Why does Manuel Pellegrini keep picking Martin Demichelis for Manchester City?

Pellegrini has brought Demichelis to play football from the back

“You are all idiots.” With those words, Sir Alex Ferguson swept the tape recorders off his desk and marched from the room. He thought the media’s treatment of Juan Sebastian Veron had been ignorant and unforgivable. A decade later, when sitting down to write his second volume of autobiography, Ferguson conceded the press might have had a point. Veron was a great and very expensive midfielder but he didn’t fit in anywhere at Manchester United.

At least Veron was never depicted as a cartoon donkey, which has been the fate of his sometime Argentina team-mate, Martin Demichelis, during his six tortured months at Manchester City. There are moments that define a season. When City were relegated to the third tier of English football, it was a balletic, almost unrepeatable own-goal from Jamie Pollock. In what once seemed would be a season of four trophies, it has turned on two tackles by Demichelis.

The first was on Lionel Messi which, since it produced a penalty and ensured his own dismissal, would have unravelled every pre-match calculation his manager, Manuel Pellegrini, had made before facing Barcelona.

In a way, it was understandable. The world’s greatest footballer was clear on goal. The lunge at Marc-Antoine Fortuné, who is not even the greatest footballer in Wigan, was unforgivable. The penalty gave Wigan the belief to humble Manchester City in the FA Cup for the second successive year.

Long after the final whistle, in the Etihad’s concrete corridors, Samir Nasri was asked how he felt. “I don’t know. I cannot find the words because I am so disappointed.” He was not blaming his team-mate but everyone knew what had been lost. Demichelis was, nevertheless, a logical choice for Pellegrini to take to Manchester. The Chilean had never played or managed in England before and he would have wanted the reassurance of someone he knew.

Follow all the news and updates with our live blog here

When Bobby Robson first hired Jose Mourinho to be his assistant it was with the instruction: “I want to know what they are saying about me in the dressing room. If you lie to me, I’ll sack you.” Peter Taylor signed Junior Lewis eight times and when they were at Bradford they had a ‘Mr and Mrs’ contest to see how well they knew each other’s habits.

There were other, tactical reasons. Explaining why they were so attracted to each other, the Barcelona midfielder, Xavi Hernandez, said: “Pellegrini always wants to play football from the back and he has brought Demichelis to Manchester for that reason. He has been criticised but he can bring out the ball from the back.” Pellegrini has known Demichelis since they were together at River Plate a decade ago. After the manager had been fired by Real Madrid and was relaunching his career at Malaga, he signed Demichelis from Bayern on the same wages he was being paid in Munich. In his first season, he helped prevent Malaga’s relegation. In his second he helped qualify them for the Champions League.

There were compelling reasons for a third spell together, especially since City’s owners have proved reluctant to spend on the unglamorous area of defence. The back four of Zabaleta, Kompany, Nastasic and Clichy cost £30m – roughly what Manchester United paid for Rio Ferdinand more than 10 years ago. At £3.4m, Demichelis was cheap.

However, at 33 he was increasingly unreliable. The six points Manchester City have conceded to Chelsea are likely to be critical when the title is decided. The 2-1 defeat at Stamford Bridge was Demichelis’ debut.

At the Etihad, he was employed in Fernandinho’s absence as a holding midfielder, a job he had done successfully at Bayern Munich. But that had been nearly a decade ago and Demichelis proved utterly unable to stifle Eden Hazard. When Chelsea returned for the FA Cup, the task was given to Javi Garcia. City won easily.

That win opened up the prospect of an FA Cup final that was effectively ended by one tackle from a man few in the crowd would have picked. The model Evangelina Anderson once advised women living with footballers to “hire ugly” if they were looking for domestic help. Evangelina’s husband is Martin Demichelis and, should Manchester City finish the season with just the League Cup, many will think Pellegrini has hired very ugly indeed.

Suggested Topics
Voices
There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm tomorrow
Arts and Entertainment
Mark Wright has won The Apprentice 2014
tvThe Apprentice 2014 final
News
File: James Woods attends the 52nd New York Film Festival at Walter Reade Theater on September 27, 2014
peopleActor was tweeting in wake of NYPD police shooting
Arts and Entertainment
X Factor winner Ben Haenow has scored his first Christmas number one
music
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
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

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

Marian Keyes

The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

Rodgers fights for his reputation

Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick