x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Pellegrini has a ship to steady

Real Madrid's new coach built his previous success on stability, but he will need instant results at the Bernabau.

Manuel Pellegrini, Real Madrid's new coach, will need to bring instant success to the club if he is to last longer than his predecessors.
Manuel Pellegrini, Real Madrid's new coach, will need to bring instant success to the club if he is to last longer than his predecessors.

Real Madrid's new coach Manuel Pellegrini may want to hold on to his Mediterranean beach-side home near his former club Villarreal for a little longer. Instead of controlling his own destiny at Villarreal, the Chilean has agreed to become Real's ninth coach in five years. Since Vicente del Bosque was sacked six years ago after winning two Champions Leagues and two league titles, Real have dismissed Carlos Queiroz, Jose Antonio Camacho, Mariana Garcia Ramon, Wanderley Luxemburgo, Juan Ramon Lopez Caro, Fabio Capello, Bernd Schuster and Juande Ramos from the hottest of hot seats. If Real do not win the Primera Liga, Champions League and the Copa del Rey next season playing the finest football in the world, Pellegrini, who has signed a two-year contract, may find himself ousted like so many before him. Expectations are impossibly high at the Bernabeu, where the weight of past glories rests heavily on whoever is in charge. The man with ultimate responsibility is club president Florentino Perez, returning for a second spell at the helm following his failed "galactico" era of 2000-2006. Perez, a wealthy industrialist, has brought back former sporting director Jorge Valdano. Zinedine Zidane will act as an adviser. Real's fans are hoping that a new powerful team will be enough to topple brilliant Barcelona. Perez claims that he has learned from past mistakes and in Pellegrini, who he labelled "an intelligent coach" he has appointed a smart operator. In his five seasons at Villarreal, he twice guided the tiny club from a town of 42,000 into the final stages of the Champions League, often playing enthralling football. I interviewed him several times at Villarreal and found that his personality, character and spirit were reflected in his team. Born in Santiago, he combined a moderate playing career with seven years studying to be a civil engineer. "It's a very orderly discipline where you have to work in a logical manner," he recalled. Football was always his true vocation, though he had to change his approach. "My mentality is rational rather than emotional but in the last few years I tried to be become more passionate, tried to care more about human relationships. When I started to be a coach I expected a lot, maybe too much in terms of physical approach, tactics and technique. There was too little emphasis on human relationships." The 55-year-old, who once went on a two-week coaching school led by Sir Alex Ferguson [the Manchester United manager], is the longest-serving coach in the Primera Liga, where he moved from Argentina after spells in charge of San Lorenzo and River Plate. Unveiled by Real yesterday, Pellegrini called the job "a dream come true", saying: "It's hard to explain the emotion and pride that I feel for having been chosen to coach the most important club in the world. When I started my coaching career 23 years ago I knew that I would end up at Real Madrid. It's a dream come true. I feel fortunate to have been chosen for this post." While he had complete control at El Madrigal, he will find the Bernabeu very different. There giant egos and agendas clash creating confusion, even in the dressing room. Big-name signings such as Kaka are expected, whether Pellegrini wants him or not. Cristiano Ronaldo, Xabi Alonso and Franck Ribery have also been strongly linked with moves, but Real should be wary of only signing big foreign stars. It didn't work last time, when David Beckham, Zidane, Brazilians Ronaldo and Roberto Carlos played for the club. Real want the stability a great coach like Pellegrini can bring, but they have to give him power to achieve it rather than offer nebulous statements about making the club great again. They already have some exceptional talents like Iker Casillas, Raul, Sergio Ramos, Gonzalo Higuain and Arjen Robben, but they have dispensed with talented home-grown youngsters far too readily in the past. Perhaps the greatest lesson can be learned from their biggest rivals Barcelona, who regularly promote players from their youth system, coupling them with big-name signings. Not that Real will thank anyone for reminding them how well Barca did this season and offering them as a blueprint for reconstruction. amitten@thenational.ae