while at the helm of Real Madrid, he did not get past the round of 16. Indeed, Madrid provided him the sort of resources thought to be capable of magnifying his playing style further. That they did not is bare to certain factors but ultimately leaves the perception that he is the type of manager who performs best with meagre resources.
He must rectify this if he is to produce any sort of success for Manchester City. At the Manchester club, he possesses the finances to do as he pleases. In the summer, he did and a strong Spanish presence exists at the club. Eight of the first team squad are either Spaniard or have played in La Liga before. This typifies the type of football he aims to achieve.
The insistence on technique, possession football and movement exemplified by reverse runs has only materialised in glimpses so far. As such, the transition has not yet been fully completed.
But even when it is, Pellegrini must work out how he will make that glorious playing style produce a glorious record against top clubs. His one weakness lies in that. A thin line divides playing well and achieving success. That is the line Pellegrini must cross if he is to ensure that City do not for once exit the Champions League before the new year.
[image courtesy of zimbio]