Managerial battles between Manuel Pellegrini and Pep Guardiola don't have the same sort of spice as say, the latter and Jose Mourinho, but the sense that they are kindred spirits has never felt so palpable. In Spain, they met eight times, with Guardiola, always the Barcelona coach, enjoying great success (seven wins and one draw) against Pellegrini's Villarreal, Real Madrid and Malaga. Refreshingly, such contests were always about the actual football, and less about the clash of coaches - which suits both Pellegrini and Guardiola.
In theory, they should be arch rivals, having been on opposing sides of an El Clasico, but the feeling is that is a relationship of mutual respect. "It is very difficult at this moment to improve Bayern because they won three competitions last year," Pellegrini said earlier this week, "but he will find a way because he is a very good manager." It was the latest in a longstanding series of praise Pellegrini has lavished upon Guardiola, and the way in which he applauded his style - "his behaviour in the world of football has been incredible - not only because of the titles won, but also for the way he has conducted himself" - in 2012 showed Pellegrini's respect for Guardiola's calm, authoritative approach.
Intriguingly, Pellegrini revealed earlier this year that he was in consideration for the Barcelona job made vacant by the firing of Frank Rijkaard, until the board elected to promote Guardiola from within. In 2008, Barcelona finished third behind Pellegrini's Villarreal, prompting a great deal of soul-searching and the search for a managerial candidate that could fit their very specific demands: an attacking style, fostered through dominance of possession, and the promotion of talents from the youth team to build upon that style.
Barcelona decided that Guardiola was better suited to the task and Pellegrini was thus spurned by Barca, but it was no surprise that shortly later (a year later, to be exact) Real Madrid came calling. After all Villarreal were - and still are - the last team to break up the hierarchy that dominates the top of La Liga and even more heartening is that it was achieved with a proactive, technical game. Jorge Valdano has always praised Barcelona's style and it made sense when he said of Pellegrini that he "likes his team to be the protagonist: he seeks to dominate possession and always attack."
Having been usurped by Barcelona's ferocious tiki-taka that season, Madrid appointed Pellegrini not only to defeat that particular brand of football, but to implement a similar model at his new club.
It was natural then, that Txiki Begiristain, involved in the process that once seriously considered Pellegrini as a Barcelona manager, came calling for the Chilean in the summer. Begiristain's appointment as sporting director at Manchester City was the writing on the wall for the divisive Roberto Mancini, and the wording of the Italian's sacking - the much ridiculed 'holistic' reasons - illustrated the Barca-like nature of the project the Spaniard was seeking to install. Mancini, with his authoritative approach to dressing-room management, didn't align with the ideals espoused by City's new hierarchy.
In a perfect world Guardiola would have been Mancini's successor but having signed for Munich, it really is no surprise that Manchester City turned to Pellegrini. His attraction is obvious: he may not have won European titles, but his calmer, positive approach to both management and coaching made him the ideal candidate to lead City's bold new project. If Begiristain wants to eventually replicate the model of the Catalan giants in Manchester, a City win over Bayern, and the man who did so much to illustrate the potential of such a project, would be the ideal way to cement Pellegrini's credentials.