Having suffered from a plague of controversy and acrimony under the rule of The Special One, Real Madrid decided to turn over a new leaf, or at least a slightly different one. In Carlo Ancelotti, the kings of Spain have acquired the services of a man with a wealth of experience and an array of silverware to boot – fourteen trophies to be exact, including two UEFA Champions League titles during his highly successful tenure at AC Milan.
With such a meaty back catalog of success in his previous managerial positions, combined with an international reverence that makes him one of the most powerful managers in contemporary football, Ancelotti was a no-brainer for Florentino Perez, eager to coerce his longstanding critics over to his side after being awarded a fourth term as the club’s president in spite of the negative press he has received since taking power in 2000.
Whereas in 2010, Jose Mourinho was the type of glamorous appointment associated with Perez’s reign at Madrid, Ancelotti is a sensible choice. This is not to discredit the Italian, who is without doubt the apt selection and a seasoned professional, but he does not court the same level of celebrity as his Portuguese predecessor. Unlike Mourinho, Ancelotti is stoic, reserved, and calculated in his actions, aspects of which his new employers would have been craving in the past year or so.
Ancelotti represents a change in the Madrid dynamic, a reversion to the ethos of old that insists upon attractive, eye-catching football on the pitch. With Zinedine Zidane at his side, the team is sure to return to their swashbuckling ways, whilst also retaining the solidity and brawn that characterized Ancelotti’s Milan side that boasted the refined talents of Paolo Maldini, Cafu, and Alessandro Nesta.
Under Mourinho, Madrid played effective football that brought positive results more often than not, but failed to impress the Bernabeu faithful who looked on in envy as Barcelona strutted their way to European and domestic glory, charming all those who witnessed the ingenuity of their tiki-taka philosophy.
Madrid are not used to playing second fiddle, an affliction that Mourinho failed to overcome, and the supporters will be hoping that the new man in charge can steer them on the right path, affording supporters and the men in the boardroom with the triumphs that they expect year in, year out. Perez seems highly optimistic, overtly confident that he has snagged the right man:
“At this temple of ‘Madridismo’, we begin a new chapter with Carlo Ancelotti at the helm of the first team,” the supremo told the assembled press. “He is a man who possesses great knowledge of the game, an intelligent winner and an extraordinary person.
These are flattering words from Perez, a man who has not been afraid to openly criticise his employees in the past. However, a thinly veiled threat lay in his praise for the Italian as the bulbs flashed and the babble of excitement began to swell:
“Ancelotti is used to the highest pressure of the most intense coaching jobs, but he has to know that nothing he has experienced so far will be like what awaits him at this club. We are talking about one of the world’s top coaches. As a player, he was a fundamental part of the great AC Milan side. But you have to know, Carlo, that the Champions League is the most coveted trophy, both for our members and our fans…”
The message could not have been any clearer; win the crown jewels, or face the axe. Los Blancos, in spite of their power and their star-studded cast of players in the past and present, have not gone all the way in Europe since 2002, when Zidane struck gold with a volley that defied the boundaries of logic. Now, matters have reached boiling point, and desperation is beginning to fester on and off the pitch. Many an esteemed manager has perished under the sword of Perez, their efforts in Spain deemed unsatisfactory regardless of the La Ligas, Copa Del Reys, and Spanish Cups picked up along the way.
If Ancelotti believes that he can win the plaudits by merely obtaining the league, he need look no further than the brutal sacking of Fabio Capello in 2007 as a potent forewarning of the looming guillotine that hangs above him every moment of every day. Having been unfairly relieved of his duties at Chelsea by Roman Abramovic, Ancelotti is no stranger to the impulsive barbarism that takes place at the top of the football hierarchy. But at Madrid the ice is very thin, so he will have to skate with great care and skill if he is to become a success story instead of another high-profile dud.