The Italian coach has guided his team to a remarkable double success domestically and in Europe but the situation was not always so straightforward during the campaign
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Carlo Ancelotti is the man of the hour not only at Real Madrid but in world football after his side’s defeat of Liverpool in the Champions League final.
Ancelotti had already completed a remarkable coaching achievement this season. Last month he became the first boss to win a top flight in each of Europe’s top five leagues – Spain, Germany, Italy, France and England.
The Italian then became the first coach to reach five Champions League finals. He managed Milan to the finals in 2003, 2005 and 2007, then reached it with Real Madrid in 2014. Aside from 2005, the Italian has guided his side to victory on each occasion. The third record he was aiming for was to become the first ever manager to win four Champions League crowns. He has now ticked that off too.
The triumph capped a wonderful season for Real Madrid and followed on from the side securing their 35 th La Liga title last month – winning the league with four rounds of action still to play. Madrid cantered to the title and defied suggestions that Ancelotti was stronger managing in cup tournaments rather than a league format.
Yet it is easy to forget that all of this was, in a manner of speaking, an accident. Ancelotti was not Real Madrid’s manager this season by design, but because Zinedine Zidane resigned at the end of last season and the club were uncertain what their next step should be. Tentative approaches were made for managers, yet none were attainable due to being contracted elsewhere.
A chance phone call brought the opportunity for Ancelotti to return to the Spanish capital – a development which he had never expected – and leaving Everton, whom he guided to a top half finish in the Premier League last time out.
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Even amidst all the victories there have always been doubts about Ancelotti’s Madrid and the sustainability of the success. A particularly low point came in a humiliating four-goal loss in March’s El Clasico match against Barcelona. There were suggestions that match signalled a power shift in the rivalry back to Catalonia, with Xavi Hernandez’s side in much stronger form, but since then Madrid have won their two most prized trophies while Barca finished trophyless with plenty of worrying results.
Indeed, that result preceded an international break whereby Madrid president Florentino Perez summoned Ancelotti to a meeting to discuss the situation, as outlined by Marca. While the Italian’s future was not immediately under threat, Perez was worried and angered by the manner of performance and outcome for his side, despite their position atop the league.
The Italian coach is typically a calm and composed figure, and his way of dealing with the situation was in that fashion – while also providing a prophecy. “Do not worry, president,” reassured Ancelotti. “We’re going to win La Liga and the Champions League.”
That was after Madrid had eliminated Paris Saint-Germain at the Round of 16 stage in the Champions League but obviously preceded the stunning victories over Chelsea, Manchester City and Liverpool. Ancelotti may not always have convinced others, but he convinced himself, his president and his players of what they could and ultimately did do.