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Ancelotti – a lucky man or a master of winning hearts?

Even when leading Real to a 35th La Liga championship, Carlo Ancelotti still caused controversy about his management.

When I look at the training bench for the Everton game against Tottenham in April 2021 and there it is Carlo Ancelotti and Jose Mourinho, many people easily think of a Champions League semi-final or final a few years ago. Two strategists full of titles in the early 21st century reunited in the Premier League in the position of those who are out of time, no longer sought after by European giants. The draw against Everton that day was also Mourinho’s last match to lead Tottenham, before being sacked and transferred to AS Roma in the summer of 2021.

After more than a year, the position of the two people has changed rapidly. While Mourinho struggled but could not bring Roma into the top 4 of Serie A and was playing in the semi-finals of the European Third Division Conference League, Ancelotti has just entered history when Be the first coach won all five top European tournaments.

Coach Ancelotti lifts the La Liga Championship Cup in the 2021-2022 season at the Bernabeu.  Photo: RM

Coach Ancelotti lifts the La Liga Championship Cup in the 2021-2022 season at the Bernabeu. Image: RM

When Zinedine Zidane resigned as Real coach, President Florentino Perez did not have many options when most of Europe’s top military leaders were in place. One of his favorite options was that Max Allegri had initially agreed to go to Madrid, but ended up choosing to return to Juventus. Finally, Perez invited the old Ancelotti – who led them to the famous championship “La Decima”.

It was an unexpected comeback, when Ancelotti had not led a big team for four years in a row. For someone who has been in charge of traditional teams like Juventus, AC Milan, Real, Bayern or the new forces of European football in the past two decades like Chelsea and PSG, going to teams like Napoli and Everton from 2018 is clearly a step backwards.

But according to The Atheltic, if Ancelotti can revive his career at a big team, it can only be Real. The Bernabéu does not necessarily need great strategists, as evidenced by the failure of Mourinho and Rafael Benitez. One of the most essential things about being a Real Madrid manager is managing the dressing room and helping the individuals shine as bright as possible. That is something that Ancelotti instills, as he titled his autobiography: Quiet Leadership. In the book’s introduction, Ancelotti wrote that this was the secret to helping him “conquer people and win matches”. Winning the hearts of the players and making them fight hard has always been the guideline for Carletto’s success. When he failed to do this, the team results also became disastrous. A prime example is the last time leading Bayern, when a group of five pillars no longer wanted to see Ancelotti on the coaching bench. The result was a shameful 0-3 loss to PSG and a dismissal when the 2017-2018 season was only a month old.

When he returned to the Bernabeu, Ancelotti was greeted by President Perez and the changing room leaders Karim Benzema, Marcelo and Luka Modric – veterans left over from Ancelotti’s first term at Real. Rookie David Alaba is also a familiar place with Ancelotti from the time he was coaching Bayern. With these people, he created an irreplaceable vertical axis on Real’s La Liga crown.

In goal, Thibaut Courtois always plays when healthy. He is supported by the duo Alaba and Eder Militao in front of him, while Modric at the age of 37 still holds Real’s midline. On the attack, the duo of old generals – morning stars Benzema and Vinicius Jr. become the most watched duo in Europe. Unless injured, the names mentioned above are rarely absent from the Real squad.

Ancelotti with Benzema (left) and Vinicius wave to the fans on the road to celebrate the championship.  Photo: Reuters

Ancelotti with Benzema (left) and Vinicius wave to the fans on the road to celebrate the championship. Image: Reuters

That is also one of the great weaknesses throughout Ancelotti’s great career: rarely rotate the squad to the point of conservatism. He has won the national championship five times with five different big teams, but those are the only five national titles in 27 years in the profession. In the early stages of his career, Ancelotti could not win Serie A with Juventus despite having good players like Zidane, Del Piero or Pippo Inzaghi.

