Analysis: What caused Manuel Pellegrini to explode so shamefully after Manchester City defeat to Barcelona in the Champions League?

The usually reserved Chilean launched an astonishing attack on Swedish referees after the 2-0 loss at the Etihad

Football correspondent

In the cold light of Wednesday, Manuel Pellegrini’s outburst against Swedish referees revealed itself for what it was: absurd, ridiculous, contemptible and an embarrassment to Manchester City. Yes, Pellegrini really did say football is “more important in Europe than in Sweden” and that it was “not a good idea” to put a referee from Sweden in charge of a Champions League knockout tie. A five-match touchline ban is possible, though three matches is more likely, if Uefa charges him for “inappropriate comments” – possibly today.

The eruption after City’s 2-0 defeat to Barcelona was the more extraordinary because of the image the 60-year-old has conveyed for the past six months. So uneventful have his press conferences become that at least one international news agency has stopped showing up.

To some extent, the grey exterior belies the other Pellegrini persona which can occasionally take hold. All those who witnessed his reaction to a Scottish referee’s performance in Malaga’s 3-2 Champions League defeat at Borussia Dortmund last year will tell you so. It was an excoriating outburst from him that night - “We could not, or they did not want us to, get through. After we went 2-1 ahead, there was no refereeing” – though he was not banned. The outburst should be viewed in the context of events around that time – Pellegrini’s father had died and he had just returned to Spain – though it demonstrates an individual more willing to cut loose and blast off than he lets on.

It can’t be said that Pellegrini is unaccustomed to the pressure, even though he is in unchartered territory here, chasing silverware on four fronts this time after building a reputation on making small clubs, Villarreal and Malaga, walk tall. Yes, the 2004 Intertoto Cup, won with Villarreal, (ital)was(close) the last trophy he claimed, but this is also a man who has managed in the red heat of River Plate and was subjected to unconscionable abuse in Spain at the hands of the sports daily (ital)Marca(close). After he joined Málaga, the paper declared him the "worst" thing about the club’s game. "I should thank the editor of Marca for making me so famous," he replied.

And yet, for all that, there is evidence that Pellegrini is feeling the stifling heat of this decisive moment in his club’s season. It explains why, having resisted all goading by Jose Mourinho – the master of odious manipulation – he broke two weeks ago, accusing Mourinho of lying about money Chelsea had spent and decisions City had been given by referees. The disproportionate reaction to Tuesday night’s events felt like the response of a manager who took them personally.

It was his decision, after all, to follow a pragmatic tactical instinct – rather than the more free-flowing beliefs of his sporting director Txiki Begiristain. And that defensive strategy was sent up in smoke by a player in who he has invested so much personal capital. Martin Demichelis, whose error turned the night, is the individual Pellegrini has signed twice and with whom he clearly enjoys a particularly strong relationship. The two of them have been here before, because Pellegrini has often fielded Demichelis against Lionel Messi and often seen Messi get the better of him and score

It compounded things that Pellegrini apparently felt the niggle of a number of small decisions going against his team – “from the beginning I felt the referee was not impartial” – and like anyone seeking validation of their conspiracy theory, there was a half thought-out notion in the back of his mind. Perhaps Begiristain had told him about the two penalties that referee Eriksson refused Barcelona in the 2011 Champions League quarter final against AC Milan, giving Pellegrini his conviction that Tuesday night let the Swede balance things out. Begiristain was at Barca in 2011. Pellegrini certainly lacked a firm grasp of the detail, citing the Milan match as a group stage game from last autumn.

The factual mistake compounded the feebleness of the Chilean’s press conference, which even gave Brendan Rodgers a run for his money. It was Rodgers who claimed in the same conference theatre back in December that a Greater Manchester referee – Lee Mason of Bolton - had been prejudiced in favour of City and against Liverpool. The City manager is not even helped by a universal sense that his team were wronged. Several referees observed yesterday that Demichelis’ dismissal and the penalty were reasonable, in real time.

Sweden’s current absorption in the Winter Olympics means that Pellegrini’s comments will not invite a back page backlash in the country’s sporting press today, though his rant has gone much further than Stockholm. City’s manager has demonstrated he is not, after all, above the circus and the nonsense of football.

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film Ridley Scott reveals truth behind casting decisions of Exodus
News
Andy Murray with his girlfriend of nine years, Kim Sears who he has got engaged to
peopleWimbledon champion announces engagement to girlfriend Kim Sears
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden and Edwina Currie are joining the I'm A Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here! camp
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Roisin, James and Sanjay in the boardroom
tvReview: This week's failing project manager had to go
Life and Style
Fright night: the board game dates back to at least 1890
life
Life and Style
fashion
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game
There's a Good Girl exhibition: How female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising

In pictures: There's a Good Girl exhibition

The new exhibition reveals how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover - from advent calendars to doll's houses

UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover

It worked with cupcakes, doughnuts and macarons so no wonder someone decided to revamp the humble biscuit
Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

It's no surprise that the building game born in Sweden in 2009 and now played by millions, has imitators keen to construct their own mega money-spinner
The King's School is way ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology

Staying connected: The King's School

The school in Cambridgeshire is ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology. Richard Garner discovers how teachers and pupils stay connected
Christmas 2014: 23 best women's perfumes

Festively fragrant: the best women's perfumes

Give a loved one a luxe fragrance this year or treat yourself to a sensual pick-me-up
Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition

Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund

The Ox celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition
Billy Joe Saunders vs Chris Eubank Jnr: When two worlds collide

When two worlds collide

Traveller Billy Joe Saunders did not have a pampered public-school upbringing - unlike Saturday’s opponent Chris Eubank Jnr
Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?