Sunday saw Manchester City lift the Capital One Cup after a penalty shoot-out with Liverpool. It adds a second League Cup to Manuel Pellegrini’s CV but he won much more than silverware. He silenced critics and demonstrated that being a gentleman often pays dividends.
After Willy Caballero’s FA Cup performance against Chelsea, the only two men in the world that wanted to see him play in Sunday’s final were himself and Pellegrini. His showing a week before was so poor, he had made himself very droppable. The idea he is the domestic cup ‘keeper goes out of the window if form is so terrible.
Unless it’s Pellegrini’s window. He decided to take – what he presumably saw as a little – gamble. He explained that his word was more important than football. Keeping his promises surpassed any significance winning a trophy holds.
It is the sort of bold and open statement only a manager relieved of his duties can publically declare. As stated in Capital Gains, winning the League Cup offers a fresh surge of momentum.
Willy turning into a hero demonstrates how the cliché, a week’s a long time in football, couldn’t be more true. Such is the soap opera nature of the sport, when it went to penalties, it was almost inevitable Caballero was going to find redemption. From hero to villain, enabling him to sign off his City career in style (if it’s to be believed he will form part of a summer exodus).
His teary eyed interview on the field showed that top pros do care about the clubs they turn out for. It was touching to see a good guy get a reward for persevering.
Which brings us to Manuel Pellegrini. He placed himself in the firing line with his selection of Caballero. Victory – and its manor – justifies yet another decision is a week where his every action has been scrutinised.
It also brings a greater bonus. Any dissident voices in the dressing room will now be silenced for the remainder of the season. The players can look at City’s Charming Man and know they have a manager on their side. A gaffer that will stand by them and keep his word.
Honesty is an underrated trait and Pellegrini has it in abundance. Any wavering respect some players may have had, will be stamped out. Instead of working hard to impress Pep Guardiola, everyone has been given a reminder they still have work to do for the current boss.
With renewed unity they could be heading toward another domestic double. Even if they fall short, Pellegrini has given them a greater prize – proof that loyalty pays.