Certainly not in my living memory has there ever been a summer with so much change at managerial level, amongst the top clubs in Europe. Moyes to United, Benitez to Napoli, Pellegrini to Man City, Guardiola to Bayern, Ancelotti to Real, of course Mourinho to Chelsea; plus all of the situations regarding both Milan clubs, PSG, Benfica, Roma etc. Even Barcelona might be looking for a new coach if they decide they want Vilanova to take a year off. The landscape of top level European football is about to change immensely and that’s even before you even start to think about player transfers.
Naturally, all of these deals are relevant to Chelsea as we look to maintain and improve on our status as one of the world’s leading sides. This article is essentially just a closer look at the two particular deals which will affect us the most. They have been (rather lazily in my opinion) dubbed as equal ‘risks’, in spite of the fact one is clearly a greater risk than the other and consequently should be a far greater concern for Chelsea next season.
Pellegrini to Manchester City: I really don’t understand why City fans were so disappointed to see Mancini get the sack. It obviously makes sense that supporters should like the coach who wins them their first trophy in over 40 years, but I think the fact that so many wanted the Italian to stay on after the awful job he did last season, shows the hierarchy at the club are clearly more ambitious than the fan base. Fortunately for the City fans however, ignorantly and loutishly chanting to the directors they could “stick Pellegrini up their arse” on Cup final day, the men in charge are a lot more intelligent as well. That the Chilean is a huge step up from Mancini isn’t up for debate, as far as I’m concerned.
I confess, since his days at Villarreal, I’ve been a huge fan of Pellegrini; and I think the scale of his achievements at that football club have always been terribly underrated. To take a side from a town with a population of only 50,000 to the semi-finals of the Champions League is simply ridiculous. Admittedly my 12 year old self was only really interested in watching Juan Roman being a genius but looking back, the genius of Pellegrini in his coaching of that team couldn’t be more obvious. He took great players (Sorin, Senna , Forlan) and made them world-class, he took average players and made them great and he nutured young talent (like Bruno and Santi Cazorla) perfectly into complete well-rounded players. Most impressively of all though without doubt, he took the aimless brilliance of Riquelme and made him (albeit briefly) the world’s greatest player, at the same time the world was busy overrating Ronaldinho.
If you look at what Pellegrini has done at Malaga this year, much of the same praise can be made. In a side with virtually no cash to pay player’s wages, he took his tiny squad and made them solid, consistently great to watch and had them punching well above their weight since week one, both domestically and in Europe. He beat AC Milan, humbled high spending Zenit, knocked out Porto and came to within a last minute (off-side) goal of eliminating Borussia Dortmund! I know small teams can and often do go on great and inexplicable runs in Europe, but when two equally tiny clubs both get to the latter stages under the same coach – I think it’s fair to deduce the coach must be something special.
Put simply, I’m very concerned about City next season. Under the Chilean I expect them to be completely solid, professional, motivated and you can bet your life that he’ll get the very best out of David Silva (whom he tried to sign for Real Madrid). In my opinion if City can just match us in the transfer market then they’ll be definite favourites for the league next year – and a respected force in Europe before long also.
Moyes to Manchester Utd: Meanwhile in the other half of Manchester, a big risk is most definitely being taken. In all honesty however, there probably isn’t a coach on the planet who wouldn’t be a risk following Sir Alex Ferguson and in some respects, Moyes makes a hell of a lot of, if not perfect sense.
Perhaps most importantly to the club, they know in Moyes that they have a manager who is loyal, having spent 11 years at Everton. They know that he is committed to the development of youth team players as shown in his cultivation of Wayne Rooney, Jack Rodwell, Seamus Coleman and Ross Barkley. At 50 years old and with 28 years as a qualified coach he will have more than sufficient experience. He also, it seems to me, is a naturally cautious coach – not the sort of person who’s ego will prevent him from taking advice from Ferguson if he needs/is offered some.
I think obviously, Utd’s main reason for hiring Moyes is that he is the most similar coach to Ferguson, probably in the world. And Utd of course, don’t want anything to change. Why would they? For the past 27 years the club has been managed by a Glaswegian, a workaholic, an astute tactical analyser, a perfectionist and ultimately a pragmatist and in hiring Moyes they have ensured that will continue for at least a while longer.
However, there are also a lot of reasons to assume these upcoming few years won’t be at all easy for the Scot. One of the biggest concerns is obviously that he has never won a trophy as a manager, and whilst he has been operating on a small budget, many teams with smaller budgets than Everton have picked up silverware over the last eleven years. The main issue however is a lack of experience in Europe, or rather a lack of experience at the top level altogether. He has never coached in the Champions League apart from a qualification round defeat to Pellegrini’s Villarreal in 2005. And he’s never got past the last 16 of the Europa League. He might only be moving up six or so league positions but the nature of the challenge that awaits him at Old Trafford in terms of expectation levels, will be immeasurably different. The issue of how well he can manage a budget is also in doubt, having only ever worked with modest funds before.
At the start of the 2013/14 Premier League season, we know there will only be three contenders. Two of which will be coached by men without a European trophy between them, whilst the third will be coached by a man with two Champions Leagues, seven league titles and six cups. At the very least I expect Mourinho to break the Manchester duopoly next season with Utd the side most likely to fall behind. Looking at our league finishes over the past two season it’d be a big step forward no doubt, although, given Mourinho hasn’t finished outside the top two for ten years, it’s hardly the bravest prediction ever made. For sure it will be absolutely fascinating to see.