After weeks of negotiations and wrangling, Real Madrid today announced that they have finally got their man and that Carlo Ancelotti has agreed a three-year contract to be the new manager of Los Blancos.
The 54-year-old arrives in Spain as a replacement for Jose Mourinho, whose somewhat tumultuous three-year term at the Santiago Bernabeu came to an end last month. After the brashness of the Portuguese, president Florentino Perez is going in a different direction with the more demure Italian.
Ancelotti is very much the chalk to Mourinho's cheese. He's a man who doesn't really care for giving great quotes, for whom press conferences are a pre- and post-game requirement, rather than a chance to impress.
However, whilst their perceived personalities may differ greatly, the hiring of Ancelotti is set with the same goal in mind as that of Mourinho: Achieving la decima.
Over his distinguished managerial career, Ancelotti's record stands up to heavy scrutiny. After all, not everybody has it in them to achieve league titles in Italy, England and France. But let us not kid ourselves as to the reasons behind why he's been hired. It is his two Champions League crowns with AC Milan that have played a major part in landing him this role.
Ever since Perez began his Galacticos project with the signing of Luis Figo back in 2000, his want has been Spanish and European domination. Yet, since that day only one European Cup has been forthcoming—the 2002 success at Hampden Park. Mourinho couldn't get the job done and his last season will be forever tinged with regret due to the dressing room instability and the split caused between sections of the Bernabeu support.
As such, Perez has turned to Ancelotti, a man who time and time again has proven himself to be a tactically astute customer, capable of landing Europe's top crown. This is a guy who played a major role in the career ascension of Andrea Pirlo (who until his arrival in Milan had struggled to fulfill his potential at club level), the man who fit three natural playmakers—Pirlo, Clarence Seedorf and Kaka—seamlessly into a midfield quartet and who made Chelsea supporters forget about the aforementioned Mourinho during his two-year reign at Stamford Bridge, before his unceremonious and eye-raising dismissal by owner Roman Abramovich.
But more than that, Ancelotti has also proven himself, wherever he's been, to be a real player's manager, someone who creates and keeps a harmonious environment in the locker room. As such, there are very few with a bad word to say about the Italian:
"He's got my full support, I love Carlo," said Chelsea captain John Terry, reported by ESPN days before Ancelotti was sacked by Roman Abramovich.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic, when asked about Ancelotti's future after being named the best player of the Ligue 1 season, according to BBC Sport, said: "I don't want him to leave."
Indeed today, the former Real Madrid striker Fernando Morientes, currently working in the club's youth setup told AS:
I don't know him personally, but people have spoken to me about him. He's an individual with a lot of experience, both as a player and as a coach. He's the type of coach that players like. I think that he's the ideal coach for Real Madrid.
These last 12 months under Mourinho at Real Madrid have been rather painful. A club that is so often looked upon as an extravagant soap opera became something of a parody of itself as the background politics and off-field problems increasingly came into the public spectre.
Now, Los Blancos need to get back to football, with everyone at the club, from the coach to his players, the president to the tea lady all pulling in the same direction. In that regard Ancelotti is the man to achieve just that.
There will be critics of Ancelotti, those who will be unhappy in his appointment to replace Mourinho, citing just one league title in his eight-year spell at AC Milan. Yet his other successes have been plentiful, both as a player and as a manager, and the great skill of his somewhat laissez-faire management style has long been admired.
Make no mistake, after the last year, which promised so much but delivered so little, Real Madrid needed a change of direction. The turbulence offered by Mourinho's presence had become too much and had played a big part in their failings in 2012-13.
Now the more amiable Ancelotti will look to keep the nine-time European champions on a much smoother pathway. Expect Real Madrid, united behind their new captain, to return stronger both at home and on the continent next season.
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