After the retirements of Jupp Heynckes and Sir Alex Ferguson, it seems that the most experienced manager left in the competition who can boast some level of Champions League success is Carlo Ancelotti.
But far from experience, the Italian manager brings so much more to Real Madrid. His tactical awareness has meant that he is willing to explore various formations. He may have written a thesis on the 4-3-2-1 –and this is the formation he has used at least once in every managerial job that he has had – but he is not stubbornly stuck to it.
At the same time, he provides contrast to his predecessor at the Bernabeu. Whereas Jose Mourinho was aggressive and abrasive in equal measure, making enemies out of everyone, Ancelotti is gentle and humble and adds subtlety. These qualities have seen him manage not only over the overbearing egos of star players, but also under the demanding conditions of Silvio Berlusconi and Roman Abramovich.
As such though, he finds himself in the hottest of seats. No team has greater egos than Madrid – no president is more demanding than Florentino Perez. At the same time, he is subject to fans whom Mourinho once said ‘even whistled (Zinedine) Zidane’. At Madrid you don’t just have to win – you have to do so playing an illuminating brand of football.
In a way thus, it could be that Real Madrid is to club football what Brazil is to international football. All the way down to how they envision the most prestigious competitions available to them with sheer obsession. In Brazil, the quest to win the World Cup is so grand that it is no longer referred to by its name. Numerical nomenclature has taken its place and so while the next World Cup win will become the sixth of its kind, the Brazilians are referring to it as ‘sexta’.
The same applies to Madrid, whose cornucopia is the Champions League. Similarly, the search for what would be the tenth European Cup has now been labelled ‘decima.’ The decimal however has taken more than a decade to materialise. It has set the narrative for every Champions League campaign. It has not ended.
And while even if it were to be captured would not signal an end – as a new obsession for an eleventh triumph would begin – the long wait means that its capture may bring about rapturous celebrations. Therefore, that a man as experienced in the European Cup as Ancelotti is at the helm of Real Madrid shows just what the target is.
As such, it would also prove to be a moment of personal glory to Ancelotti himself. Not only will he join the pantheon of greats to have led Madrid to a European Cup triumph, he would personally become the second man to ever lift the trophy three times as manager.
If joining Bob Paisley does not provide the greatest of incentives — while doing it as manager of the greatest team in the European Cup’s history — then what is. Then again, Jose Mourinho found himself in this same position for three years but did not manage it. He however was not as cool, calm, composed and collected as Ancelotti is.
[image courtesy of zimbio]