Even in eight years of leading AC Milan with living legends like Paolo Maldini, Cafu and superstars Andrea Pirlo, Kaka or Andriy Shevchenko…, Ancelotti has only won the Italian throne once. When he went to lead PSG in the middle of the 2011-2012 season, Ancelotti even lost the advantage of leading the table. With financial potential surpassing the rest of Ligue 1, PSG still finished with three points less than Montpellier and only won the following season.

During his first term at Real, Ancelotti, despite his success in the Champions League and Copa del Rey, failed in all competitions in La Liga. The cause of the collapse in the long-distance races of the teams led by Ancelotti often lies in physical problems and injuries. Due to little habit of rotating players, Ancelotti often uses a fixed frame for a long time, even in innocuous matches.

As a result, when entering the sprint phase of the season, the stars were exhausted and forced to sit out, leading to the loss of breath for the whole team. During his second term at the Bernabeu, Ancelotti maintained his old habits. According to WhoScored, only 16 Real players played in La Liga over 1,000 minutes. Names like Eden Hazard, Gareth Bale, Luka Jovic or Isco… none of them played more than 700 minutes and most of them only appeared on the field from the bench.

The habit of depending on a fixed frame has cost Ancelotti a couple of times this season. The most typical example is the El Clasico match, when Real received Barcelona at home and just won like a bamboo split before. However, without Benzema due to injury, Real’s upper line was completely helpless in scoring and witnessed the home team’s 0-4 defeat.

But it is a rare stumble on Real’s Liga race, as they have won 11 of the 15 matches they have played since the beginning of 2022. Apart from the defeat against Barcelona, ​​Real have only one other time without a point against Getafe in the match. New Year. That’s a respectable consistency at a big club, and even more extraordinary for a side of Ancelotti’s.

The great contributor to helping the hash age pillars like Benzema, Modric or Toni Kroos… still run well in the intense competition schedule is fitness coach Antonio Pintus. He worked at Real during the period when the Royal team won three consecutive Champions League titles. However, when Zidane resigned for the first time, Pintus remained and caused a rift with the French coach.

During his second term at the Bernabeu, Zidane chose Gregory Dupont as a fitness expert instead of Pintus – who returned to Italy to work for Inter. He continued to reap success as he helped the Milan side win the Scudetto for the first time in many years, while Dupont had an unforgettable time at Madrid. According to statistics, there were 114 injuries at Real under Dupont, 25% more than rivals Atletico and Barca.

When he returned to Madrid, Ancelotti was determined to bring Pintus back to overcome the shortcoming of being short of breath when racing on the road. This was a wise decision, when the whole of Europe had to be surprised with how Real’s old men played 120 minutes in the second leg of the Champions League quarter-final against Chelsea. Ancelotti understands the weaknesses in his own use of people and makes reasonable adjustments to bring about positive results.

Regardless of the controversy, Ancelotti is still one of the most successful coaches in history and is loved by his students.  Photo: AFP

Regardless of the controversy, Ancelotti is still one of the most successful coaches in history and is loved by his students. Image: AFP

But even after winning the Liga and bringing the home team to the semi-finals of the Champions League, there are still people like Antonio Cassano who think Ancelotti is just “lucky”. The former Italian player even said that Ancelotti “never made a player improve during his career”.

Perhaps when criticizing Ancelotti, Cassano forgot that Vinicius had grown from a raw gem in Zidane’s time to become an indispensable pillar of Los Bloncos with 18 goals and 15 assists. He also ignores the fact that despite being at Real for more than a decade, this is only the first time Benzema has hit the 40-goal mark a season. Those great advances all took place under Ancelotti.

If Ancelotti can once again bring Real to the top of Europe, perhaps no one will be able to call him a lucky man anymore. Throughout his career, Ancelotti has been on both sides of the upswing. He has had unbelievable defeats with Milan against Deportivo and Liverpool, and also has come back from the dead against PSG and Chelsea this season. It will be the greatest comeback of his career, if Ancelotti returns to the Champions League glory after two years with Everton in the middle of the Premier League scoreboard.

Thinh Joey

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