Is Manuel Pellegrini the Answer?

It’s been plastered over the newspapers and the internet. Roberto Mancini was sacked weeks ago with Malaga’s manager Manuel Pellegrini replacing him. Since the FA Cup loss Saturday to Wigan, Mancini was supposed to have been relieved of his duties on ten different time frames. I’ve seen reports that he wouldn’t make it through the weekend, yet he’s still with the team and preparing to face Reading tomorrow. I’ve also seen reports that he has a few more weeks as gaffer at the Etihad. However, that’s neither here nor there. We’re here to discuss whether or not Manuel Pellegrini is the answer for Manchester City.

I, as I’m sure most City fans do, respect what Roberto Mancini has done for Manchester City. The FA Cup loss hurt, but City has seen much worse. If it weren’t for Mancini, winning or losing the FA Cup would be the least of our worries.

Now, onto the topic of Pellegrini. The Chilean who has managed a host of Chilean football clubs as well as River Plate, Villarreal and Real Madrid, has been in charge in the south of Spain since 2010.

Manuel Pellegrini is the supposed heir apparent to Roberto Mancini at Manchester City.

Manuel Pellegrini is the supposed heir apparent to Roberto Mancini at Manchester City.

Malaga’s league standing is irrelevant in this argument as we all know that this is not the reason he is being linked with Manchester City. If anything, Mancini is the better option when it comes to league play. You’d have to have something against Mancini to think he couldn’t keep City in the top 2 of the Premier League for years to come.

With their financial struggles and no prospect of European football next season, Pellegrini led Malaga to the quarterfinals of the Champions League before they were knocked out in the last few minutes by Borussia Dortmund. And with the end-all, be-all nature of Champions League success, this little run along with his quarterfinal and semifinal appearances at Villarreal puts him leaps and bounds above Mancini and his shed of domestic glory.

However, when Pellegrini had the top job at Real Madrid… he flopped. Pellegrini was in charge when the Merengues bought Cristiano Ronaldo, Xabi Alonso, Kaka and Karim Benzema. The total cost of those four players? Somewhere in the region of £200 million. I’m seeing a similar knock against Mancini here.

It wasn’t long before Pellegrini’s Real Madrid side lost to Segunda División B side AD Alcorcón in the Copa del Rey Round of 16 by an aggregate score of 4-1. Then in March of the following year, he and his team was bounced from the Champions League in the Round of 16 by Lyon. Of course, they also finished second to Barcelona that year albeit while accumulating 97 points.

After being sacked, he criticized the club’s “Galacticos” transfer policy.

“We didn’t win the Champions League because we didn’t have a squad properly structured to be able to win it,” he said.

Sound familiar?

Whether or not Roberto Mancini is sacked, Manuel Pellegrini is not the perfect candidate. When the pressure was on to win, he didn’t. When he had the money to drop £200 million on players, he failed. The sexy pick isn’t always the best pick.

 

 

 

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When is a Club Successful?

It’s a topic that has been run through the ringers too many times over the past few years as more nouveau rich clubs pop up on Europe’s football landscape. Of course some have last longer than others, the funding being pulled away just as quickly as it arrived but for the ones that remain — or even for the clubs that aren’t backed by petrol-dollars but lack the tradition of the more prestigious sides around the world — when is it okay for supporters to dub their team successful?

Swansea City is one of England's upstarts, but how successful can we call them now?

Swansea City is one of England’s upstarts, but how successful can we call them now?

Many point to silverware as the defining factor of success, arguing that a club is only as successful as its trophy case is vast. We’re talking the Barcelonas, Real Madrids, Juventus(es?) and Manchester Uniteds of the footballing world. The clubs that expect to finish every campaign with at least one cup being added to the cabinet. However, I’m willing to argue that this is a far too simple way of looking at this.

In my opinion, as long as a club is making forward progress, they can be deemed successful. It doesn’t matter how it is achieved, if a club goes from wallowing in relegation battles of lower leagues to fighting for European spots in the country’s top flight, they should get the respect they are due.

Let’s take Swansea City for example. They aren’t that far removed from being a mid-to-bottom of the table side in League 2 or the old Third Division. A few well thought out managerial hires here and a couple cheap player buys there and they are going to be playing European football next season after winning the League Cup.

The Swans’ trophy case isn’t filled to the top but are we really not going to call them successful for such a reason? Most teams get relegated in their second season in the Premier League. With continued improvement, Swansea may be pushing Everton for Europa League spots every season.

