Southampton’s new manager, highly regarded for his man-management and tactical nous, obsesses about the damage victory can inflict on players’ hunger
There were around 40 people on the coaching course Mauricio Pellegrino took when he was a player at Valencia in 1999 and he wanted to know what it was that moved them to be there, so he did something he has done ever since football took him from his home in the Argentinian pampas: he asked and he listened. There were all sorts of reasons but surprisingly few matched his. For some, it was just something to do. For others, it was about money, just a job. Not for Pellegrino. He asked a friend there whether he would take it if a tiny third division club came for him. “No,” he said. “Coaching’s not your vocation, then,” Pellegrino replied.
It is Pellegrino’s. “Had it not been for football I would never have left home,” he once said. He was a little introverted, at least to start with, and one former team-mate says football is his life while he told a player who worked under him that through football he found a way to express himself. Especially through coaching, his calling. He has emerged and evolved over the years but even as a player he was a manager. Louis van Gaal once said: “He’ll make a great coach.” Although Pellegrino was not pleased, joking that meant the Dutchman did not think he was much of a centre-back, Van Gaal is not a man given to handing out compliments and he knew he was right.