October 24, 2016

Chelsea line up Pellegrini as next manager

Manuel Pellegrini will move from Manchester City to Stamford Bridge in the summer. Andrew Powell

Chelsea have lined up Manchester City coach Manuel Pellegrini as a permanent replacement for Jose Mourinho. In a succession plan drawn up by the Premier League club’s technical director Michael Emenalo, Pellegrini will move from Manchester City to Stamford Bridge in the summer at the end of Guus Hiddink’s second spell as Chelsea’s caretaker coach.

In contrast to other leading candidates for the Chelsea post, the expectation is that Pellegrini can be recruited without paying compensation to his current employers as City’s intention is to replace the Chilean with Pep Guardiola at the end of this season.

On Sunday, Bayern Munich announced that Guardiola would be leaving the club upon completing his three-year contract this season, to be succeeded by Carlo Ancelotti. In recent weeks, City verbally agreed terms with Guardiola to take over from Pellegrini and are now expected to formalise the contract.

Pellegrini, who won the Premier League title in his first season in England, but ceded first place to Mourinho last season, arrived at City as a second-choice to Guardiola and has responded pragmatically to his planned dismissal. At the weekend he told journalists that he knew the Catalan would coach in England before long and that he hoped it would be for City.

“Pep Guardiola will work here [in England],” said Pellegrini. “I don’t know if it is next season here, or at another club. Someday he’ll come here [to England].

“And I hope he will have the option to work at Manchester City. I say that because I love this club and I hope, in the future, he can work here also. I am sure he will be very important for the club.”

Emenalo has long been an admirer of Pellegrini’s calm and unfussy style of management, advising Roman Abramovich to appoint the Chilean instead of bringing Mourinho back to Chelsea in 2013. The former Nigeria international, who was brought to Stamford Bridge by Avram Grant in 2007 from a position coaching a girls side at Tucson Soccer Academy, is again championing Pellegrini’s conciliatory style of handling players and public relations — historically, key concerns for Chelsea’s billionaire owner.

According to senior Chelsea sources, financial terms have already been discussed with Pellegrini’s representatives and a pre-contract deal put in place. Abramovich is also understood to be considering installing Didier Drogba as one of Pellegrini’s assistants, with the hugely popular former Chelsea striker already on record about an agreement to return to the club in a coaching capacity after his spell in MLS at Montreal Impact.

Pellegrini’s proposed switch to Chelsea raises the prospect of a 2016/17 Premier League season that pits the recently appointed Jurgen Klopp at Liverpool against Pellegrini at Chelsea, Arsene Wenger at Arsenal, Guardiola at Man City, and Mourinho at Manchester United. Thus concentrating an unprecedented array of elite coaching talent in one European league.

Mourinho — infuriated by Emenalo’s claims of ‘palpable discord’ between the Portuguese and a Chelsea squad he led to the Premier League title just a few months before — is ready to return to management immediately if the the right opportunity presents itself. Friday, Mourinho discussed replacing Rudi Garcia as AS Roma coach with the Serie A club’s owner James Pallotta.

A more likely next place of employment, however, is United, who invited Mourinho to succeed Sir Alex Ferguson in 2013, and are currently looking for a third replacement for the legendary Scot, having decided that results under Louis van Gaal’s quixotic leadership are unacceptable.

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