Madrid's big mistake: The case for Carlo
When a young Carlo Ancelotti was undertaking his managerial education at the Italian Football Federation’s famous Covernacio training ground, he composed a research article titled “Il futuro del Calcio: più dinamicità”. This translates as “the Future of football; more dynamism.” Twenty years later, that article represents the perfect metaphor for Ancelotti’s subsequent career. His style of play is relatively attacking, surprisingly for an Italian manager, but more importantly, he has written himself into the history books, achieving as much, if not more, than any of his peers. The future of football, as it turns out, was Carlo.
Despite Ancelotti’s massive success and influence over the game of football over the last two decades, he has yet again found himself out of a job. Florentino Perez has wielded his egotistical axe and decided that Real Madrid would be better off without the manager who brought them ‘La Decima’. This decision is almost certain to prove to be a big mistake.
Though slightly underrated in some quarters, Ancelotti is probably the best manager of his generation, and certainly one of the greatest of all time. He has brought success and improvement everywhere he has gone, not least Real Madrid, by winning a tenth Champions League title for the Spanish giants. He also won two Champions League trophies during his time at AC Milan, meaning that only he and Bob Paisley have won the European Cup three times as a manager. This shows just how high a calibre of manager Ancelotti is.
At Real Madrid, despite a failure to win the league in two seasons, which is a disappointment for a club of their stature, Ancelotti has the second best win record of any Los Blancos manager. The only man with a better record than the Italian was also sacked in harsh circumstances; this was current Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini. Ancelotti, then, is clearly one of the best managers Real have ever had the pleasure of employing.
It is not just Real Madrid where Ancelotti has been successful; in fact, every club he has managed showed remarkable improvements from having Carlo at the helm. His first club, Reggiana, were promoted to Serie A in Ancelotti’s first season as manager. At Parma, he not only helped to bring through players such as Gianluigi Buffon, Fabio Cannavaro, and Hernan Crespo, but also took them into the Champions League places in his first season. At Chelsea, he won the double in his first season, and he started the process of turning Paris Saint-Germain into a European force. Even at Juventus, which is regarded as a failure for Ancelotti, he took them from a 7th place finish under Marcelo Lippi to second the next season. Improvement and success comes as part of the package you get with Ancelotti.
Real Madrid have something in common with all but one of Carlo’s other clubs; they only afforded Ancelotti a maximum of two seasons at the helm. Admittedly, he left Reggiana and PSG, but at the rest he was sacked despite his good records at each respective team. The only place Ancelotti managed for more than two seasons was AC Milan, where, in his third season, he won the first of two Champions League titles. When given time at Milan, Ancelotti built the best team in the world, which was only really cut short thanks to the Calciopoli scandal of 2006, which sucked Milan and Serie A of their credibility, money and stars. Again, this shows the remarkable success of Carlo Ancelotti and why Real were incredibly rash to get rid of him.
The one real criticism that can be levelled at Ancelotti is his lack of success in the league. At Milan, he only won one league title, and failed to win one at Real Madrid. In fact, throughout his career he has managed just three league titles. This is a slightly disappointing stat, but his European success counters this, and had it not been for the effects of playing in the Club World Cup and the fatigue that brings, Real would probably be celebrating the league title rather than Barcelona.
Alas, Ancelotti has gone regardless of the success that may have come, and looks set to be replaced by Rafael Benitez, the man who denied Ancelotti a certain Champions League title thanks to the Miracle of Istanbul and Liverpool’s remarkable comeback. Despite Benitez’ obvious success, and the fact he has won La Liga, it is impossible to escape the feeling that he is a slight trade down on Ancelotti. Both are more successful in Europe than domestically, and they play similar styles of football, although Benitez is slightly more pragmatic on balance. Benitez will be a solid manager for Real Madrid, but is vastly the same as Ancelotti, which begs the question, why did Real not just keep Carlo?
Florentino Perez seems to have made a grave error. He has not only sacked Real Madrid’s second best manager in terms of win percentage and one of just two men to have won three European Cups but also the best coach of the last twenty years. Ancelotti has achieved success everywhere he has been, and when given time, has shown he can build a dynasty as was seen at Milan in the mid-2000s. Benitez and whoever inevitably replaces him will probably still achieve success, due to the nature of the club, its bottomless money pit and ‘Galactico’ mentality. Ancelotti will achieve success due to his own nature. Real Madrid will struggle to find anyone better, and will regret his sakcing, whereas Carlo can build success somewhere else, happy in the knowledge he was a hit with Real Madrid’s players and trophy cabinet. Wherever he goes next, Carlo can write a new ‘futuro del Calcio.” At 55, he still is the future of football.