“Villarreal has the ideal model”

Manchester City coach-elect Manuel Pellegrini looks back on nine years in La Liga

Rafael Pineda
Outgoing Málaga coach Manuel Pellegrini.
Outgoing Málaga coach Manuel Pellegrini.alejandro ruesga (EL PAÍS)

At Camp Nou on Saturday Manuel Pellegrini will oversee his last match in La Liga after nine seasons. Next week the Chilean will be unveiled as coach of Manchester City, where he will aim to stamp his playing style on a wealthy club without a clear model of management but which will nonetheless expect immediate results.

Question. How would you define your achievements at Málaga?

Answer. We arrived at a difficult moment [in November 2010] but the second half of the season we were among the best of the Liga teams. We got out of a hole and after a big investment the following season we were able to compete with Valencia, Atlético, Villarreal, Athletic and Sevilla. We qualified for the Champions League and this year was unforgettable, with Málaga able to compete on an even footing with any team in Europe.

Q. Have you received an explanation for the way things have gone at Málaga?

A. I didn't ask for one and I didn't get one. I am grateful for the trust placed in me by the owner but from a sporting viewpoint the path the board has chosen is not the best one. I couldn't continue to be a part of it. I have to say my authority was never questioned by the owners and after the sale of [Santi] Cazorla and [Salomón] Rondón they made a nice gesture.

Q. What was that?

A. I asked them to stop dismantling the team. After the two players mentioned, they planned to sell people such as [Jérémy] Toulalan, Joaquín, [Martín] Demichelis and [Júlio] Baptista. I told them that without these players we would not be able to compete and they stopped the sales. I recognize that, but the project was definitively undermined with the sale of [Nacho] Monreal in January. It was then I realized we would not be able to compete for a place in the Champions League.

Q. Which of Villarreal, Madrid and Málaga has the best model?

A. Villarreal has the ideal model, an example in every aspect. It was relegated but it has good infrastructure in sporting and administrative terms. I feel for Real Madrid because every year it makes enormous investments but doesn't know how to focus them because it lacks a clear model of management as an institution. It hasn't worked because of excessive authority and mistrust between people at the club. Málaga has no model at all. There was an idea and a big investment but the base was never there to move it into the future.

Real hasn’t worked because of excessive authority and mistrust at the club”

Q. What happened at Madrid?

A. I don't know if my image from the outside is of a submissive or weak coach but I don't need people at board level to be sacked to be able to change things. What I do need is that the club believes in my ideas. At Madrid they didn't. I wanted to keep [Arjen] Robben and [Wesley] Sneijder and I think it was a huge mistake to sell them. Time has proved me right. Robben is a European champion and Sneijder was in 2010, when both were also runners-up at the World Cup. But I left Madrid with a clear conscience. We played well and fought with a great Barcelona team to the end.

Q. Falcao is leaving, maybe Isco too, and Barça has signed Neymar. The two-team league seems eternal...

A. There is no possibility of breaking the status quo. The difference in income is astronomic and it will only get worse. In 2004, when I arrived in Spain, Valencia, Atlético and Sevilla were as competitive as Madrid. Even Betis was buying expensive players. Now the possibility of competition is zero.

Q. Do you have any regrets?

A. That I never won a title in Spain, especially with Real Madrid. I had won titles in every country I had worked before. It's also not easy to be [Liga] runners-up with Villarreal or to take such a team to the Champions League semifinals. What we achieved with Málaga this season is also worthy of merit. But I never won anything, it's true. It's been nine years in a country that has embraced me warmly. Even in Madrid I felt the affection of the people despite what I saw as a systematic campaign to provoke my departure. It will be strange not to be part of La Liga.

Recomendaciones EL PAÍS
Recomendaciones EL PAÍS