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Sullivanís biggest gamble yet


Filed: Monday, 21st May 2018
By: Paul Walker


As gambles go, bringing in Manuel Pellegrini is pretty high up there as far as West Ham owner David Sullivan is concerned.

Under intense pressure to make a significant appointment as manager, and as quick as possible with the transfer window already up and running, Sullivan has gone for broke by bringing in the 64-year-old former Real Madrid and Manchester City chief.

Pellegrini has now agreed a three-year deal, with the finer points being sorted out by the lawyers.
 
For Sullivan, an owner not known for throwing cash around, bringing in Pellegrini with wages between £7m and £10m a year - depending on which source you read - could even smack of panic here.

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Any other candidates would have taken time to install. Paulo Fonseca used us to get an improved deal at Shakhtar Donetsk, Rafa Benitez canít make his mind up and will get a better deal at Newcastle, the likes of David Wagner at Huddersfield is getting a better deal there... and so it goes on.

Sullivan hasnít got that amount of time. The longer it continues without a replacement for David Moyes, the longer the shambles and chaos of last term will spread into the close season, with the transfer window closing on August 9.

You sense, too, that Sullivanís actions these past days suggest he has taken control of the club, intent on getting something big done. He has ignored, we are told, the advice of David Gold and Karren Brady to give Moyes a further contract.

Now we know that Moyes was dragging things out, looking to milk the situation for a better deal, having held fire on a suggested contract seemingly offered a few weeks back. Sullivan was ruthlessly having none of that.

So he has gone for broke. The appointment of Pellegrini certainly ticks the boxes of fan power, who wanted someone to play attacking football more in keeping with our supposed traditions (last seen, if I recall correctly, in the days of the Harry Redknapp/Billy Bonds reign).

But, and thereís always a but with West Ham, is Pellegriniís pedigree now too far behind him to be relevant? Yes, he has had a fine managerial career and is by far the most qualified and decorated (in terms of football achievements) manager we have ever employed.

But the nagging question is, did the Chilean move to China for the vast amounts of silly money - or because he could not find a post in Europe in keeping with what he had become accustomed?

It is believed he was on £400,000 a week to manage Hebei China Fortune, thatís over £20million a year, and now he is back in English football likely to be paid more than everyone in the Premier League apart from Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola.

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So Sullivan has found that this is the cost to placate fans pretty fed-up with two dreadful seasons at the London Stadium, and threatening more unrest next term if things donít start being done to their liking.

Itís pretty obvious now that Sullivan is riding solo here; Gold looks to have been sidestepped, and not in the loop when he suggested Moyes should be re-hired less than 24 hours before Sullivan put the boot into the former Everton man, who was more than upset with the way he was treated.

Brady, too, wanted Moyes, although we are also being told she had earlier suggested Sean Dyche, who just happens to be represented by the agency that her husband Paul Peschisolido works for!

That is now water under the bridge. Sullivan is giving the fans that bit of glamour, excitement and quality that a manager of Pellegriniís esteem can bring. More to the point, we are being told that Pellegrini will have no interference from the board on transfers, and Sullivan will step into the background.

We will all, I reckon, be more than happy with that but believe that when we see it.

Rumour had it that Sullivan was recommending players to Moyes in January that nobody had scouted or even heard of, so Pellegrini should not drop his guard for a second.

He will have almost certainly his former Manchester City and Hebei assistant, Ruben Cousillas, alongside him, with the likelihood of Eduardo Macia as his new head of recruitment. Interesting guy this, he has been at Leicester City of late but worked extensively with Benitez at Liverpool from 2006.

He has also done a similar job at Real Betis, Fiorentina and Olympiacos, and is also believed to be the man Sullivan eluded to during the season as being keen on moving to West Ham.

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There are several backroom appointments on the fitness and medical staff to be sorted, one being a replacement for head of fitness Nick Davies, who left this month. He was previously with Norwich and a recommendation from Alan Irvine, who was also boss at Norwich.

The big question, though, is whether Pellegrini can replicate his achievements firstly in Spain and then with Manchester City, where he won the Premier League in 2013-14. Some of that is a long while ago, is he still as hungry or is this just another massive pay day?

But you canít argue with his Spanish career. With Villareal from 2004-09, he finished third, seventh, fifth, second and fifth in La Liga, taking them to the Champions League semi-finals. Then there was a spell at Real Madrid when he missed the title by three points to Barcelona despite 96 points and 100 goals. After being axed there he complained about the club not buying the players he wanted, just the Gallacticos.

Malaga followed, from 2010-13, finishing 11th, fourth and sixth, with more European success at a club who have just been relegated, and never really recovered from being punished for breaking financial fair play rules.

Then came Manchester City, a title and two league cups. He calmed the troubled waters following the exit of the impossibly difficult Roberto Mancini. It started well but the final year of his three seasons there was progressively ruined by the knowledge that he was going to be replaced by Guardiola.

Everyone knew it, and the players lacked motivation and at some point even fitness, Sami Nasri being a particular culprit. But City were good enough to beat us 9-0 on aggregate in a league cup semi-final, a depressing embarrassment many of us who witnessed both legs have failed to erase from our memory.

He was labelled ďThe Charming ManĒ, taken from a song by Manchester band The Smiths, which was not truly accurate. In his final months he was considered charmless, frustrated and full of pent-up rage. Maybe knowing he was going played a part.

Then he was off to China, the land where managers, coaches and players go to be forgotten. Looking at his squad there, the vast majority were Chinese with a couple of Spanish imports. He clearly wanted to come home to Europe.

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Now he has to turn West Ham around, taking the heat off Sullivan in the process. Clearly he will have his own players coming in to play his favoured 4-3-3, with Yaya Toure seemingly high on his list. And he may well have enough charm and stature to keep Manu Lanzini, Adrian and Javier Hernandez happy, while maybe finding a role for James Collins and acquiring Joao Mario. Who knows?

But we will all be optimistic, believing that there is a rainbows end even in Stratford. How much will he have to spend, likewise, who knows?

There is the little matter of FFP which everyone tends to forget these days. We are in the final season of a three-year cycle where clubs can add £7million to their previous seasonís budget plus any income generated from the commercial side. I fail to see that being over £100million, so players will be sold.

Welcome to east London, Manuel, we are all praying for you to succeed.


Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, nor should be attributed to, KUMB.com.







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