Once Txiki Begiristain took over as the sporting director at Manchester City, Manuel Pellegrini was always likely to be a managerial target – especially once Pep Guardiola chose Munich over Manchester.
Begiristain was the man who brought in Guardiola to be Barcelona's first-team coach in 2008 and the assumption was that he would try to do the same in England. City's owners may well have employed him with that very idea in mind. If so, the plan failed, but they may just have got the closest thing.
In 2008, Barcelona had just finished third, beaten to the runners-up spot by Pellegrini's Villarreal – the last side to break up the big two – and the media demanded José Mourinho, but Begiristain insisted on a very specific model in Guardiola: the same model City are now seeking to install – an attacking game based on technique and possession, a stable project and a willingness to bring through youth.
Few fit the philosophy like the 59-year-old Chilean. Barcelona won everything with Guardiola; the following year Real Madrid sought to emulate them. Jorge Valdano, a conscious advocate of the type of football Barça adopted, described Pellegrini as a coach who "likes his team to be the protagonist: he seeks to dominate possession and always attack". Pellegrini was the obvious man to execute Valdano's plan.
It is natural enough that City should see him as the candidate to execute theirs. The decision may be questionable but it is coherent. It is not just about winning, it is about how you win. City fans have pointed out that Pellegrini has won nothing in the nine years he has spent coaching in Spain. That is true but it fails to take into consideration the level of the teams he managed, the circumstances he encountered and the teams he faced.
At Real, he found a club where two key players were sold against his wishes and though he broke the club's points record, but missed out to the Guardiola-led Barcelona team who won a unique treble in 2009. Beguiristain's team.
Either side of that, he took Villarreal and Málaga to the Champions League for the first time. He led Villarreal to the semi-final, beating Roberto Mancini's Internazionale en route, and led Málaga to the quarter-finals. No debutant side have ever gone as far as either of them.