Roberto Mancini is likely to be dismissed in the next 48 hours by Manchester City, who accept that taking him as a lame-duck manager on next week's post-season tour to New York would be untenable and embarrassing for the club.
There were unconfirmed suggestions last night that the departure of the Italian, who was in London on Sunday will be announced on Tuesday. Mancini's latest barbed attack on his club's communications department, for not quashing stories that Chilean Manuel Pellegrini will succeed him, have contributed to the feeling at the highest levels of the club that his relationships with executives and players are not conducive to him taking the team to new levels.
Pellegrini on Sunday night denied any agreement was in place for him to take over at Manchester City. "Regards my future, I have not spoken to anyone. We will wait and see what happens at the end of the season," he said. "At this moment in time I have no agreement in place: not with Manchester City, not with Roma, not with Napoli, not with PSG, not with any of the clubs who have been mentioned."
But City's new Spanish chief executive, Ferran Soriano, and sporting director Txiki Begiristain have also been preparing for months to introduce a European-style football structure at the Etihad with a head coach running the team, rather than a manager.
It is a structure which Pellegrini will be familiar with.
Soriano is understood to have remarked privately in the past few months that he "didn't choose" Mancini as manager and Pellegrini, known to Soriano and Begiristain from his time at Real Madrid and Villarreal, told his Malaga players last week that he was leaving the club, where the money has run out and players are being sold.
Though Saturday's FA Cup defeat has revealed how far Mancini is from realising the potential on Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed al Nahyan's £1bn total investment, the Abu Dhabis appear to have been resigned for several months to the fact that they will have to dismiss him. City have not achieved his pre-season targets of reaching the Champions league knockout stage and retaining the title and the Wembley defeat simply makes the task of removing him less problematic.
Mancini has been critical of many of his club's English executives, to the point of open conflict at times, including former chief executive Garry Cook, academy director Brian Marwood and the medical staff. It was excruciating on Saturday evening when he named the club's respected communications director, Vicky Kloss, who was present in the room, during his public criticism of the media department for not quashing Friday night's story.
Mancini's future was already decided at that stage, so any club denials that evening of reports out of Spain that Pellegrini had been approached as a potential successor carried the risk of proving untrue. Instead, what the club said in the early hours of Saturday was that "no deal" had been done with Chilean.
Mancini does not appear to have been content with this. "The people who worked with us around the team, they are not strong enough for this job [and] they should improve," he said on Saturday night. "I am strong because my back is very strong and I don't have any problems with this. But I think that together we should improve."
It was when he named the communications director that the suggestion was put to him that such a suggestion was unreasonable. Mancini disagreed, though such was his agitation it was difficult to follow the thread of his argument.
Soriano has always attached great significance to his coaches' ability to motivate and communicate within his clubs; it was the reason why he liked Frank Rijkaard, his first coach at Barcelona, before the Dutchman went too far the other way and became too close to his players, to Soriano's mind. Soriano described Rijkaard's abilities in his own management manual, in terms which provide a revealing insight into why he is now looking for an alternative to the divisive manager Mancini is perceived to have become.
Soriano wrote of Rijkaard: "The Dutch manager did a good job of identifying the team's needs and took on the role of coach, in that he spent a lot of time talking to the players, listening to them and, when necessary took firm decisions in the interests of the group. The members of the team gradually sensed that in Rijkaard they had an experienced colleague who helped them, who also had a firm attitude and would be boss when the situation called for it, always acting in the best of the group." The Dutchman's leadership evolved to the point where Rijkaard could devolve responsibility to players and rely on them to act on it, Soriano said.
He praised Rijkaard's "coordination and conflict management, speaking to players in an approachable tone, always encouraging dialogue rather than adopting authoritarian methods. In 2005 Deco said they had won the league that year thanks to the fact that one day the whole of the team had met at a spa south of Barcelona and had openly discussed what they needed to do."
All that seems a long way from Mancini's methods this season, in which he has criticised scores of staff at his press conferences.
But above all, Soriano also wants a European football model in which a chief coach will be answerable to Begiristain, the sporting director, and a new style of football has already been prepared for, with a 4-3-3 technical football philosophy expected under Pellegrini. Asked to explain what assurances he would need from Malaga to stay beyond this summer, he added: "It's too complicated to discuss in a post-match press conference."
Mancini, who will be entitled to a multi-million pound pay-out with three remaining years on the contract he signed after winning the Premier League last season, was still in employment last night. Though he may be retained until the last game of the Premier League campaign, at home to Norwich City on Sunday, assistant Brian Kidd is expected to lead the New York trip.
- THE INDEPENDENT