City on Pellegrini:
Born in Santiago to Italian parents, Manuel Luis Pellegrini Ripamonti is something of a rarity in the footballing fraternity having achieved a university degree in Civil Engineering at the Pontifical Catholic University in Santiago.
He achieved this qualification while still on the books of Universidad Chile, the only team the cultured centre-back ever played for in his 13-year playing career.
Manuel made 451 appearances between 1973 and 1986 for his hometown club.
He also represented his country as a player on 28 occasions before retiring to concentrate on coaching, soon gaining the nickname “the Engineer” to reflect his academic interests and progressive footballing outlook.
Pellegrini’s early coaching career is characterised by short tenures across South America, taking his first job at Universidad Chile at the age of 33.
Unfortunately, his first season in charge ended in relegation but the young manager continued to learn his craft with a technical role at the Chilean FA where he also oversaw the under-20 team.
Modest success followed in subsequent year-long spells at Palestino and O’Higgins in the early nineties but Manuel would first gain true notoriety across the continent for his two year reign at six-time Chilean champions, Universidad Catolica.
Charged with developing two of his nation’s most promising youngsters in Alberto Acosta and Nestor Gorosito, Pellegrini led the team to consecutive second place finishes in the Primera Division, as well and claimed his first piece of silverware, the Copa Interamericana in 1994.
He followed this success with a Copa Chile title the following year.
This first taste of success was enough to catch the eye of LDU Quito in Ecuador, who appointed Pellegrini as coach in 1998, a move which was instantly rewarded with Serie A triumph in his maiden campaign.
As well as winning this first league title, LDU Quito’s excellent performances in the continent’s premier club competition, the Copa Libertadores convinced Pablo Zabaleta’s San Lorenzo to bring the manager to San Lorenzo in 2001.
Pablo was still in the youth team when Pellegrini led Los Cuervos to the 2001 Clausura title and the Copa Mercosur (South America’s UEFA Cup equivalent) in his only year in charge.
Argentine giants River Plate were next to come calling in 2002 and Pellegrini brought immediate success once more in the shape of a Clausura title with a squad that included Javier Mascherano, Andres D’Alessandro and Fernando Cavenaghi.
Pellegrini joined a small and exclusive list of South American coaches to be given jobs in European football when he took the managerial reigns at Villarreal in 2004.
What Manuel achieved in a five-year spell at the Castellon club has become the stuff of Spanish footballing legend, building this small club up into a Champions League force – a remarkable achievement for a city with a population of just 51,000.
Under the Chilean, ‘the Yellow Submarine’ became the first Champions League debutants to reach the semi-finals of the competition and went on to consistently disrupt the El Clasico duopoly on one of La Liga’s tightest budgets.
Villarreal finished as high as second place in La Liga, enough to cement Manuel’s reputation as one of the most talented coaches in the game.
Real Madrid was the next project for Pellegrini in June 2009 and although he only lasted one season at the Santiago Bernabeu, he still broke the points record for the club in a single season with 96, only missing out on the title to Barcelona by three points.
Pellegrini left the post with the highest win percentage of any coach to ever manage a full season at the nine-time European champions.
Because of this incredible record, there was no shortage of suitors in for Pellegrini’s services and he opted to stay in La Liga with Malaga.
His impact was again immediate as he guide Los Boquerones to a fourth place finish in his first season in charge before masterminding their run to last season’s Champions League quarter-finals.
Malaga were desperately unlucky to be eliminated at that stage courtesy of two stoppage time goals from eventual finalists Borussia Dortmund but they recovered domestically to table a respectable sixth place finish in Pellegrini’s final year in charge.