For a look at a club with much higher ambitions, Manchester City is moving in the right direction. You can argue that finishing 2nd this season is a step backwards, but it isn’t often that teams other than United repeat in the Premier League. Regardless of the point gap or whatever qualifier you want to attach to it, the league was a two-horse battle from the onset and a few sub-par performances saw City fall behind their crosstown rivals.

And for Borussia Dortmund, coming out of a period when they were struggling to stay in the Bundesliga after their Golden Era of the 1990s, one could argue that they are possibly as successful as any club in Europe right now. They may not have the trophies of Bayern Munich, but their battle from the bottom of the table to the final of the Champions League is sign enough.

A Special Failure in Madrid

Again, Real Madrid was ousted in the Champions League semi-finals despite their valiant effort to fight back from their 4-1 deficit against Borussia Dortmund. This makes the third straight year that the Merengues have been knocked out of the race for the cup for the big ears, all under Jose Mourinho. With the money backing them and the amount of talent at the Bernabeu, it could be considered a massive failure that Mourinho has only won three trophies while in Madrid.

Jose Mourinho is known as the Special One, but his special-ness hasn't extended fully to Real Madrid.

Jose Mourinho is known as the Special One, but his special-ness hasn’t extended fully to Real Madrid.

Mind you, they do still have the final of the Copa del Rey to play against Atletico Madrid and if last week’s game against them is any sign then they will probably bring that cup home this season. However, when you look at Mourinho’s track record, you can easily believe that Real Madrid expect more than a couple Copa del Reys, a La Liga title and a Suppacoppa.

His list of accolades demand more. Just take a look.

  • Porto: Primeira Liga (2), Taça de Portugal, UEFA Champions League, UEFA Cup (Europa League)
  • Chelsea: Premier League (2), FA Cup, League Cup (2)
  • Internazionale: Serie A (2), Coppa Italia, UEFA Champions League

With that in mind, you have to believe that the Special One has failed at Real Madrid. He’s been quoted as being a master at managing his players and a student of the game, but when he got his shot to cement himself as one of, if not the, greatest manager of all time he fell well short of the mark.

Even in a season where Barcelona has looked less than impressive at times in continental play, Real Madrid wasn’t able to keep pace with them in the league and have been pegged into second place well before the mid-way point of the season.

It could be the reason that Mourinho is dropping hints that he is ready to leave Spain’s capital to return to Chelsea where he will have both the transfer kitty of Real Madrid with half the expectations. Roman Abramovich is known to be quick in sacking his managers but surely he won’t do that to the only manager who has brought him success for more than a couple months.

Jose Mourinho will go down as one of the greatest managers of all-time when his career is over but everyone will remember the time he went to Real Madrid and couldn’t produce a Champions League with a massive amount of money and a hugely talented squad that featured one of the top two players in the world.

La Aburrida: Is La Liga Getting Boring?

There is always discussion on which league is the most exciting from the beginning of the season until a champion is crowned. Many will point to the Premier League, others will say the Bundesliga and some will say Serie A. However, for a neutral, I believe that it would be hard to say that Spain’s La Liga is the most predictable of Europe’s big four football leagues.

In my time being a serious follower of the sport, I’ve become more and more disenchanted with the Spanish top flight. As a neutral, there are only so many times someone can watch El Clasico before they get Clasico’d out. I reached that point a long time ago and I’m sure that I’m not the only one.

Are you getting tired of seeing scenes like this? I know I am.

Are you getting tired of seeing scenes like this? I know I am.

It doesn’t come as a shock that Real Madrid and FC Barcelona dominate the league. They are two of the richest clubs in the world with some of the world’s best talent. It’s not a matter of who will win La Liga when the season begins, it’s a matter of who will mess up first — Real Madrid or Barcelona. This season, it happened to be the Merengues.

Manchester City’s mercurial rise to the top of the table in the Premier League was a break to the monotony of a Manchester United-dominated league. It’s slowly becoming a Manchester monopoly, but the other big clubs in England are able to keep pace with these clubs if the form is with them.

With Valencia’s fall from grace, there is no longer a team which can compete with the two Spanish giants. Only nine clubs have won La Liga in its history and Valencia is the only team other than Madrid or Barca to win it since the turn of the century. We could all applaud Atletico Madrid’s time in the runner-up position in the table this season, but no one really believe they would be above their city rivals when it was all said and done.

La Liga needs a Manchester City. They need a club with a stable owner to come in and create a third powerhouse in Spain. They need a club with enough money to distribute the wealth of talent a little more evenly. We thought we had that with Malaga, but well… you know how that turned out.

