Gracing the cover of the current edition of Champions Matchday is Manuel Pellegrini, who opens up about his tactical philosophy to Spanish football expert Graham Hunter. UEFA.com's long-standing reporter at FC Barcelona and with Spain, Hunter took to @ChampionsMag to invite questions from the magazine's followers about his chat with the Manchester City FC manager. We present the highlights ...
Has Graham noticed a change in Manuel since joining the Premier League? Was he surprised by anything said?
Yes to the former, no to the latter. Firstly one of the things I believe he enjoys least about being a successful coach is the high media profile. I've noticed him slowly adapting to the far greater attention paid to Manchester City than to Villarreal CF or Malága CF. Further, I know he has changed in another way. He was a great champion of the Liga while in Spain but now firmly believes that the Premier League is the most complete, 'best' league in the world.
How far are City able to get in this season's UEFA Champions League?
In theory they have the squad and the coach to be dark horses to win it. In practice I believe City may still require another striker who guarantees goals and that the intangible quality of 'Champions League mentality' may still be developing rather than fully developed.
What makes Pellegrini such a great manager? What qualities do you pick up simply by speaking to him?
What I know from just about everyone who has played for him is that he generates loyalty and he communicates very clearly and effectively how he wants the game played. He's rare in that he's both a first-class coach and an old fashioned man-manager. Likeable, honest, intelligent and demanding. Sadly his is a rare breed.
Do you think Agüero could be in the Ballon d'Or top three?
Obviously he has the talent to be there, yes. But I side with his coach when he mentioned the Ballon d'Or as a challenge to Agüero, rather than an automatic birthright. OK, he had a very serious injury to cope with and that was terribly debilitating. Which leaves a BdO top three out of his reach this year [award in January 2015]. His realistic target is to put together a period of brilliance from now to December 2015 and prove he's top three in the world.
How is Pellegrini as a person? He seems quiet on the sidelines.
He's reserved, serious, likeable, intelligent ... slow to warm up and trust but a man of real integrity and worth when he does.
What do you expect from City's next UEFA Champions League match?
Three points hopefully. At home to AS Roma is a pivotal match, not just for this season but for the Manchester City European project. My opinion is that they still value retaining the Premier League as their No1 strategic goal. However, progress out of the group may depend, fundamentally, on this result.
Champions Matchday is the official magazine of the UEFA Champions League and is available in 79 territories across the world. Champions Matchday is also available in digital format on Apple Newsstand, where the first three issues of this campaign are free of charge. You can follow the magazine on Twitter @ChampionsMag.
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