It’s so easy in England to downplay the foreigners, largely because there isn’t a big enough campaign in this country for journalists to properly report what goes on in Europe.
I most certainly wasn’t the only person to feel nothing but disdain for Martin Samuel’s piece on Manuel Pellegrini last week. But like so many other instances over this past season, it just highlighted how willing England-based football journalists are to ‘mailing in’ anything remotely related to the European product.
The basis of the article was that Manchester City were making the wrong approach in looking to Pellegrini as their next manager and that Manchester United had got it right with David Moyes. Take whatever you want from that. But isn’t this something that people like Arsene Wenger have long fought against, the idea of looking past someone’s passport and rightly acknowledging and rewarding them for their talent and ability? That’s one thing, but the fact that Martin Samuel’s argument was built on stories which were completely false is hugely infuriating.
The problem here is that no one outside of regular viewers of La Liga really said anything about this. In fact, Gary Neville endorsed the article as “a good piece.” The Sky Sports pundit has got a lot right since he took over his current position in 2011, but surely he has enough sense to see that the whole argument in that piece is asinine at best.
And it’s not a matter of hacking away at those who have a different opinion to the one you hold, it’s purely about offering respect and courtesy where it’s due, and, of course, reporting the truth. Apparently Pellegrini is a failure because he couldn’t guide Real Madrid to the Spanish title after spending over £200 million.
Here’s the thing: anyone with half a mind would know that football works slightly differently in Spain than it does in England. Adding to that, most should be aware, especially journalists, that Real Madrid and Barcelona make their transfer decisions largely without the consent of the manager.
At the time, Pellegrini was brought in to oversee Florentino Perez’s latest Galactico movement. It most definitely did not mean that he had a say in the purchase of Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema, Kaka and Xabi Alonso. By that account, something which is the truth, Pellegrini did not fail after “spending £200 million.” Why is it I know that and one of England’s most respected football writers doesn’t?
Pellegrini, for those who fancied watching the Champions League after all the English teams had been knocked out, had only gone on to enhance his reputation in the game following Malaga’s exploits in the competition. In their maiden season, the comparably small club waltzed past AC Milan, Porto, Zenit and came within minutes of beating Borussia Dortmund. Domestically, Malaga were outstanding for much of the campaign. They beat Real Madrid 3-2 at La Rosaleda. They held a spot in the top four all season until the bubble sadly burst following their Champions League exit. The Chilean manager was forced to relinquish his hold on some of his star players last summer and during the winter window. In response, he made Isco the star of the show, brought forward a number of the fringe or youth players and was hugely rewarded by their desire to not let him down.
Why wasn’t all that in the Daily Mail piece? Why wasn’t there a deserving nod and applause for Pellegrini’s achievements with Villarreal, not only in taking them to second place in La Liga and to the quarterfinals and semifinals of the Champions League, but also the level and quality of football he brought to El Madrigal? Oh wait, Samuel did mention something about Villarreal, but it was more condemnation than applause.
Is it worth laughing at the questioning from the article as to whether Pellegrini could get Wigan playing as well as Roberto Martinez did? Samuel attempted to add weight to all of this by implying that Martinez was deserving of the Manchester City job over Pellegrini. Well there are facts that challenge Martin Samuel’s opinions and distorted view of even the recent history. For starters, Pellegrini never allowed any of his Spanish teams to face relegation from the top flight. Pellegrini didn’t allow any of his sides to perform to their maximum for only two months of a league campaign, and then wrongly receive praise for making some kind of great escape. Could he do better than Martinez at Wigan? Pellegrini took over at Malaga midway through the 2010-11 season, where only the season prior they had avoided relegation, and guided them to an 11th place finish. In his first full season, Malaga finished fourth.
Samuel goes on, “Pellegrini served his apprenticeship beyond our gaze, so all we have is received information.” Good lord, shouldn’t journalists of national newspapers take it upon themselves to investigate these things? After all, it does fall into the job description. This old boy’s network of journalism is absolutely disgraceful. Not only do they attempt to belittle anyone who tries to make it in the industry via modern methods, they persist with the medieval notion that the world is far too big to be explored.
Our best teams compete in the Champions League every season, playing as far as away Russia. The Premier League draws players from all over the world, from Africa, the Far East and South America. These are the journalists who talk up the Premier League as the greatest spectacle in all of sports, despite the fact that it isn’t, and likely enjoy the fact that the English product has a global reach. Why is all of that accepted and used in the sales pitch but something as simple as checking a few facts from abroad to support an argument is seen as beneath them?
It’s absolutely pathetic that journalists who only seem to follow the Premier League have already made their mind up about Pellegrini. Again, it’s distorted views of history. Isn’t it players and managers from abroad who have helped to shape the Premier League to what it is today? Arsene Wenger, Eric Cantona, Cristiano Ronaldo, Jose Mourinho. English journalists wouldn’t say no to Pep Guardiola, would they? He’s a man who only put together his reputation at Barcelona, a team consisting of Lionel Messi, Xavi and Andres Iniesta. Well surely that doesn’t count because a baby could have managed that Barcelona team. Apparently.
The reason Pellegrini might come in and take one of the big jobs in the Premier League over his English counterparts is because he’s better. No conspiracies, nothing funny or underhanded about any of it. He’s simply better. The article which tried to argue that is nothing but disgraceful.