Allegedly asked yet again whether he was the right man for the job as manager of Southampton, Mauricio Pellegrino might have answered his critics as follows:
“For sure, there may be some confusion on the south coast of England at the moment between the A25 and the A37 but that is just 12 points. Teams that come and try and drive rings around us may come unstuck as we give them the hard shoulder.
I am from Argentina, played as a central defender and my first name is Mauricio. I too expect to be managing a team in north London soon but, at the moment, I am the right man for the Saints because the BBC website confirms this – and, for sure, I’ve never played rugby or visited Northampton.
I am a little bit sad because people keep asking me why Chile failed to qualify for this season’s World Cup. Had I still been playing I would have been happy about this, of course, and anything I could have done to kick those annoying little strikers up in the air, I would have been glad to do – not forgetting to writhe on the ground immediately afterwards and claim that I had first been elbowed in the face. It’s part of football I think. What is more annoying for me is that my name ends in an ‘o’ and not an ‘i’; and I don’t like Chinese food.
I am the right man because I fit the major short-term role here which is about making a lot of money without expecting long-term success. Little by little, we are getting stronger and that is enough to deceive the fans that we are actually building something that will last. Like all builders, we will disappear soon, having made whatever deposits up-front that we could (and Shane Long is a great help with this) in the expectation that someone else will come in and finish part of the job. I am calm and confident that this is how it is supposed to be.
Obviously, I spoke with Claude before I joined, and he confirmed that as long as you have a name that is difficult to pronounce consistently, let alone spell, then you will be accepted here. I would repeat that his problem was that he tried a little bit too hard and raised football fans’ expectations – especially with that run to the EFL Cup Final and, even then, not realising his mistake and actually trying to win it. He has learned his lesson, I think, and should not have that problem at Leicester.
For sure, I am the right man to test the patience of the Saints – even when failing to get really, really angry about Watford’s equaliser that even my mother on dial-up in Cordoba felt had been handled badly. This is who I am. I was the first Argentine player at Liverpool and, as a defender, felt that it was not my place to do well – so I didn’t. I took Deportivo Alaves to their first-ever Copa del Rey Final last season before losing to Barcelona, obviously. Barca were expected to win and it would have been wrong of us to stand in the way – this is football and, I would repeat again, how we do things at Southampton.
My greatest achievement came at Estudiantes de La Plata where I was sacked by Juan Sebastian Veron. Nobody in the whole of South America, Manchester or West London could have believed that anyone could have been worse at football than him, but I broke the mould. They still talk about it on the streets of Buenos Aires when looking for words closer to Peron for inspiration.
I was the right man until I left. That will be how Southampton fans will remember my time here, I think. Many of them might also wish that I had chosen to use striped chilli peppers in my recipes rather than sun-dried tomatoes – which are similar in colour but have no bite. This is football.”