Real Madrid had just won the European Cup but within days, the manager had been sacked. Despite it being the fourth European Cup on the bounce – and Luis Carniglia’s second – the Argentine born manager did not keep his job. His fault; he had refused to play Ferenc Puskas in the final of the 1958-1959 European Cup.
That represents the ruthlessness of the Real Madrid managerial position. It is in effect a reality steeped in the psyche of the club. From the golden years of winning the first five European Cups in a row, Real Madrid have always ensured that the manager’s lifespan is a short ordeal.
It began with Santiago Bernabeu, the president of the club who ensured that golden era existed with his ridiculous spending of money on talented footballers at the time. Puskas represented such a high expenditure purchase of top class talent. Carniglia thus was in a quandary even though he delivered the ‘trophy with the Big Ears.’
Bernabeu essentially cultivated the power of the Real Madrid president. The hand of the president rules and his word is law. Major decision thus rise and fall on the president’s volition. It seems tyrannical and as the evidence proves, it is unrealistic.
It is thus why it is no surprise that even Carlo Ancelotti has succumbed to these unreachable standards. A manager who won the Champions League last year, and pipped FC Barcelona to the Copa del Rey has now been dismissed a year later. Many managers would dream of reaching a Champions League Final and finishing second in their own domestic league. At Real Madrid however, there is much more that should be achieved.
Indeed, Ancelotti is lucky to not be in Vicente Del Bosque’s shoes, who won La Liga in 2002-2003 but was sacked for not defending the Champions Leagu triumph of a season earlier. Likewise, Jupp Heynckes lost his job in 1998 despite leading Real Madrid to a Champions League but without a La Liga title to show for it.
And it is not only about titles. On two separate occasions, Fabio Capello has managed los merengues. On both occasions, he has won La Liga, but was sacked after only a season (on both occasions) for having not displayed a style of football that could be considered aesthetically pleasing to the eyes.
Thus, the variables upon which a Real Madrid manager is judged on is different and far much higher than any other club in the world. Ancelotti has proved no exception.
The Italian manager is however not entirely excused. With the money provided to him and with the squad at his disposal, it has seemed remarkably meek the manner in which he has surrendered the Champions League and Copa del Rey. Knocked out in these competitions came as a matter of whimper – an end that came with no fighting cause.
There is also his poor league record. In what will be his 20th year of management, 18 of which have been at clubs that can boast ludicrous amounts of money, Ancelotti only has three league titles to his name. The light is shed more on the ones he did not win, such as with PSG in 2011-2012 when he succumbed to a much weaker Montpellier side, or in 2010-2011 when his double winning Chelsea looked so devoid of confidence in surrendering its title to Manchester United.
Certainly, his league record has worked against him, especially in the manner in which Madrid have flattered to deceive in his two seasons at the helm. La Liga has eventually been won by a team other than Madrid despite the gigantic efforts of Cristiano Ronaldo’s goals.
That would hypothetically not be the case with a manager such as Sir Alex Ferguson, or even Jose Mourinho or Pep Guardiola. To have a somewhat shaky two seasons in the league would be unbelievable – and the aforementioned managers would probably crack the whip and cause earthquakes around the club so as to ensure a competitive front in the league challenge.
Then again, that is not in Ancelotti’s nature. A laid back person of calm and composure, Ancelotti is a peaceful influence. A relaxed atmosphere surrounds him. This probably explains why he seems to do better in cup competitions – where the relaxed attitude of a one off can raise a team. In turn, a league season of 10 months requires moments of abrasiveness and authoritarianism. Ancelotti has none of that.
But beyond that, it is the imbalance of the squad that has made his job difficult. The assembly of stars in Florentino Perez’s galacticos project has now descended into realms of uncoordinated fashion. Real Madrid’s squad is now top heavy in attack, but lacking midfielders who correspond to that attacking quality (especially at the back of midfield). This has seen egos clash and when up against an organised elite team – such as Juventus, Barcelona, Atletico Madrid or even Valencia – Madrid have struggled.
At the crux of the matter however is that management entails a manager working with what he has been provided. At Real Madrid, far much is provided in terms of resources than at probably any other club in the world. Therefore, far much is expected than at probably any other club in the world.
In that case therefore, for all the heights that Ancelotti scaled last season, it is the heights he did not scale this season that has seen him knocked off the managerial perch.