Pellegrini has left Pep with lots to do


In many ways this night, this tie, serves as a perfect summary of his three years at the club. Earnest, honest and creditable. Not exciting, though. Rarely has it been terribly exciting.

Pellegrini leaves with one Barclays Premier League triumph and two League Cups. The Chilean may feel satisfied and that is his right.

Whether he has significantly moved City on from the years of his predecessor Roberto Mancini is another matter. The Italian left with a Premier League and an FA Cup.

For City, the Champions League remains the final frontier. This season Pellegrini’s team have stretched boundaries that previously seemed beyond them. Here last night they were one late goal, one set-piece or one kind bounce of the ball away from reaching the final in Milan.

Still there was an incompleteness about their performance. They hung on in this tie against a better team and that is creditable. Real Madrid have been in European Cup semi-finals before — 26 times before, to be precise — so they know what they are doing.

What should irritate Pellegrini as he reflects on this attempt, however, is that his team never imposed themselves. They didn’t create chances. They didn’t worry Real. It has, in truth, been a while since they worried anybody at all.

This is the challenge that stands before the incoming Pep Guardiola. The challenge is to turn City into a team that other top sides need to be scared of.

Guardiola will arrive in England licking wounds. Three successive failures to reach the Champions League final with Bayern Munich have threatened to put a small dent in his gilded reputation. From that point of view, maybe club and manager can be good for each other. There is nothing more potent in management than a winner with a point to prove.

Maybe this is also the difference between the two managers, one of the many good reasons why City have swapped one for the other. Guardiola expects to be in Champions League finals. This is a competition he once threatened to turn into his own private fiefdom. Pellegrini, on the other hand, talks like a financial strategist, referring to incremental progress, season on season. What he maybe doesn’t see is that this City squad, with all the talent in it and the money that has been spent, should expect to be doing more.

Certainly last night will have given City and their executives an insight into what this competition is really all about. Nobody has lifted this trophy more times than Real and this year’s final will be their second in three years as they seek an 11th triumph. But the thrill clearly does not die.

The streets outside this cavernous footballing cathedral were thronged two hours before kick-off. For a while it seemed as though it would be impossible to get everybody inside.

Many didn’t even have tickets. They were only here to see the team bus pass by. Aerial shots that appeared later on social media showed the sheer scale of the scrum as Real’s official transport crawled through the streets.

It was a scene more befitting a homecoming than a match night. But this is was what the Champions League — the European Cup — means.

This is why the Atletico-Bayern game had reached such a fretful and bad-tempered conclusion in Bavaria the night before.

No matter how many times you win this thing, the desire to do it again does not dissipate. Maybe a little of that will rub off on City’s players, at least those who remain under Guardiola. He will look at this team — this performance — and wonder.

There is magic to be found in Kevin De Bruyne and great potential in Raheem Sterling and Kelechi Iheanacho. Goalkeeper Joe Hart, meanwhile, was magnificent over the two semi-final games.

But what of Yaya Toure and Sergio Aguero? What of David Silva’s battered ankles and Vincent Kompany’s strung-out calf muscles?

They are the heart of what looked a few years ago as though it might become a truly great team, a team that ultimately never quite made it.

City left everything out there on the Bernabeu pitch last night. They were not found wanting for application and endeavour. But it never looked like a tie between equals.

Pellegrini, as hard as it sounds, has not greatly improved Manchester City. Guardiola must change that.

City have been putting bad teams to bed for years, but what about the really good ones? – Daily Mail

Original source: Pellegrini has left Pep with lots to do