Manuel Pellegrini: the champion of the Copa del Rey, winner in all destinations and who took Argentine football as a platform

Tuesday February 13, 2001. Fernando Honeythe president of San Lorenzo, presents in society to Manuel Pellegrini as the new coach, replacing Oscar Ruggeri. Chilean, low-flying as a player, unknown in the environment, champion of the Chile Cup and the Inter-American Cup with Universidad Católica and of the local league with Liga Deportiva Universitaria, in Ecuador, he is known as the engineer. Cultured, studious, upper middle class, with a language that is out of tune with the suburb.

“He came to finish the elbows of the New Gasometer”. Just one of so many challenging phrases in times without social networks. The 3-1 defeat against River del Tolo Gallego (“San Lorenzo always falls”, he said) at his home, changes everything. From being the beginning of the end to achieving a masterpiece in the history of our football: 11 wins in a row (two more, if the following tournament is taken into account) and 47 points: he is the best champion of the short tournaments of Argentine soccer. A collection team: the best version of Saja, Erviti, Romagnoli, Romeo.

In San Lorenzo, Manuel Pellegrini is one of the greatest Archive

Some economic conflicts run him from the Barça scene. But first, he achieves the impossible: the first international title in the history of San Lorenzo, the Mercosur Cup. A drama that is very much ours: due to the economic and social crisis, the second final is played on January 24, 2002, a month later. The second leg, against Flamengo, on penalties.

Months later, he lands in River. Bold and tactical, offensive with precautions, gets general respect, although affection is reserved. A local title and a lost South American final against Cienciano. Another great team: Coudet, Mascherano, Lucho González, Matador Salas. Marcelo Gallardo was 10. “Soon he will direct in Europe,” he insists.

In River, he left his mark, although the affection is not total
In River, he left his mark, although the affection is not totalArchive

Manuel Pellegrini will have his birthday on September 16 69 years. He has just achieved one more milestone in his legendary career: the Copa del Rey with Betisan entity that had not been consecrated for a long time 17 years. The penalties bowed before his work, against Valencia, with German Pezzella and Guido Rodrigueztwo selection interpreters.

A world traveler, in love with Argentine soccer, which launched him to world fame, he wraps himself in a Chilean flag, with Claudio Bravo, stainless steel, at 39. He has a contract until 2025, when others, at his age, prefer the job , grandchildren and chess. “I will never retire. I don’t think about retirement, clarifies. The document is a detail without emotional validity.

“If I had another life, I wouldn’t dedicate it to footballnor to engineering. His other life is music, playing the piano. However, he accepts the challenge of his own life: he knows that engineering was essential in his career. “It is a very precise, demanding discipline that teaches you to think with a certain logic, sequence, an order of priorities”. Read every night, learn languages. He is distracted from the double five: he is the coach who gave identity to that tactical resource, which combines play and discipline, in our football.

Life sometimes happens too soon. Olympic laps in five of six destinations. He directed real Madrid (96 points, runner-up for a heavenly Barcelona), left a mark on Villarreal (Champions semifinals, with a great and challenging Juan Román Riquelme), left a mark on Malaga (quarter finals). He is the man who returned Manchester City the sense of belonging in the Premier League. It just didn’t shine in China, in Hebei Fortune.

a luck of 4-2-2-2 flexible, deceptive. Your notebook for life. He always made the old number 10s better: Leandro Romagnoli, Andres D’Alessandro, Juan Roman RiquelmeRobert Pires, Santi Cazorla, Isco, David Silva… To put it better: Román, with the Engineer, in Villarreal, was even better than in his 2007 Copa Libertadores version.

With Juan Román Riquelme, a relationship marked by fire
With Juan Román Riquelme, a relationship marked by fireArchive

In the book The Pellegrini Method, by Francisco Sagredo, the Chilean coach opened his intimacy – a fortress rarely collapsed – with a couple of direct concepts about the life and work of the current xeneize vice president. “He was a phenomenon as a player”, he subscribed, including him among the best exponents he directed, along the same lines as Cristiano, Raúl, Kun Agüero and some more. They marched together in two seasons, the best of the small Spanish yellow team. In 2004/2005, Villarreal was third in the Spanish league and qualified for the Champions League for the first time, a competition that discovered him in the semifinals.

Riquelme missed a penalty in the remembered series with Arsenal. At the end of 2007 he was removed from the squad due to a tough fight with Fernando Roig, the president. Tired of certain rudeness, he leaned towards the leader. He was always critical of No. 10 in privacy – the engineer is a rigid man in the rules of coexistence – until when he said in a 2019 interview: “Riquelme, with his quality, could play 30 years ago, 20 years ago, 10 years ago and he can now, wherever he wants. Riquelme was not one of the best players, he was not a top player because he had other problems. At that time I had a lack of maturity. He wanted to be number one and he was doing stupid things.”

With Claudio Bravo and the flag of Chile: the selected one is a pending account
With Claudio Bravo and the flag of Chile: the selected one is a pending accountCRISTINA QUICLER – AFP

Time goes by. So much so that today he remembers it wonderfully. Not only Roman: he learned to live life without past questions. “The objectives are to enjoy the day to day and get into work this Tuesday because there are five league games left and we want to keep fighting for the Champions League until the math gives us”. Always math. The game and science. He appeared two seasons ago in a club that looked at the table below: relegation was a certainty.

In his first campaign, Betis finished sixth; in the second, for much of the journey he was among the top four. Now figure fifth. Only on two occasions did the white and green cast achieve this type of glory: from 1977 to 2005… to today. magic is from Nabil Fekir, French of Algerian origin, beard of 1000 days and gambeta at the service of the cause. Always, the Chilean reserves one.

“It is a great moment in my life, but comparing it would not be fair with the other institutions”. Enemy of controversies, creator of great teams, buddy of Olympic laps. Pellegrini is a reference in Europe. And the prologue of this story was born on a Tuesday the 13th.