It takes a special sort of wind-up artist to get under Manuel Pellegrini’s skin but Jose Mourinho has managed it ever since he took over as Real Madrid coach from the Chilean in 2010.
Mourinho swept into Madrid like the flash new husband, leaving Pellegrini – the jilted ex who had been shelved after failing to produce a trophy – to take over a modest Malaga.
The two had their most memorable clash in 2011 when Malaga came to Madrid for the first time after Mourinho’s takeover.
They were a point worse off than they had been at the same stage of the previous season under Pellegrini. He was asked if he feared the same fate as his predecessor and his reply must still ring in the Manchester City coach’s ears every time he sees the Chelsea manager.
“The same thing that has happened to him will not happen to me because if they [Real Madrid] get rid of me I will not go to coach Malaga, I will go to one of the big clubs in the Premier League or in Italy,” he said.
Pellegrini’s stock was low after his year at Madrid. His exploits at Villarreal had been long forgotten and he was still to transform Malaga into Champions League quarter-finalists. He was down and Mourinho put the boot in.
Pellegrini had previously defended his Madrid season, finishing second with a record number of points. But Mourinho said: “Second is just first of those of who finish last.” Pellegrini’s Madrid lost in the Spanish Cup to a third tier side, so Mourinho said : “This season to do better in the cup all we had to do was stay in it beyond the first round. We have already done that.” What riled Pellegrini was that the comparison was unfair. Mourinho was indulged by president Florentino Perez from his first day at the club, and defended by him until the last.
Pellegrini, in contrast, was never wanted by Perez. He had hired him only after missing out on Arsène Wenger and Carlo Ancelotti and stopped talking to him halfway through the season, turning a blind eye to a vicious campaign to oust him and chasing Mourinho before the season had ended. The Portuguese was given most of the signings he requested in his three years at the club; Pellegrini was informed who the club would be signing shortly before they put pen to paper and was completely ignored when he demanded Wesley Sneijder and Arjen Robben not be sold.
In the Madrid-Malaga game that followed Mourinho’s comments, Real won 7-0, adding three late goals after Malaga had been reduced to 10 men. Pellegrini got a revenge of sorts with a 3-2 win over Mourinho’s Madrid in the pair’s last season in La Liga but only out-doing him this season will really give him satisfaction.
Pellegrini has always been publicly magnanimous with Mourinho – even admitting in defence of him as the Madrid press called for his head, that managing Madrid was an extremely difficult job.
But seeing him body surfing at the Bridge on Sunday would have opened old wounds. Him waiting for the celebrations to end so he could shake his rival’s hand? It was never going to happen.