x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Carlo Ancelotti comes to Real Madrid with great managerial record

He has won in three different countries but a new challenge awaits the humble Italian, writes Ian Hawkey.

Carlo Ancelotti passed on a previous offer to coach Real Madrid in 2009 but the Italian answered the call this summer after leading Paris St Germain to the French Ligue 1 title. Ali Haider / EPA
Carlo Ancelotti passed on a previous offer to coach Real Madrid in 2009 but the Italian answered the call this summer after leading Paris St Germain to the French Ligue 1 title. Ali Haider / EPA

Real Madrid's last coach was a ravenous collector of medals. Though he has had a barren time over the last 12 months, Jose Mourinho seldom tires of reminding how rapidly and regularly he acquires trophies and prizes.

The man who now succeeds him at the club with the highest yield of silverware in the most important club competition invented, the European Cup, would be entitled to do the same, only he is less of a bragger.

Carlo Ancelotti last season took Paris Saint-Germain to their first French Ligue 1 triumph of the century, adding a third different country's championship to a resumé that already includes an Italian Serie A title as coach of AC Milan, and the English Premier League trophy he guided Chelsea to.

Like Mourinho, he has won the main domestic prize of every nation he has worked in. Like Mourinho, he has twice claimed the Uefa Champions League. As a distinguished midfielder for Roma and Milan, Ancelotti also has leagues and European Cups on his playing CV.

Yet what Madrid partly seek in the 54-year-old silver-haired Italian are qualities which mark him out as very distinct from his predecessor. Ancelotti can be trusted not to thrust a finger in the eye of an opponent, as Mourinho did to Barcelona's Tito Vilanova following a defeat for Madrid. It can confidently be predicted he will be sent off the from the technical area by referees fewer times per season than Mourinho used to be at Madrid.

Nonetheless, he is accepting a post with unique pressures, a job at a club with a complicated political hierarchy, an amplified media environment unlike the largely comfortable one with which Ancelotti developed smooth relationships in Milan.

He will have been advised about much of that by Arrigo Sacchi, a former director of football at Madrid and the man who, having coached Ancelotti as a player at Milan, and taken him on as an assistant with Italy's national team in the 1990s, initially guided Ancelotti into management.

Ancelotti has had plenty of time to think about the Real Madrid position. The current president, Florentino Perez, has approached him before, notably in the period when the club shattered several transfer records by luring Cristiano Ronaldo, Kaka and Karim Benzema in a single transfer window.

Ancelotti said no then, and moved instead to Chelsea. His experience with PSG since has added to his worldliness and although he maintains in his work aspects of the tactical rigour characteristic of Italian coaches, he will arrive in Spain unlikely to be stereotyped as defensive.

His Milan were not built that way, his Chelsea had flair and PSG, a team constructed quickly, on the back of a sudden influx of money, made a favourable enough impression in Europe last season.

"He's a coach who allows players to express themselves," says Clarence Seedorf, who thrived at Milan under Ancelotti and experienced, as a player, the roller-coaster that life at Real Madrid can be. Ancelotti is Madrid's 12th coach in 10 years.

Perez, president for the second time – having stepped down in 2006 before returning in 2009 – holds a significant responsibility for that high turnover.

But among Ancelotti's survival skills are a deft pragmatism in dealing with the bold ego, the restlessness or impatience of bosses. He has acquired an interesting collage of those: from Silvio Berlusconi, who has a habit of claiming credit for tactical schemes whenever Milan triumph; to Roman Abramovich, the oligarch at Chelsea with a low tolerance threshold, particularly of managers; to the Qatar-backed regime at PSG, where the director of football, Leonardo, is currently under suspension for manhandling a referee.

Ancelotti's prevailing calm, his urbane authority is attractive to diligent, ambitious players in such environments. And in the quote-obsessed, multimedia age, his single, quizzical, raised eyebrow to odd lines of questioning has become a press conference classic.

A close acquaintance of the Italian talks of his genuine range of interests outside football as a useful "escape" from its claustrophobic world, and of the importance to "Carletto", as friends and family know him, of the downtime he spends in rural Reggio Emilia, the area he comes from.

He will be keen, though, after a delay that he and Madrid found frustrating in releasing him from his PSG contract, to busy himself quickly with his new job.

There are issues of squad personnel at the Bernabeu to resolve – the future of Kaka, once the star of Ancelotti's Milan, among them – and, as far as Perez is concerned, the urgent matters of the 15-point advantage Madrid gave up to Barcelona in last season's domestic Primera Liga table, and the club's sequence of three successive defeats at the semi-final stage of the Champions League.

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