The departure of Roberto Mancini as Manchester City coach may not be welcomed by the fans, who at times during the team's FA Cup final defeat to Wigan Athletic on Saturday sang, "You can stick Pellegrini up you're a**e!" But for City's chief executive, Ferran Soriano, and sporting director Txiki Begiristain, the likely appointment of Malaga coach Manuel Pellegrini in his place makes perfect sense, and is far from the risk it has been portrayed in some quarters.
As a Manchester club prepares for a second managerial change within a week, here are some thoughts on Mancini, Pellegrini and City's future.
Mancini continued his unappealing habit of coming up with excuses for his team's struggles. Failing to retain the Premier League title this season was down to the poor summer recruitment of former sports administrator Brian Marwood; the Champions League struggles were because of a lack of experience in the competition (despite having two previous winners in the squad, more than Chelsea had when it won last year); and after this FA Cup loss, he moaned about the leak from Spain that Pellegrini was set to replace him in the summer.
"If it's true then I'm stupid," he said, singling out City's head of communications, Vicky Kloss, also a club director, for not getting the story -- and others in the past -- spiked. It was the act of a man who has realized his time has run out. No more excuses, and certainly no admission of weakness; nor any sense that he has been in any way responsible.
Goalkeeper Joe Hart has also not escaped Mancini's wrath, as the player who looked on course to join the elite keepers in world football also dropped his level. Mario Balotelli, now at AC Milan, was a constant source of frustration, which was all too apparent when pictures leaked earlier in the season of Mancini and his striker coming to blows.
But there are other players who have somehow become impervious to fewer top performances; perhaps because of their names, their below-par displays did not register. Yaya Toure has not had the big, game-changing influence of last season (yet still managed to score a pay rise and a new four-year contract); David Silva and Sergio Aguero have been disrupted by injury; and I would suggest that captain Vincent Kompany, while his presence is crucial in City's defense, has not had a great season; his mistakes in the Champions League group games led to goals (particularly against Ajax) and in the FA Cup semifinal against Chelsea, he gave Demba Ba room to equalize and was lucky not to concede a late penalty for tugging Fernando Torres' shirt. This one is not a Mancini knock (why would he draw attention if his captain is out of form?) but worth a mention.
The idea put forward by one British columnist, writing in the
Not true: at Villarreal he was a penalty kick away from reaching a Champions League final. and, two years later, was the last coach whose side came between Real Madrid and Barcelona in the league. His year at Real Madrid brought the club a record points total, 96, and it was then he had his first approach from a Premier League club. In summer 2010, he was on a short-list of two names for the job of Liverpool coach. The other name: Roy Hodgson. If it was a sliding-doors moment in the history of the club, it was also one for Pellegrini.
"I would have loved to work for Liverpool," he told Chilean paper
He also claimed to have been contacted by clubs in Mexico, Argentina the Japan national team and ... Chelsea. If Jose Mourinho ends up at Chelsea, it will be an intriguing matchup between the two; in Spain, Mourinho has tried to bait his predecessor about his spell in Madrid but has never ruffled the Chilean. Not much does.
On the day that Wigan made history, Monaco, the team Mancini might have joined last summer were it not for Sergio Aguero's title-winning goal, ensured its promotion to Ligue 1; it was also reported the club had agreed to pay Atletico Madrid ?60 million for striker Radamel Falcao, a player that is also on City's list of targets.
Then there is Alcorcon. The name might ring a bell. It's the second-division club that beat Pellegrini's Real Madrid 4-0 in the Spanish Cup in October 2009. That was the moment, just two months into his reign, that the campaign to get rid of him began.
Anyone heard of Alcorcon lately? Yes, actually. It popped up in this video from Spanish TV show "Punto Pelota," reporting that Mourinho, who replaced Pellegrini in Madrid, had gone to that city's branch of Ikea to buy some packing boxes. And last weekend, Alcorcon lost its second-division league game 3-1 at home to Villarreal, which of course was Pellegrini's first club as coach in Spain.