Pellegrini edges closer to Manchester City after confirming Malaga exit

Manuel Pellegrini has confirmed he will leave Malaga next month.

The 59-year-old has been in Spain since 2004, when he left River Plate to take charge of Villarreal. He spent five years at El Madrigal, leading the small-town club to such heights as the UEFA Champions League semi-final in 2006, where they crashed out to Arsenal, and also a second-place La Liga finish two years later when they finished 10 points ahead of Barcelona.

Pellegrini left El Submarino Amarillo when Real Madrid came knocking in 2009, and oversaw a flamboyant spending spree which saw Kaka, Karim Benzema and Xabi Alonso arrive for a combined total of £116million. Los Blancos also smashed the world record transfer fee that summer, when they paid £80million for Manchester United’s Cristiano Ronaldo.

Despite these additions, Real finished three points behind Barca in the race for the title, although their haul of 96 points was a club record and would have been a La Liga record had they not been pipped by their rivals from Catalonia.  The Chilean was shown the door at the end of his one season in the capital when Jose Mourinho was appointed his successor.

The next port of call for Pellegrini came in November 2010 when he joined Malaga, after snubbing the advances of the Mexican national side. He guided them to their highest ever league finish and Champions League qualification last season, and they were seconds away from reaching the semi-final this term before Borussia Dortmund scored a controversial stoppage time goal.

It hasn’t always been rosy at his current club, though, as financial problems led to a number of key players leaving last summer. They were also given a two-year European ban by Uefa in December, although this has since been lifted after they showed they had no outstanding debt. Despite this boost, Pellegrini has confirmed he will leave the club in the summer.

“Professionally, I am living my last hours in Malaga,” he said on Wednesday. “On Sunday I will manage my last game as Malaga coach at La Rosaleda. It will be a very emotional occasion and we hope to leave with the club qualified for Europe, with the mission completed and with the misfortune that the project changed. The agreement with the club has been gratifying and satisfactory. Everyone has the right to continue on their own path. I am not leaving because of financial ambition but because of a sporting project that will allow me to feel fulfilled.”

It has been widely reported that Pellegrini will now head to England and Manchester City, who sacked Roberto Mancini last week. The Blues won the league title for the first time since 1968 last season, but this time have finished a distant second to neighbours United. Failure to get past the group stage of the Champions League in each of the past two seasons has also cost the Italian, who ended his reign with a defeat in the FA Cup final earlier this month.

Six members of Mancini’s backroom staff have followed him out of the Etihad Stadium, although Brian Kidd is currently leading the team on their post-season tour of the United States. Chief executive Ferran Soriano and sporting director Txiki Begiristain are huge admirers of Pellegrini, and will hope to confirm his appointment as early as 1 June.


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