Manuel Pellegrini will leave Malaga at the end of the season, the Spanish soccer club said, freeing him up for the vacant manager’s post at Manchester City.
Pellegrini reached an agreement to leave for “sporting reasons” with two years of his contract remaining, Malaga said in a statement on its website last night. He coached the team to the Champions League quarterfinals this season, and it is currently sixth in La Liga with two games left.
“Everyone has the right and obligation to follow their chosen path, and Malaga must do the same,” Pellegrini, 59, said in the statement. “The club requires a realistic project next season. Malaga had a past without Manuel Pellegrini, and will also have a future without Manuel Pellegrini.”
Pellegrini, who has coached teams in his native Chile, Argentina and Spain including Villarreal and Real Madrid, is the bookmakers’ favorite to become the next manager of Manchester City, which fired Roberto Mancini on May 13 after the English Premier League club failed to win a trophy this season.
He could be announced as Mancini’s successor as soon as next week after agreeing to a contract worth 3.4 million pounds a year ($5.1 million), the Daily Telegraph reported, without saying where it got the information.
Pellegrini was linked with the job before Mancini’s firing. Following Malaga’s scoreless draw against Sevilla on May 12, the Chilean denied newspaper reports that he had already signed an agreement with City.
“Nothing has been agreed with any other club,” Pellegrini said at the time. “I’ve been fortunate enough, and very proud, that every year the big clubs have shown an interest in me. I hope in the coming weeks that things will become a little clearer.”
Should Pellegrini join City, he would become its third manager since Abu Dhabi’s Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan bought the team in 2008. City had been a perennial underachiever in English soccer, even dropping into the third tier in 1998, before Sheikh Mansour spent about $1 billion to lift the club from under the shadow of local rival Manchester United.
City ended a 35-year trophy drought by winning the F.A. Cup in 2011 and secured its first English league title since 1968 on the final day of last season. The Blues’ Premier League defense ended with them finishing 11 points behind United as the Red Devils won a record-extending 20th championship. City also was last in its Champions League group.
The club said May 13 that it fired Mancini after he failed to deliver any of its stated targets beyond Champions League qualification, and after it had identified the need “to develop a holistic approach to all aspects of football at the club.”
Pellegrini, a civil engineer, spent his entire playing career with Santiago-based Universidad de Chile, making 451 appearances for the club and then becoming its coach.
He coached various teams in South America, including Ecuador’s LDU Quito and Argentina’s River Plate, before taking his first European job with Villarreal in 2004.
Pellegrini had five seasons at Villarreal, where he twice guided the “yellow submarine” to top-three finishes in La Liga and twice reached the Champions League quarterfinals.
He joined Real Madrid in 2009, lasting one season as the team finished behind champion Barcelona even after accumulating a then-club record 96 points. The runner-up finish came after Real spent a record $300 million on players including Cristiano Ronaldo and Kaka during the offseason.
Pellegrini took over at Malaga in November 2010 and guided the club to its first top-four finish in La Liga in his first full campaign in charge. The team reached the last eight of the Champions League in its tournament debut this season.
“I will be eternally grateful to the owners of the club, who always had blind faith in me,” said Pellegrini, whose team hosts Deportivo La Coruna on May 26 before finishing at Barcelona on June 1.