MADRID: Real Madrid’s drawn-out chase of Carlo Ancelotti finally came to an end on Tuesday when the club announced the Italian has been appointed as coach of the Spanish giants for the next three years.
Ancelotti succeeds Jose Mourinho after the Chelsea boss’ fiery three-year spell in charge of the nine-times European champions ended without a major trophy last season and president Florentino Perez seems to have deliberately targeted Ancelotti’s less confrontational persona to help Madrid return to winning ways.
The Portuguese provocator criticised a number of his players publicly in an attempt to shake them out of what he saw as falling standards due to a bad attitude, but instead Mourinho only served to create division and rancour both within the dressing room and amongst the club’s fans.
A return of just the Spanish Super Cup in 2012/13 was by Mourinho’s own admission scant reward for the money invested in the most expensive squad ever assembled.
After surrendering their league title to Barcelona by 15 points and falling once more at the semi-final stage of the Champions League, their campaign was summed up as both Mourinho and Cristiano Ronaldo were sent-off as Real lost to city rivals Atletico for the first time in 14 years to lose the Copa del Rey final in their own stadium.
And the arrival of the typically scorching Madrid summer has done little to dispel the doubts facing Real for next season.
Perez has been re-elected president without having to face an election due to the lack of a suitable opponent and the 24 days between Mourinho’s departure and Ancelotti’s arrival was the longest in Madrid’s history without a coach.
Uncharacteristically, Perez has also so far failed to deliver a big name signing to go with his new mandate and, rather than poaching the best players from other sides, there is even more concern about holding onto their own star man.
Ronaldo’s contract is due to expire in 2015 and despite Perez repeatedly saying in his plethora of interviews with the Spanish press in recent weeks that he expects the former World Player of the Year to stay, Ronaldo sent a strong message two weeks ago when he claimed via his Twitter feed that “all the news about my renewal with Real Madrid are false.”
The Portuguese captain is most likely taking advantage of the clear bargaining power he currently has over the club to ensure gets the best deal he possibly can.
However, all of those distractions makes it hardly the most settling time for Ancelotti to arrive.
The context though is also why the 54-year-old has been selected as the perfect man for the job.
Along with an impressive CV as both a player and manager, Ancelotti brings with him a much more laid back nature than the intense, seige mentality that Mourinho tried to instill.
He has won league titles in Italy, England and France and, most importantly as far as Madrid are concerned, has proved himself on the biggest stage of all by guiding AC Milan to the Champions League in 2003 and 2007.
A return to winning Europe’s biggest prize for the 10th time, “La Decima” as it is known in the Spanish capital, has become an obsession for Los Blancos.
It was the reason they wanted Mourinho in the first place; his ills would have been accepted had he delivered the trophy with the big ears as he had done at Porto and Inter Milan.
Now it is Ancelotti who is tasked with winning his third Champions League with a squad that given the right tonics to gel together again undoubtedly still has the talent capable of doing so.