Two weeks on from Rafael Benitez’s departure and the Liverpool managerial hot-seat is still vacant. Although Fulham manager Roy Hodgson and Anfield legend Kenny Dalglish are the two clear front-runners for the post, I can’t help but feel that Liverpool may have overlooked one well qualified and currently-unemployed Chilean.
Despite leading his former side to a club-record tally of 96 league points and achieving a 75% win ratio during his time at said club, many bookmakers have placed former Real Madrid manager Manuel Pellegrini as low as twelfth favourite in the running to succeed Rafael Benitez. The 56-year-old, who gained widespread acclaim during his time at Villarreal, has worked admirably in La Liga over the past six seasons and may have been an excellent candidate for Liverpool manager.
A one-club-man with Universidad de Chile during his playing career, Pellegrini managed to forge himself a reputation as an excellent manager in South America during the late ‘90s and early ‘00s, leading LDU Quito to the Ecuadorian title and both San Lorenzo and River Plate to the Argentine Clausura title. A move to Europe with Spanish side Villarreal followed, and it was during his time at ‘The Yellow Submarine’ that Pellegrini began to make his name on a global scale.
During five seasons at El Madrigal, Pellegrini established Villarreal as one of the best sides in La Liga, guiding them to unprecedented 2nd, 3rd and 5th place finishes. In addition to this, the Chilean took the Castellón-based club into the Champions League for the first time in the club’s history, leading them to the competition’s semi-finals during the 2005/05 campaign.
These achievements did not go unnoticed, and Pellegrini was installed as Real Madrid last summer. As mentioned above, Pellegrini commandeered the capital club’s record-breaking campaign, and was dismissed after finishing just three points behind eventual winners Barcelona. With Pellegrini’s dismissal illustrative of the circus-like merry-go-round attitude prevalent at the Bernabeu, his sacking can be considered to be excessively harsh and not indicative of his managerial abilities. In addition to this, Pellegrini’s side were in direct competition with what Real Madrid player Guti described as “the best Barca in history.”
Having managed to get the best out of a relatively unfancied side at Villarreal, many feel that he would have been suited to the task of rebuilding Liverpool. Not including his time at Real Madrid, Pellegrini has shown that he is capable of working on a limited budget. The Chilean has also proven himself to be adept at getting the best out of players, with this assertion illustrated by the El Madrigal form of the likes of Diego Forlan, Giuseppe Rossi and Santi Cazorla (to name but three). In addition to this, Pellegrini has demonstrated a proclivity for attractive, attacking football (a virtue longed for by so many Liverpool fans), and his nationality and background may have helped Liverpool to maintain the Iberian influence within their squad.
Whilst I appreciate the merits of both Roy Hodgson and Kenny Dalglish, I can’t help but feel that Liverpool may have missed a trick by failing to lure Manuel Pellegrini to Anfield.
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