Manchester City hires Manuel Pellegrini as new manager
MANCHESTER, England (AP) -- Manchester City revealed one of the worst-kept secrets in football by hiring Manuel Pellegrini as its new manager on Friday, entrusting a man nicknamed "The Engineer'' to revamp the club's playing philosophy and follow the path trodden by Barcelona in search of silverware.
Headhunted by City for some time, Pellegrini finally took over as Roberto Mancini's successor exactly a month after the Italian was fired for failing to deliver a trophy last season to its wealthy, ambitious owners from Abu Dhabi.
Pellegrini, a placid, softly spoken Chilean, has been charged with not just returning the club to the trophy trail, but also implementing a new "holistic'' approach where all the club's teams- from youth to senior level - play with the same style and approach.
It is a model that has been followed so successfully by Barcelona in recent years and it hasn't taken City executives Ferran Soriano and Txiki Begiristain - former Barca officials hired last year to developing City's long-term strategy - long to put their stamp on the club.
"I think we start now a new cycle, a new style of club,'' said Pellegrini, "adding what Roberto has done all these other years but I hope Manchester (City) will start another way of playing.''
Fuelled by cash from City's mega-rich owners, Mancini ended the club's 35-year wait for a major trophy by winning the FA Cup in 2011 and adding - the following season - a first league title since 1968. It wasn't enough to keep the fans' favorite in a job, though, and he was discarded last month after a miserable season of regression and player disharmony.
Pellegrini, who has signed a three-year deal, has been rewarded for his impressive body of work at Villarreal and most recently Malaga in the Spanish league over the past nine years. In that time, he also coached Real Madrid but was fired after one season despite guiding the team to its then-record points total in La Liga.
"Manuel is a hugely experienced and successful manager with a proven track record,'' City chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak said. "We have been greatly impressed throughout the selection process by his philosophy, his attitude and his commitment to the long-term development of Manchester City.''
Instant success will be demanded of Pellegrini at City, which lost the Premier League title to Manchester United last season and has failed to get out of its group in two seasons in the Champions League despite having a squad that is the envy of most of Europe.
A group already containing world-class players such as Yaya Youre, Sergio Aguero and David Silva has been supplemented during the past week by the signings of Brazil midfielder Fernandinho and Spain winger Jesus Navas for about 50 million pounds ($78 million).
Yet City is also thinking long-term.
"Manuel is a very experienced coach with a recognized ability to get the most out of his players and build cohesive teams,'' Soriano said. "He shares the club's approach to football and our ambition to achieve on-field success, coordinating with the wider football support teams to ensure natural progression from the academy to senior level.''
The former Chile defender will appreciate the opportunity he has been given at a time of unprecedented flux at the top end of the Premier League, with last season's top three all changing managers. United replaced the retired Alex Ferguson with David Moyes and Chelsea brought in Jose Mourinho for a second spell in charge.
In such a climate, Pellegrini knows he has a chance to establish City as the leading force in England - just as Mancini had before the Italian messed up.
"Everything is in place for Manchester City to continue to be successful,'' Pellegrini said, "and I am excited to be able to work with such a talented squad, the executive team and the board to deliver for fans who are renowned for their steadfast support.
In a way, though, City is taking a gamble.
Pellegrini failed to win a major title during his time in Spain and will be coaching in England for the first time. Many will look at his short stint at Madrid and say he is yet to prove himself at the highest level, that he flopped despite having at his disposal the most expensively assembled squad in the history of the Spanish league.
Look deeper, though, and it is easy to see why Soriano and Begiristain have turned to a laid-back coach known for his man-management skills and ability to get the best out of players.
Pellegrini, who speaks good English, overachieved at Villarreal and Malaga, leading the former to the Champions League semifinals in 2006 and an unprecedented second-place finish in La Liga and the latter to the quarterfinals of Europe's top competition last season. He was also harshly dealt with by the powerbrokers at Madrid - told which players to keep, whom to sell and with some bought without his consent.
Madrid finished its one and only season under Pellegrini with 96 points, a club record at the time, despite being without the injured Cristiano Ronaldo for six weeks. But the team finished second after coming up against the all-conquering Barcelona side of Pep Guardiola.
In firing Mancini, City said it wanted a coach who could "develop a holistic approach to all aspects of football at the club,'' and Pellegrini proved at Villarreal and Malaga that he could bring through youngsters as well as have an eye for talent in the transfer market.
Under Pellegrini's stewardship, there is unlikely to be any of the dressing-room bust-ups or training-pitch clashes that scarred Mancini's 3 1/2-year reign and led to increasing disharmony in the squad. A civil engineering graduate - hence his moniker - he is a calm character, typically popular among players and fans and respected in the media.
"I'm sure we have the best squad in the Premier League,'' said Pellegrini, who is vowing to play "attractive'' and "entertaining'' football. "We have wonderful players and we can (win) important titles.''
Pellegrini has brought three coaches with him from Malaga - including long-time No. 2 Ruben Cousillas - while retaining one of Mancini's assistants, Brian Kidd.
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