His appointment was inevitable and unavoidable. Last week saw by far the worst kept secret in soccer become reality as Carlo Ancelotti signed a three year contract with Real Madrid, signaling the end of a long term pursuit by Florentino Perez for the manager, dating back to 2009, and simultaneously commencing what looks to be a fruitful relationship.
Late last month, Madrid announced the departure of Jose Mourinho, bringing to an end three successful yet turbulent years at the club. Political fall-outs with the club’s hierarchy, in conjunction with fraught relationships with fans, media and players all marred a reign, which despite winning every Spanish title on offer over a three year period in hindsight his reign will be seen as a failure
On the other side of the spectrum, the Italian tactician arrives at Madrid coming off a successful two-year spell at French based club Paris Saint-Germain. The signings of Thiago Silva and Zlatan Ibrahimovic amongst others brought about success en-route to a Ligue 1 title and a successful run into the quarter finals of the Champions League before their hopes of European success were dashed as they were eliminated by eventual semi-finalists Barcelona thanks in large to a brilliant display by hamstrung Lionel Messi.
Having been described as a ‘peacemaker’ by Madrid based Marca prior to his imminent arrival, Ancelotti will be tasked with not only wrestling away the coveted La Liga crown off their Catalan rivals, but also claiming the allusive La Decima, a title which played a role in his predecessor’s eventually departure.
Before he commences his pursuit of silverware, Ancelotti will be faced with the unavoidable task of rebuilding a side which has been left divided and lacking in confidence. And with egos of likes of Sergio Ramos, Cristiano Ronaldo and Pepe, it will be no easy task. Nevertheless, throughout his career, the Italian has been seen as a father-like figure and dressing room problems should prove to be a task he is capable of resolving.
Despite having obtained fewer trophies than Mourinho throughout his career, Ancelotti has the added benefit of playing at the professional level in what was considered to be the best league in Europe, Serie A. He has seemingly grown with the game. Before becoming a manager, he played as a technical midfielder in the famous Milan shirt under the guidance of Fabio Capello, from whom he picked up a vast array of tactical knowledge, which in turn allows for tactical flexibility.
Ancelotti will be expected to come up with a shrewd tactical plan. He has shown his knowledge of football through the use of several similar yet different formations throughout his career. This is different to Mourinho’s chronic counter-attacking styled football, which many fans were displeased with.
When he finally returned to San Siro as a manager, Ancelotti used a balanced 4-3-2-1 formation. This in turn evolved into a diamond at Chelsea and at PSG where he made use of a trequartista, a midfielder behind a lone striker. A perfect example would be Kaka’s role back at Milan or even Zidane’s, a role which he made famous during his time at the Juventus. And with the arrival of Isco imminent, he will surely be deployed to feature in that aforementioned role, a position which will bring the best out of both the player and the team.
It is expected that Ancelotti will stick with the 4-2-3-1, a formation which his predecessor had used. However he will offer tactical variations to the previously sterile counter-attacking style of play.
With Gonzalo Higuain set to leave, Benzema will lead Madrid’s attack with prodigy Alvaro Morata serving as his understudy. Isco and Mesut Ozil will have to fight for the trequartista role whilst, if the transfer is successful. If signed, Gareth Bale will line up on the flanks with Ronaldo set to retain his position, should he not leave the Bernabeu for Old Trafford. A ‘double pivot’ will be in place that will help in obtaining an attacking/defending balance with Alonso and Khedira/Modric set to feature in that role. Defense should see Ramos and Varane in the center with Arbeloa likely to lose his position to Carvajal, who recently returned after a spell at Bundesliga side Leverkusen and Marcelo expected to return as left back.
Despite the tactical differences between both managers, the support of media, Madridistas and the club’s hierarchy will be a decisive factor. Ancelotti comes in without a previous history of controversy. He has in the past enjoyed fruitful relationships with presidents such as Silvio Berlusconi and Roman Abramovich. He has a strong character and demands respect from the egos and should give club affiliates a much need confidence boost that their four year pursuit was not in vain.
And now that the Mourinho era now ended, Madrid need to move forward and put an end to the air of negativity surrounding the Bernabeu.
All in all, Ancelotti’s qualities both on and off the pitch are promising signs of a fruitful long term relationship. For he is the ideal replacement for Mourinho, the man for the future.
Follow Cronan on Twitter: @CrowzarY