Eliaquim Mangala has had a difficult start to life in England, but Manuel Pellegrini has backed the defender to prove his doubters wrong.
Manchester City paid around £32million for the 24-year-old last summer, following some commanding performances which earned him the reputation as one of the most promising centre halves in European football. But the France international has struggled to make a positive impression in the Premier League, raising doubts over his long-term future at the Etihad Stadium.
Mangala’s display as the Blues beat Swansea City 4-2 on Sunday resulted in further criticism, especially as he was at fault for Bafetimbi Gomis’ equaliser. But speaking after the win at the Liberty Stadium which guaranteed City a place in the UEFA Champions League next term, Pellegrini has backed the former Porto star to prove his doubters wrong next season.
“I think Mangala is improving in every game,” said the Chilean coach, who himself faces something of an uncertain future after the Blues failed to add to their honours list this term. “We won the last five games playing with him defending and I think this has been a year he needed to be settled in the Premier League. I am sure we will see the best Mangala next year.”
Due to their neighbours United holding Arsenal to a 1-1 draw at Old Trafford later in the day, Pellegrini knows his side will clinch second place in the Premier League if they beat Southampton on the final day of the season. After that match the former Malaga boss hopes to be given the go-ahead to plan for next term, when he is sure his side will again challenge for the title.
“This season we did not win the title but we have continued to be the highest scoring team,” he told Sky Sports ahead of the Saints clash. “We have done right things and next season we will again be a strong team – exactly the same as Chelsea, Arsenal, Manchester United and Liverpool. I think we will do well in the league and do better in both cups and the Champions League.”
Will Eliaquim Mangala really come good for Manchester City, or is Manuel Pellegrini already flogging a dead horse where the France international is concerned?