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
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
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 saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss