Exit beckons for Mancini as door opens for Pellegrini

Frank Dalleres
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MALAGA manager Manuel Pellegrini is expected to succeed Manchester City boss Roberto Mancini as early as this week after the Italian’s reign ended in ignominy with Saturday’s 1-0 FA Cup final defeat by Wigan.

Confirmation of Mancini’s sacking after three and half years in charge could come before tomorrow’s Premier League trip to Reading, City’s penultimate fixture of a disappointing season.

Even if he remains in place until Sunday’s home match against Norwich, Mancini is expected to depart before City embark on a post-season tour of the United States later this month.

Chilean Pellegrini, 59, has been tipped to replace the former Inter Milan manager since February, when reports first emerged in Spain that he had been lined up to take over at the Etihad Stadium.

Uncertainty over Mancini’s future deepened last month when it emerged City director of football Txiki Begiristain had held talks with Pellegrini’s agent in Madrid.

Mancini complained on Saturday that the club had not done enough to silence rumours he would be ousted this summer, just 12 months after delivering City’s first top-flight title for 44 years.

“If we find out that the things you say are not true, you have written a lot of stupid things in the last six months,” he said of reports he would be fired. “If it is true, I am stupid because I didn’t understand anything. You have been speaking about this for the last six months. It is too much. The club didn’t stop this. I don’t think that was correct.”

Pellegrini took humble Malaga to the Champions League quarter-finals this season, their debut in European club football’s top competition, despite off-field chaos and the sale of star players.

He performed similar feats with equally unfashionable Villarreal, losing to Arsenal in Europe’s last four in 2006, before a solitary trophy-less season with Real Madrid in 2009-10.

A title-winner in Ecuador and Argentina, Pellegrini has amassed huge respect during nine years in Spain without landing any trophies, except for a 2004 Intertoto Cup success with Villarreal.

■ Won Argentine league titles with San Lorenzo (2001) and River Plate (2003)

■ Guided Villarreal to Champions League semi-final in 2006

■ Finished second with Real Madrid in 2010 on a record 96 points

■ Led Malaga to Champions League quarter-final in 2013