Manuel Pellegrini must decide on futures of Carlos Tevez, Gareth Barry and Joleon Lescott as Manchester City name starting date for new manager
Chilean quits Malaga and will begin on 1 June but must make rapid decisions on his strikers
Manuel Pellegrini is expected to meet his new Manchester City players a week on Monday, seven days after the club's anticipated confirmation that he is to succeed Roberto Mancini and become first-team coach.
Pellegrini declared that he will leave Malaga at the end of the season and it is his desire to ensure an emotional farewell for his last home match against Deportivo la Coruña at the Rosaleda on Sunday evening, as well as City's preoccupation with the launch of their sister club New York City FC, that has delayed confirmation of the 59-year-old's new job.
The Chilean's first tasks will involve which players should be awarded new contracts, with the futures of Gareth Barry, Carlos Tevez and Joleon Lescott up in the air. The first-team squad has been told that Pellegrini will begin work on Saturday week but it will be on the Monday before Barry and Lescott return from international duty with England in Brazil. Though Tevez is as uncertain as any other player about what Pellegrini's arrival means for him, the presence of a South American coach does create potential for a fresh start after a difficult relationship with Mancini. A one-year contract extension for the Argentine is a possibility.
Tevez's destiny is bound up with that of Sergio Aguero, who is unsettled by his separation from his son, Benjamin, who is now in Argentina following the striker's separation from his wife, Giannina. Speaking in New York, the City chief executive, Ferran Soriano, said that Aguero would not be leaving the club.
Pellegrini experienced the first stage of what will be an emotional departure from Malaga when the city's badge of honour was conferred on him at a civic ceremony. The coach, who took Malaga to the last eight of the Champions League this season, was mobbed by fans when he emerged. His description of a "sporting project that will allow me to feel fulfilled" was the closest he has got to an open admission that he is heading to the Etihad. "I am not leaving because of financial ambition," Pellegrini also said.
City's Pablo Zabaleta became the first of the club's players to offer a detailed assessment of Pellegrini – a coach he encountered at close quarters when a player at San Lorenzo in Argentina for three years from 2002, which overlapped with the Chilean's brief spell with the club. Zabaleta said Pellegrini's arrival would presage a more exciting brand of football. "Pellegrini likes to play with two wingers – get the ball out wide. I think we will be more attacking. You saw with Malaga that whenever they played, they played to win," he said.
Zabaleta was in San Lorenzo's second XI when Pellegrini was at the club but saw enough to appreciate his focus on youth development, on which the coach later built his reputation when turning modest Villarreal into Champions League semi-finalists in 2006. "He was always keen on youth development and also won important things there. That makes him a good manager," Zabaleta added. "But his football is great – someone I know and trust has told me he is a superb manager now. He did well when we were at San Lorenzo. He won the South American Cup. He had success there, he built a good team and then when he went to Villarreal he took a club who had been in the Third Division to playing in the semi-finals of the Champions League.
"They played Arsenal and were within a penalty-kick of going to the final. Also his record in Europe is great – and that's something we haven't done so well in recent seasons." Zabaleta was speaking at Lexington Academy in East Harlem, which boasts New York City's only rooftop football field and was donated by Manchester City in 2010.
Samir Nasri also expressed pleasure at Pellegrini's imminent arrival at City, while questioning Mancini's tendency to criticise players publicly. "Every single player has an ego so maybe to touch the ego of the player so that he can have a positive reaction – that's what happened with me," Nasri said of their relationship. "But maybe it doesn't work with everyone. That's where you can see a big manager is someone who is really smart and knows how to deal with every player, because everyone is different. Some players need more affection. It is a tough call for a manager to find a good balance between those situations."
Soriano said of Mancini's departure: "He did very good things for the club. We want to play better football and we want to continue winning. It is not that Mancini did anything wrong. We are just in another cycle, in another era."
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