Pellegrini 5 million euros little consolation

Not many people, except maybe the merchant bankers amongst us, expect to be rewarded for making the biggest mistake of our life by having a cheque for 5 million euros stuffed into our back pocket. But that is what has happened this week to Manuel Pellegrini

Regular readers will know the very high regard GGW has for Pellegrini both as a man of dignity, decency and good character and also as a coach of the highest class. His record with small town Villarreal in his 5 years there was nothing short of sensational, with highlights including a 2nd and 3rd place finish in La Liga and semi-final and quarter-final appearances in the Champions League. Over his 5 years there Pellegrini made Villarreal the fourth placed La Liga team, bested only by Real Madrid, Barcelona and very narrowly by Sevilla but some way ahead of traditional giants and much better resourced Valencia and Atletico Madrid. Under Pellegrini Villarreal were renowned for their attractive attacking style of football.

When Real Madrid came calling for Pellegrini early in the summer of 2009 there were two schools of thought in Villarreal as to whether or not he should let himself be seduced by the white siren. The full subtleties of the debate that raged on through the better class bars ands hostelries of Vila-real will have to await the publication of my book on Villarreal “The Yellow Submarine” due to be published in Glasgow in September. Suffice to say here both sides wanted nothing but the best for their most successful manager. Most felt that of course he should jump at the chance of coaching the richest club in the world and getting access to the superstars bought with that wealth. But the smaller and probably more insightful school of thought was that he did not have the right personality for such a job and that it would inevitably end in tears for reasons not connected with the quality of football he could produce with the Madrid resources. Basically there were those who felt Pellegrini lacked the robustness and rudeness of character to cope with the raging bearpit that is the Real Madrid bench. That in Villarreal he had been protected by the best President in the Spanish football Fernando Roig, and the best Chief Executive in world football Jose Manuel Llaneza. With them around him Pellegrini did not always get what he wanted, but he did always get respect and support. In Villarreal both the local papers El Periodico Mediterraneo and Superdeporte, and the local reporters for the national papers Marca and AS were very respectful to the club and its key representatives. This school worried that Pellegrini would struggle to cope with the subtle barbarism of Florentino Perez and his cabal and with the ravenous wolves that needed to fill 12 pages every day of Marca and AS with stories about the club.

My own view at the time was that yes it would probably end in tears but really that as an ambitious manager who wanted to show he could win trophies in Europe as well as South America he had no choice but to grasp the opportunity and see what he could do with it

But from the beginning there were clear and ominous signs that he did not have the respect and the support of President Perez and his cronies, and that the press particularly Marca soon picked up this ambivalence and added their own layers of disrespect.

Sneijder and Robben If Pellegrini had demanded to keep them all might have been very different and they could have been on the same side on Saturday

Just before the season started there were 27 Real Madrid players all expecting or at least strongly hoping to play some part in the 2010 Final in their home Stadium of Bernabeu on 22nd May. What a wonderful experience it would be to be a part of the  long-desired Decima, the 10th European Cup/Champions league victory of Real Madrid, in front of their home crowd in their own stadium.

Only 2 of these 27 dreams have come to fruition and neither player will be playing for Real Madrid. Early in his initial work with his new players the Perez faction made it clear that the club wanted rid of Wesley Sneijder and Arjen Robben and hoped to raise some 50m euros from their sale along with that of Van der Vaart.

Pellegrini wanted to keep both Schneider and Robben. He treated them humanely and decently when the club were trying to isolate and ostracise them shamefully. Pellegrini knew his team would benefit from Sneijder in midfield, and Robben on the wide sides, particularly when it became clear Perez would not be able to deliver the promised transfer of Ribery, which would have cost more than the 50million euros to be saved from the sacrificial three.

That is when Pellegrini made his big mistake, when his Madrid fate was irremediably set in grief and failure He should have gone straight to President Perez, over the head of Valdano and said to Perez, “You’ve appointed me as coach. OK I wasn’t your first choice, or your second choice or your third or even fourth choice but you appointed me and here I am. I inherited Sneijder and Robben, I want them, let me keep them or I go”. And said it in such a way that Perez would have known that he meant it and if Perez did not deliver then he would find himself having to scramble desperately for a 6th, 7th or 8th choice coach only weeks before the season was due to start. Both Sneijder and Robben, when fit, would have brought something very important to the Pellegrini style of play for Real Madrid, something missing in the 25 man squad he ended up with, and something that could have made the difference in helping Pellegrini avoid a trophy-less season. So if he had done this, he would have almost certainly been a winner. And in the unlikely event Perez had refused him then he could have walked away with his integrity intact and spared himself the 10 months of pain and humiliation he has had to endure anyway.

However such an act of challenge and defiance would have been totally against his character and personality.  So he did not make such a stand and the rest is the history we already know. With Pellegrini emerging this week sacked but with that 5 million euro cheque in his back pocket to cover the second year he will now never have in charge of the Madrid team.

Wesley Sneijder was transferred to inter Milan and has been the most single successful player in their march to the 2010 Champions League Final. It will be fascinating to see if Mourinho who appreciates a player who can do exactly what Mourinho asks him to do, with class and style and determination, tries to bring Sneijder back with him to Madrid next season. If Inter win on Saturday then Real Madrid will receive a further 3 million euros, one of the conditions of the original transfer.

Arjen Robben was transferred to Bayern Munich and again has been the player most responsible for the Bayern march to the Final.(See GGW post of 21st May)

The contest between the two of them to fulfil that summer 2009 dream and win the Champions League before 80,000 Madrid fans will be one of the more fascinating aspects of an intriguing match. The Madrid crowd who appreciate good footballers will give both players a very warm and positive reception

Pellegrini will watch the match on television and wonder about what might have been. He should know that GGW is not too critical of him for the mistake described in this article. Pellegrini is who and what he is and that was good enough for Villarreal and will be good enough again in his next post. This time before he commits himself he should seek and accept the advice of his friends the wise men Llaneza and Roig to ensure he has selected a club that will  respect his personality as well as his talent and allow him to achieve the success  he craves.