08/03/18 - Nostradamus
Things seemingly moved quickly from the outside when the 64-year-old was appointed but really, it was a long-term project to get him to the capital
It was an appointment nearly seven months in the making.
Manuel Pellegrini let it slip in his first on-camera interview with West Ham, probably unintentionally, that he had watched a lot of Hammers matches last season while manager of Hebei China Fortune in the Chinese Super League. There is a reason for that.
Slaven Bilic was sacked as West Ham manager on November 6 after Karren Brady arrived at the Rush Green training ground, two days after the 4-1 defeat to Liverpool at the London Stadium to deliver the news we all knew was coming.
What we didn't know was that very soon after, the wheels were already in motion to bring former Manchester City manager Pellegrini to east London.
Back in October 2017, Croatian Bilic was clinging to his job in the capital. The 3-2 win against Spurs in the Carabao Cup bought Bilic some time but it was not going to be enough. He was eventually dismissed with the Hammers in the Premier League relegation zone after a dismal start to the season.
Pellegrini engaged in talks with West Ham in the immediate aftermath of Bilic's sacking to return to the Premier League and to take the reigns in east London. Numerous telephone and email conversations were exchanged but Pellegrini didn't meet with West Ham at that time.
Before 2017 was out though, the two parties had met, talks progressed and Pellegrini and the club had a handshake plus a gentleman's agreement that it would be him that would eventually take over in east London.
The new manager had already discussed transfer targets, his backroom staff joining him in the capital and the transfer budget with the club. That is expected to be fulfilled this summer.
Enter David Moyes.
The Scotsman was employed with the sole task of keeping West Ham in the Premier League, essentially warming the seat until Pellegrini arrived. Moyes was never going to spend more than half a year at the London Stadium. There was a reason he was only given a six-month deal. Moyes was always a stop gap between Bilic and Pellegrini.
The former Sunderland boss held up his end of the bargain and steered West Ham to a 13th place finish in the Premier League and while he may not have known it, he wasn't going to be sticking around after May 2018. He was handed £2.5m for his six months employment in east London.
Not bad work if you can get it.
That also explains why Moyes was somewhat undermined at the end of his tenure when pictures emerged of Shakhtar Donetsk manager Paulo Fonseca arriving at Hammers co-owner David Sullivan’s Essex mansion to have “talks” with the top brass. Those talks were never going to amount to anything, as proved by Fonseca signing an extended contract in Donetsk - it was a smokescreen.
The same applies to Newcastle United manager Rafael Benitez. It was all a ruse.
Stories emerged that the Spaniard was proving hard to lure away from Tyneside but he was never likely to take over thanks to the agreement with Pellegrini.
Pellegrini had said to West Ham back in 2017 that there was no chance of him leaving the Far East and his incredibly lucrative contract when he was first approached to take over at the London Stadium. Give it six months however then a severance deal could be done.
Six months later, that’s how it has turned out.
Pellegrini announced his departure from Hebei China Fortune on May 19 after their 2-1 victory over Chonqing Lifang in the CSL and as quick as a flash, the 64-year-old was on a flight to London. Before his flight had landed in the UK, Pellegrini's £8m-per-year contract was officially agreed to take over West Ham.
The manager and co-chairman had a pleasant time in central London that evening following touchdown for the Chilean, before returning to Sullivan’s home. That was nothing but a formality, the club photographer had already arrived to capture the moment and contracts were signed that evening.
Pellegrini was announced as West Ham’s new manager at 8am on Tuesday morning.
The new manager has spoken of his excitement and the project in store for him in east London in his first words as West Ham’s 17th manager. In reality, that project began way back in November 2017.
West Ham have got their man. It was a process that started some time ago and was the long-term plan for the club after a torrid 18 months at the London Stadium that led to Bilic's sacking. Now, we wait and see what the future holds.