Surely, Financial Fair Play will put a hamper on anything like this happening. The poor clubs will remain poor and while the rich clubs in Madrid in Barcelona remain the rich and powerful. The status quo will be maintained in Spain and La Liga will continue to get boring.

Here’s your chance to become a big four league, Ligue 1.

Who’s to Blame for Soaring Transfer Fees

It’s easy to look at big money clubs and say “You’re the reason that players are getting bought for £50 million and getting paid £200k-a-week when they aren’t worth either.” Football purists will say if it weren’t for oil rich clubs being able to pay clubs those prices for players and giving them ridiculous wages, no one would be asking for it. I’m here to tell you that if you really think this way then you are wrong, my friend.

Sure, we can blame people like Roman Abramovich, Sheikh Mansour and the Qatar Investment Authority until we are blue in the face. They throw their money at any and everything they want. It’s true and I’ll admit that.

Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich has shown he has no problems throwing his money around.

Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich has shown he has no problems throwing his money around.

However, it’s the clubs selling the players and the agents of those players who are creating “arms” races between the big money wielding powers that be in the football world.

Just take a look at some of the bigger transfer targets of this upcoming summer and the valuation put on them by their current clubs. Napoli demanded that bids for striker Edison Cavani must start at £60 million. Stoke City slapped a £15 million price tag on goalkeeper Asmir Begovic. Manchester United made an inquiry for Gareth Bale and Tottenham told them £70 million or keep it moving. Teams are reportedly plotting bids in excess of £80 million for Brazilian star Neymar.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. Anytime a player is linked with Manchester United, Manchester City, PSG, Real Madrid, Barcelona or any of the football finance giants, the club they would be leaving immediately wants excessive amounts of cash for that player.

Don’t get me wrong, I do believe Asmir Begovic is a quality keeper who should be worth a pretty penny but £15 million is a little over the top. Maybe it was a ploy by Stoke to keep buyers at bay, but these days most big clubs will pay that for a player they want.

Manchester City isn’t pricing clubs out of moves for players. The clubs the players are at are pricing clubs out of moves for players. How many Premier League teams can afford Gareth Bale at £70 million? Three. City, United, and Chelsea — and United may be a stretch. And it’s not only limited to big time players, go back and take a look at how much City and Chelsea payed for players who haven’t seen the pitch in months.

As football fans, we need to take a step back and realize it’s not the oil-rich clubs that  created situations like Pompey, Blackburn and Leeds. Selling clubs see these teams getting cash injections and dollar signs flash in their eyes.

So in the summer when Napoli sell Cavani, when Bale leaves White Hart Lane and when Neymar finally makes his move to Europe, don’t blame the clubs that splash the cash for them, blame the club that sold them for that amount.

Possible Summer Targets for Manchester City Pt. 2

Read part one here.

Edison Cavani

Edison Cavani is one of the most sought after players in Europe right now and that’s exactly why I think Manchester City should pass on making a move for the Uruguayan striker who currently plays for Napoli.

Napoli knows clubs what Cavani and they know a lot of those clubs have a lot of money so his price tag is outrageous. Don’t get me wrong, Cavani is a game changer, the type of striker that you put on the pitch and he immediately makes a difference. His ability to put the ball into the back of the net is on par with the best in the world and he is selfish enough to make chances from himself.

All that being said, City can get two or three quality players for the price Napoli is asking for Cavani. There are cheaper strikers out there.

Radamel Falcao

Falcao has been linked with every big money club in the world. It doesn’t help that some call him the best pure number 9 right now. Like Cavani, the problem with City pursuing Falcao is that it’s going to cost a pretty penny to get him to the Etihad. With Financial Fair Play on the horizon, the last thing City needs to do is break the bank to reinforce one of the strongest positions on their team.

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El Tigre will likely be leaving Atletico Madrid in the summer and Manchester City may be one of his landing spots.

The Colombian also known as El Tigre can do it all and do it all well. He’s garnered a reputation for leading his club to Europa League titles but Manchester City is aiming a little higher than winning the Europa League.

Falcao would be an instant improvement to any club, but City’s current striker situation does not demand they go out and spend €80 million on a forward even if the last forward we got from Atletico Madrid led us to a Premier League championships.

Jesus Navas

Jesus Navas, currently playing for Sevilla FC in La Liga, has been getting a lot of spin in the rumor mill recently, connecting him with a move to Manchester City. Again, this is a move that I don’t think City should make.

