The master's voice

Posted by Simon Curtis

When Manuel Pellegrini speaks, it sounds like something between a St. Bernard growling and a distant rumble of Andean thunder.

If you look away, you can almost imagine a wizened old bar owner asking if you want ice in your Mote con Huesillos just off the front drag in Valparaiso. Suddenly, through the gruff Spanish-coated English comes the clearly audible words "Gareth Barry" and you realize that this is Manchester City's new manager, live at the Carrington training complex in Manchester, a long way from the ordered tables of the Plaza Sotomayor with their fluttering red and white checkered cloths.

Here, there is only bottled water as far as the eye can see; not a single faded bar terrace parasol and certainly no limpid Pacific Ocean lapping at your pampered and well-traveled toenails.

Welcome to Manchester, then, Jefe.

Pellegrini's answers Tuesday offered as few clues as the tone they were delivered in. He is a man of few words, at this stage at least. There were no signs that he has come for the press banter either. "No, I don't want to describe myself," he countered as the might of the British press got their sausage-flecked teeth into him.

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He is no-nonsense. He is focused. He is old enough not to take part in pantry games. You can see in his hooded eyes the look of a man who has danced a few laps with the great and good of the journalistic corps already.

Pellegrini's brief is clear. Make progress in Europe, attack United and Chelsea for the domestic crowns and play football the way he did at Villareal, Real Madrid and Malaga. In order to do all of these marvelous things, of course, the wily Chilean will need players, and having seen one of Manchester's better ones depart in Carlos Tevez, he will no doubt be focused on finding a replacement.

It is a common mantra these days for managers of clubs with City's prospects to want two players of equal quality for each space on the team. This being the case, we can expect a central defender and a striker to be the main targets as the preseason heats up. Names have already been thrown into the air.

As they come tumbling back down to earth, we will drop a few (Fred, Robert Lewandowski) and catch others to hurl them skywards again (Stevan Jovetic, Alvaro Negredo).

Three players, in particular, may have felt their ears prick up as the sweaty conference continued along its meandering path. Edin Dzeko might feel happier knowing that he has a role to play in the new City, while for Barry and Joleon Lescott, a bell will have tolled when the new man said, "We will talk with these players next week to see what everyone wants."

Time waits for no man, and the over-30s might be steeling themselves for somewhat tricky news come next Monday. Given the situation up front with Tevez now parading in black and white stripes, Dzeko could be forgiven for thinking that he may feature in Manchester's plans after all.

All but discarded by Roberto Mancini, the Big Bosnian's slate has been wiped clean. Given that Pellegrini even attempted his version of the beautiful game with Roque Santa Cruz at the top end, Dzeko must have a fair chance of featuring.

What is clear is that this manager has been in charge for some time. Yes, Fernandinho was his choice for midfield. Yes, Jesus Navas was his man, too. No doubt, the answer to a lot of other questions will be "yes," too. But for the meantime, the tight-lipped Chilean will keep us guessing, whether it is Andean thunder or the approaching wheels of another Jeep containing gifts for City's first-team squad.

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