Saturday night is not just the Copa del Rey final between Barça and Alavés— it’s also a reunion between the latter’s coach, Mauricio Pellegrino, and his former side. Kickoff at the Vicente Calderón is set for 9:30 PM Central European Time, when Pellegrino’s team, Deportivo Alavés, faces Futbol Club Barcelona, with the final domestic title of the 2016/17 season up for grabs.
Pellegrino has led Alavés to its first ever Spanish Cup final, in addition to a ninth-place finish in La Liga, Spain’s top flight.
This will be Pellegrino’s third clash with FC Barcelona this season, and it comes almost 19 years after he joined Barça as a central defender.
In the summer of 1998, Pellegrino arrived in the Catalan capital from Club Atlético Vélez Sarsfield, based in Buenos Aires. During his only season at Barça, in which the team was coached by Louis Van Gaal, Pellegrino helped the team win the La Liga title while bearing witness to a series of events that were carried out to celebrate the Club’s 100th anniversary.
Pellegrino, who was born in Córdoba, Argentina, on October 5th, 1971, appeared in 25 games for FC Barcelona in the league and Copa del Rey. His first match for FC Barcelona came on September 12th, 1998, in a 1–0 victory over Extremadura. Curiously, one of Pellegrino’s teammates was Barça’s current manager, Luis Enrique Martínez.
Pellegrino did not score a goal in his only season wearing the blaugrana shirt, although, curiously, he did play the night Barça clinched the league title with a 4–1 victory over Alavés in Vitoria. Luis Enrique even provided one of the goals. Pellegrino did not start the game, but came on to replace Pep Guardiola in the 71st minute.
And on Saturday night, Pellegrino, FC Barcelona, and Luis Enrique will reunite, albeit on opposite sides, to battle for the 2016/17 Copa del Rey.