Don’t get me wrong, Navas is a great player and would do well for most clubs but I don’t know where he fits into City’s future plans with a player like Isco also likely to move from his club this summer. Navas will be 28 soon and the Blues need to look towards the future with their purchases.

Alexis Sanchez

Alexis Sanchez is another player who has recently begun to be linked with a move to the Etihad. The 24-year-old Chilean striker seems to be angling for a way out of the Nou Camp and clubs are lining up to get him.

Known for his speed, dribbling and creativity with the ball, he could wreak havoc on the most disciplined defenses as he has shown many times during his time with Barcelona. Pairing him with Sergio Aguero could be both positive and negative as the two players have very similar play styles.

However, if City were to go out and get a forward, Sanchez should be closer to the top of the list as he won’t cost an arm and a leg to get.

Christian Eriksen

I know Christian Eriksen has been linked with a move to the other side of Manchester more often than he has been with Manchester City, but damn it if there is a player City needs to break the bank on, it is him. The Ajax product recently put clubs on alert when he refused to sign a contract extension with the club, possibly angling for a move to England in the summer.

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Bringing Christian Eriksen to the Etihad could set Manchester City up for a long run at the top of the Premier League.

Roberto Mancini and the City technical staff got an up close look at how talented this guy is during City’s two games against Ajax in the group stage of this year’s Champions League. He’s already a great midfielder and he’s only 21 years old. Just take a look at the hundreds of highlight videos on YouTube.

Eriksen is creative enough to operate in David Silva’s stead or alongside the Spaniard. His ability to put corners into threatening positions would work wonders for players like Vincent Kompany, Micah Richards, Yaya Toure or Javi Garcia. The possibilities are endless.

Mauro Icardi

Sampdoria’s Mauro Icardi has been getting plenty of looks from Manchester City. The Argentine striker is the Serie A club’s leading scorer at the tender age of 20 years old. Roberto Mancini, who played for Sampdoria for 15 years, personally went down to Italy to watch him play. That has to account for something.

However, I think €13 million is a little too steep for a player this young.

Neymar

Come on… you knew he’d be here eventually. If a club has the cash, then they will be linked with potentially the next great player from Brazil. He’s been linked for years with a move to Barcelona but I think the right people could convince him that going to England would be better for his career.

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Neymar to Manchester City may be a pipe dream, but don’t rule it out until his transfer saga is over.

Like some of the other players on this list, there is no need to talk about how good Neymar really is. His skill with the ball at his feet is second to none and his clinical finishing makes you wonder how is it possible for someone so young to be so good.

Obviously, his price tag is high but with his contract running out Santos may be forced to sell him on before he leaves for free. I’m inclined to believe that his original 2014 timeline for a move to Europe will actually be the summer of 2013.

Marquinhos

Marquinhos has been making the headlines a lot for his near-flawless play for Roma this season. It’s not shocking for a new defender to come into a team and play well, but it is shocking for a player who is two months shy of his 19th birthday to be doing what Marquinhos has done.

His ability to read the game is better than some defenders ten years his senior. He’s the type of player that cleans up mistakes before they turn into goals, something that he has done on more than a few occasions this season. With Joleon Lescott possibly on his way out, Marquinhos can come in and give Manchester City two great young centerbacks to build for the future.

Jetro Willems

Jetro Willems has previously been linked with a move to Manchester United as they tabled a €10 million bid for the young Dutch left back, but I think the guys in blue should make a move for him this summer.

Sir Alex Ferguson called him the “next Patrice Evra.” Well, some called Matija Nastasic the “next Nemanja Vidic” so it’s only right that Manchester City gets another young player who has been compared to some old guy currently playing for the enemy.

Gareth Bale and Wayne Rooney

The reason I put these two together is because it is highly unlikely that Manchester City could get either one of them.

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Is Wayne Rooney the next player to leave United for City? It’s not as unlikely as it sounds.

Gareth Bale has been linked with moves away from White Hart Lane for some time now, but I think that Luka Modric’s inability to settle in at Real Madrid has disenchanted him with the prospect of playing for Los Blancos. Recently, it’s been rumored that Bale intends to stay in England for at least another year.

Manchester United’s Wayne Rooney has also hit the rumor mill after being left out of United’s starting lineup against Real Madrid in their Champions League tie this past Tuesday. Rooney has been effectively replaced by Robin van Persie and the last time Fergie said he wouldn’t sell a player, Cristiano Ronaldo left for Madrid.