Manchester City football club and its fans still giddy with their second title in three seasons must have thought they awoke to a nightmare when their main engine who leads by example spoke of "honour and PSG" in the same breath. Could the Premier League be about to lose one of its best ever players because of cake? What must the man who managed Manchester City and Yaya Toure this season be thinking of this soap opera?
Well I think I have some idea.
In December 2010 I was fortunate enough to sit in Business Class on my way to Santiago, Chile. As I re-boarded the flight around midnight after a short stop in Madrid, I couldn't believe my eyes when Manuel Pellegrini entered the aircraft.
He shook the pilots hand and sat down one seat away from me.
This was it I thought. Flights between Madrid and Santiago take around 13 hours and here was I like a kid. Fans dream of moments like this, imagine picking the football brains of one of the brightest managers around. He'd taken Real Madrid to their highest points tally ever but still got sacked (no surprise there). Real president Perez later admitted Pellegrini would have been kept on had it not been for Mourinho becoming available, some consolation I'm sure. However his reputation was now sealed.
Turns out Real Madrid wasn't really a club for a master tactician like Pellegrini to manage anyway. During his watch Real Madrid made two major acquisitions in Ronaldo and Benzema, Pellegrini had little involvement in either. After his Real Madrid departure he was famously quoted in the Telegraph as saying: "I didn't have a say or a vote", "they sign the best players, but not the best players needed in a certain position" and he also said " It's no good having an orchestra with the 10 best guitarists if I don't have a pianist".
Well, he is now losing his pianist and his ten guitarists in Yaya Toure. Is there another player of his stature alive today?
So going back to my memorable flight it was obvious the great man was under immense pressure. Pellegrini was lost in his thoughts and busily jotted down notes, formations and diagrams like a man possessed. Like a grouchy Einstein who had worked out time travel only to have misplaced the equations at the supermarket. I quickly went online before takeoff and comprehended his turmoil. After a promising run Malaga had lost 3-0 at home that evening to Atletico Madrid and exactly one week earlier they'd lost to Hercules 4-1 away. Back to back losses before the winter break, not a great way to go into a break before a busy month of football in January. However this exposed how Pelegrini in reality takes anything other than success.
Once in the air, as no one likes talking shop after a bad week at the office, I just let him be and for most of that flight his face of worry hardly diminished. No doubt for the whole of his Christmas break he must have worked tirelessly to rectify his team's strategy.
Yesterday evening as Manuel Pellegrini received a national award in his homeland for lifetime of achievement in front of football luminaries and Chile's President no less, he appeared as always very calm and seemed well rested. For Pellegrini only home in Chile is where he can really sleep properly and fully charge his batteries, away from the relentless most demanding league in the world. With his large family close to him, he'll find the peace and space required to regroup his thoughts, strategy and targets for next season. But, and this is a huge but, when your most pivotal player wants to leave, for Pellegrini resting and finding any peace might not be possible.
Pellegrini much like all fans of every club must be thinking who the hell walks away from a second league title after being the club's best player of the season? With the clubs tantalising preparation for Champions League football, well under way, what is looming to be a proper Manuel Pellegrini team, this is a colossal spanner in the works.
When Manchester City won the league, like a mantra, fans, players and even the manager delivered that same confident message to every football fan in the world. They were defiant: "We are building something, we are building a big club". These words would have kept Fergie awake had he not retired, but I like most people thought, fair play.
All season they played progressive attacking football. They've shown great team spirit, they should be reaching the Champions League semi's as a minimum next season and even the manager has proven to be full of class when those around him lose their nerve.
So how can Yaya Toure speak of respect when he should be doing the respecting towards; the fans that pay his salary, his team mates who've played with him all season and allowed him to shine and Pellegrini who's captained the ship and enabled Toure to deliver the greatest season of his career to date. Where is his respect? I read a fan mention that at this rate, an introduction of one year contracts could be a very real possibility. No doubt the words "rot" and "reserves" will get bandied around in such turbulent times, but no club can keep this level of talent off the pitch. It just will not happen.
The price Yaya Toure will pay will be the dismantling of his legacy and reputation, nothing else.
Manchester City fans shouldn't worry. Although you're allowed to be slightly perplexed by someone who acts like this whilst pocketing over £200K a week. With Manuel Pellegrini you're in safe hands. He's a qualified civil engineer who loves to build his own creations. Back in 2010 after I returned to the UK I kept an eye on Malaga intrigued how they'd get on. They won their first game back after the winter break, they later went on to beat Atletico away 3-0 who'd beaten them at home by that same score just before the winter break and the following season he took Malaga to their highest league position in their history and into the Champions League. The rest is history He will engineer the teams evolution one way or another, it is what he was born to do.
The questions I'd like to ask all Man City fans is who could you possibly sign to replace him?, if he is angling for another bumper contract would you give in to his demands? and could this further de-stabalise the squad? Be very interesting to know your thoughts.
Incidentally eventually I plucked up the courage to ask Manuel Pellegrini one question on that flight just before landing. I asked him if he'd like to manage a club in the English Premier League and which one.