Press Association “In football you never know but the normal thing is to continue improving.” City, with the experience of their 2012 title win behind them, their talented squad and financial muscle, head into 2014 as the league favourites. The club have bold ambitions to build on that and not only win more silverware, but establish themselves as England’s dominant footballing force. Pellegrini hopes to be the man to oversee that progression, but knows in such a tight competition that will not be straightforward. He said: “I think we must try at least. It is very difficult to be the dominant club here in England. “Chelsea is a very strong team, Manchester United is, Arsenal is, Tottenham, Liverpool – it is very important to be fighting to be the best team.” Pellegrini is also hoping striker Stevan Jovetic’s luck will finally turn in the second half of the season. The Montenegro striker was signed for £22million from Fiorentina in the summer but has made just five appearances due to various disorders. Jovetic had niggling injuries soon after his arrival and then had a long lay-off with a calf problem. His potential return in December was scuppered by illness and he is now out again with a hamstring injury. Pellegrini said: “I hope this will be the last time he is out and he can start playing normally. He is a very important player and we need him. “I suppose he has had very bad luck in his first part of the year. I hope that the second half will be very good for him.” Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini is happy with his first six months in the job – but knows things must still improve. Yet the Chilean was also set the challenging task of winning five trophies in the next five seasons when he was appointed in the summer, and he knows further improvement is expected. Pellegrini, lured from Malaga after the sacking of Roberto Mancini, said: “It is unbelievable how fast the time goes. “Six months here is a lot of time, but it was very short for me. “Playing every few days the time runs, but after six months I am very happy and very settled here in England. “It is a good club. Working with the team, I always think the first months are the most difficult for a manager, or the players starting a new job. “To be in the position that we are now already, I think it is a very good start for the season. “But the important thing is to continue learning, always, not just this year but every year and not always in the Premier League, everything. “It is very important to be improving, always. City head into the second half of the 2013-14 season well placed, a point off the top of the Barclays Premier League and still involved in the Champions League and Capital One Cup. Pellegrini also appears to have fulfilled the stated requirement of the club’s hierarchy to improve the team’s style of football, with 82 goals scored across all competitions.
Lionel Messi has spoken glowingly about Gerardo Martino following the emergence of his fellow Argentinian as the favourite to succeed Tito Vilanova as the manager at Camp Nou.Barcelona’s sporting director, Andoni Zubizarreta, is in Buenos Aires for talks with Martino, who led Newell’s Old Boys to the Argentinian Clausura title last season but recently severed ties with the club.Messi would welcome Martino’s appointment. He told Diario Ole: “I like Tata Martino. He is a great coach and he showed that in the Clausura with what he did for the team, the way it ended and how he did it. He gets his teams playing well and we all respect him.”Barcelona announced on Friday that the 44-year-old Vilanova was stepping down as he continues his battle with cancer. Martino, who also coached Paraguay, has been heavily tipped to beat other candidates such as André Villas-Boas, Michael Laudrup, Marcelo Bielsa, Luis Enrique and Rubi.Feyenoord’s Ronald Koeman has ruled himself out. The former Barça and Holland defender said: “That is absolutely not on the cards for me. I do not know who it should be. It’s not something that affects me now. I’m more worried about the disease Vilanova has.”