Pellegrini ready to implant intellectual philosophy in Manchester City

Wednesday June 19th, 2013

Manchester City hopes Manuel Pellegrini can boost its performance in the Champions League.
Paulo Duarte/AP

Twelve years ago, Argentine side San Lorenzo needed to win the last game of the season to win the Clausura league title. Manuel Pellegrini, the team's coach, spent the night before the match reading a book in the lobby of the team hotel. His concentration was disrupted, though, as Fabricio Coloccini, then a 19-year-old defender playing for the team on loan, was pacing the hotel lobby, too stressed to sleep, too nervous to sit still.

Pellegrini did not look up to address the young Argentine when he next paced behind his armchair. "Fabricio, stop worrying about things," he said. "We have already done our best this season, so it doesn't matter if we win or not."

"What do you mean?" Coloccini said. "I mean, I know that we are the best team, and that's enough for me, so it doesn't matter if we don't win tomorrow."

Coloccini could not quite believe what he was hearing. Too surprised to reply, he went back to his room and he slept. It was only the next day, after San Lorenzo had won the game and the title, that Coloccini realized how much Pellegrini's words had helped him. There are not too many callow teenagers in the Manchester City squad that Pellegrini has just taken charge of, but the Chilean has always had that ability to find "le mot juste."

Earlier this month, wearing a crisp white linen jacket, Pellegrini addressed 900 coaches at the International Football Congress in Malaga. He spoke about the tactics he used in helping Malaga reach the Champions League last eight in its debut season -- it was two minutes from beating finalist Borussia Dortmund in the quarterfinals -- and about his philosophy.

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"There are three things I demand from a footballer: respect, commitment and performance," he later told Diario Sur. "I'm convinced that I will be able to implant my style of football in the fifth country I will be coaching in."

Pellegrini started his playing career at Universidad de Chile, where it became clear that his people skills would take him far. He was the only player studying at university -- engineering at Universidad Catolica -- and was one of the most popular members of the team.

"He was from a higher social class, that's true," remembered teammate Jorge Luis Ghiso, "but everyone respected and loved him." He was also able to persuade his university lecturer to let him leave class 15 minutes early so he wouldn't be late for training sessions.

Pellegrini is a stickler for punctuality. When he was first named coach of Ecuador side Liga Deportiva Universitaria de Quito, several senior players turned up late for the first game, a friendly against local opposition. Pellegrini locked the dressing-room door and refused to let them play. They were never late again. If previous City coach Roberto Mancini managed by confrontation, Pellegrini prefers to do so by respect.

"You have to show authority to be a coach, but I can be a dictator and a democrat," he said. "A dictator because footballers have to obey you, but a democrat because I have to convince them if I want them to do it."

City said the reasons behind sacking Mancini were its failure to achieve their stated targets (apart from Champions League qualification) and, in the same statement, identified a "need to develop a holistic approach to all aspects of football at the club."

Former CEO Garry Cook told the BBC that the "holistic approach" involves managers understanding "the need to be a commercial property ... the need to explain themselves in the media ... the need to run the business with financial management at the heart of everything they do. The holistic element is understanding the way a football club runs, not just how a football team wins games."

Pellegrini's appointment is another important decision made by City's new Spanish executives and, just like the new franchise New York City FC, the new MLS club formed as a partnership between City and the New York Yankees, has the potential to take City to the next level in its quest for European honors, and global recognition.

Pellegrini, who sometimes juggles four books at the same time, so convinced is he that expanding his knowledge in all fields helps his management skills, would know all about that. The book he was reading back in 2001, when he spoke to Coloccini, was about how to get ahead in marketing.

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