Manuel Pellegrini: ‘If I had another life I wouldn’t dedicate it to football’

The 68-year-old has the chance to secure a rare trophy for Real Betis against Valencia in the Copa del Rey but says what he would really like is to be able to sing or play the pianoIt was sarcastic to start with, Manuel Pellegrini says, but that didn’t last long. When he arrived in Argentina, a cup winner in Chile and league champion in Ecuador but largely unknown there, San Lorenzo de Almagro were in a state. Coco Basile had pushed out the priest who would become Pope Francis and as he recalls it, an unloved ground lacked stands in all four corners, their real home long since sold to Carrefour. The joke ran that they had a supermarket, not a stadium.One did, anyway. The other had Pellegrini arriving for that very reason. He was The Engineer they didn’t have, someone to finally finish the place. The name stuck. “It ended up being admiring, recognition,” he says. That season San Lorenzo became clausura champions and the Copa Mercosur followed, their first international trophy. He won another clausura with River Plate two years later then crossed the Atlantic. He never went back. That was 19 years ago. On Saturday night, he takes Real Betis into the fifth cup final in their history, against Valencia.

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