Carlo Ancelotti is the star manager Everton crave - but does he have the right credentials to transform a club outside the elite?
The Italian has managed some of the biggest clubs in the world, yet the job required at Goodison Park is radically different
After the last game at Goodison Park, Duncan Ferguson marked his stirring debut victory over Chelsea by ruling himself out of contention for the top job.
“If we bring in one of the best managers in the world, what a fantastic experience it would be for me to work with him,” the cult hero of a caretaker said.
All of which sounded a little optimistic, given he had taken over a team 17th in the Premier League table, but perhaps Ferguson knew something everyone else did not.
The last time he was at Goodison Park, Carlo Ancelotti was sacked in a corridor after the final game of the 2010-11 season. He took it in typically phlegmatic fashion, boarding the plane back to London with the Chelsea players and inviting his staff out for drinks later.
Fast forward eight years and there may be an improbable sequel. Everton are yet to offer Ancelotti a contract but could appoint him manager this week. A club who have often seemed to possess more ambition than realism in Farhad Moshiri’s reign may land an unlikely target.
Everton’s long and storied history has produced 15 major trophies. So has Ancelotti’s managerial career. If Ronald Koeman thought he was bigger than Everton then Ancelotti, albeit a rather less egotistical man, could be forgiven for harbouring the same feelings.
He is without doubt an all-time great. Whether, to refer back to Ferguson’s assertions, he still qualifies as one of the best in the world is a moot point. His spells at Bayern Munich and Napoli ended unceremoniously. They were Ancelotti’s first mid-season sackings and, if he was not a failure at either club, his star has waned a little.
Perhaps the A-list jobs are going to others now. He talked to Liverpool four years ago, but they opted for Jurgen Klopp instead. He was not even Everton’s first choice, but Vitor Pereira said no.
Liverpool is a relevant precedent. Ancelotti can be the amiable conciliator, the skilled man-manager who is comfortable in the company of the playing greats and can ease them to glory.
The task at Everton now, like Liverpool in 2015, is bigger and broader: to revive and reinvent, to bring drive and dynamism. Maybe that is why Arsenal, another whose malaise makes it a long-term project, pursue the younger Mikel Arteta instead. Ancelotti is 60 and has not lasted more than two years anywhere since his eight-season spell at AC Milan ended a decade ago.
Since he shed his status as a disciple of Arrigo Sacchi, so devoted to 4-4-2 he discarded Gianfranco Zola and turned down the chance to sign Roberto Baggio, he has had few pretensions to being a footballing ideologue. But his pragmatism has often entailed changing little.
That is not in the job spec at Everton, given the extent to which they lost their way this season under Marco Silva. An unbalanced squad will be one challenge, combatting a host of injuries another.
The greatest, though, is that the context has changed. Ancelotti has 21 top-six finishes in as many attempts as a manager. Even before the Silva slide, Everton were outsiders for the top six; this will be the first time Ancelotti is given a club outside the elite and is charged with smashing their glass ceiling.
The job at Goodison Park is for a transformative manager; the triple Champions League winner has to alter much simply to reach the Champions League.
But for Moshiri, the owner who can be blinded by stardust and who called England’s north-west “the Hollywood of football” when he appointed Koeman, appointing Ancelotti would be a coup that would give him his own Oscar-winning director at the helm of the picture.
Updated: December 17, 2019 03:49 PM