The way he slumped in his chair after his side were dismantled by the genius of Xavi and Messi in tandem told a story of its own, Real Madrid manager Manuel Pellegrini looked like a beaten man, a dead man walking, but I really think Madrid need to stick with him, for one more year at least.
Real Madrid are a bit of a joke of a club in terms of the way they are run, it is so short-term that they make Spurs’ recent transfer policy under Redknapp of buying back all of their old players seem sane, well almost, and they are quite simply crying out for some stability.
The last man to offer the club a degree of that is Spain manager Vicente Del Bosque, a man who like many before him, was ushered out of the back door at the Bernabeu for not fitting in with the club’s glitzy image despite a trophy laden four years at the helm.
Del Bosque was allowed to leave, with the club taking up the option not to renew his expiring contract, even though in his time there he had won 2 La Liga titles, one in the year he was let go no less, and two Champions league titles amongst numerous other smaller trophies. He ushered in Real’s most successful period in terms of consistency in the modern era. Since his departure, despite the relative success of Capello, another man unfairly sacked after just one season, and the last day heroics of Schuster, they’ve failed to live up to those standards set by the resident Spain coach.
The parallels with Pellegrino are hard to ignore. Both are as cool as a cucumber and both saw the President’s Galactico policy run behind their backs. In Del Bosque’s time, Ronaldo (proper one), Zidane and Figo were signed by the President to much fanfare; this time around it’s Ronaldo, Kaka, Benzema and Alonso.
It’s fair to say that the mistakes of the past are being repeated again, star signings are made for the sake of shirt sales rather than team cohesion and unity and this in itself must be a nightmare for any coach to work under. It has been noted that the definition of idiocy is repeating the same thing over and over again expecting a different outcome – perhaps someone should tell Florentine Perez.
Of course every manager likes to work with the best players around, that is a given, and in that respect the Real job is a dream for most coaches and the pinnacle of their careers, but the boardroom wrangling and pressure for immediate success can be too much for even the most hardened of pro’s.
I do share a degree of sympathy with Pellegrini, in his time at Villarreal, a side that come from a town so small that their rise to being consistent fixtures on the European football calendar is nothing short of miraculous, he displayed tactical prowess by consistently competing with team’s with far greater resources than him, he showed a penchant for playing passing football and was also astute in the transfer market, in short, he’s La Liga’s equivalent of David Moyes.
To put things in perspective, Pellegrini has the largest win percentage at Real Madrid out of all the managers in the entire illustrious history. To contrast how well they’ve done let’s take a look at the numbers. Pellegrini has a win percentage of 71% from 42 games so far, their last two title winning coaches were Capello and Schuster. Capello’s second spell in 2005/6 wielded a win percentage of 56% from 50 games and Bern Schuster’s was 66% from 53 games, heck even Miguel Munoz, the club’s most successful ever manager had only a win percentage of 59% albeit from a much larger amount of games, 595 to be precise in total.
So it just shows how consistent, dogged and determined Madrid have been under Pellegrini, even if the football on show hasn’t always been up to scratch considering the quality of players on show, but anyone will tell you, perhaps barring the Madrid board, that substance over style and points over play are the name of the game.
So how come the numbers don’t add up to success at Real?
Well no amount of numbers can make up for the fact that the club’s exit at the hands of Lyon in the Champions League this season was nothing short of lacklustre to say the least, but in La Liga they have been extraordinarily resilient. They have lost just four times this term in the league and they find themselves only three points behind Barcelona. Importantly two of those losses came against title rivals Barcelona though.
Therein lays the problem, Barcelona. They happen to be playing in the same league as the best team in the world, with the best player in the world, and who are arguably the best side of the decade. Sometimes in sport you just have to say ‘fair enough, they’re too good’ and that’s undoubtedly what the case is here. No amount of money Real throw at the problem will usurp Barcelona in the short-term, the Catalan club have too much of a settled side, ethos and style of play to be disrupted by that, it will take time and stability to overturn what seem like insurmountable odds at present, and you only get that by sticking with the same manager for a considered period of time.
The hire and fire culture is rampant in Spain, managers’ are given little time to settle and as such most team’s are very short term, as are the squads. Real Madrid are undoubtedly at the forefront of this and have been for some time.
Pellegrini’s lack of success in Europe coupled with a failure to snatch the league from Pep Guardiola’s hands will ultimately be his downfall and he will most definitely be sacked at the end of the season. Perhaps in order to beat Barcelona they should take a leaf out of their rivals’ book though, patience.
With Mourinho looking ever more likely be the day and each outrageous outburst that he’s looking like leaving Inter in the summer, it would seem like a perfect fit no? The man larger than life taking charge of the largest club in the world is surely a recipe for success? But I very much doubt any manager in the world, over a long and arduous campaign such as a league one is, no matter how talented would be able to deliver instant success whilst this Barcelona side is still around.
Football is all about peaks and troughs, nothing is absolute and Barcelona’s dominance will fade in time, even if that does seem unlikely right now, but for a manager to be given almost an entirely new starting eleven signed without his say so, told to organise them and then win the league with them in his and their first season at the club, whilst they’re still finding their feet and are very much a work in progress would be a bridge too far for any manager. Put on top of this the fact that they are then faced with a ridiculous obstacle such as the current Barcelona side, and it all just smacks of arrogance and a level of self-entitlement not seen anywhere else put Madrid, their over-confidence is their downfall.
Pellegrini has done a decent job considering the circumstances and deserves another year to have a crack, if he fails then, his departure would be understandable and the board would be well within their rights to sack him, but right now, it does seem a tad unfair on the talented Chilean. Take the two El Classico games out the league table equation and it would look like this – Barcelona played 30, 77 points. Real Madrid played 30, 80 points. That in itself shows the fine margins over the course of a season that we are dealing with here, and what the difference between success and failure is, these two defeats to their rivals will be what ultimately decides the beleaguered Real Madrid boss’ fate, and what will see the much sought after La Liga the title head to the Camp Nou.
Written By James McManus