Carlos Ancelotti knows what it means to win a European Cup final. He knows how to win on the biggest stage of club football, and he arrived at Real Madrid – eager to address the club’s obsession with the tenth – with a history at a club who also have an insatiable hunger for the trophy.
The margins are thin. Had Sergio Ramos not scored Real Madrid equaliser in the Champions League final against Atletico Madrid, we may have been discussing Ancelotti as the former Real Madrid manager. Instead, he’ll now be given a stronger grasp of the reins to help guide the club to their next trophy success.
But it should never have been decided off the back of one game, a cup final against an opposition who have already beaten some of the best across Europe as well as Real themselves in their previous final clash 12 months earlier.
Ancelotti has done a fantastic job with the squad he’s been given – remember, he would have had little to no say in the acquisitions made by the club last summer. His managing of the Angel Di Maria situation has been expert; the Argentine has had his best season in a Real Madrid shirt.
Karim Benzema looked revitalised and motivated under the Italian coach; Isco was being transformed into a player resembling more of a Clarence Seedorf than an Andres Iniesta – and that’s no bad thing; Cristiano Ronaldo has had another decent season, no comments about unhappiness to be heard from the Portuguese; and despite a few dips, Real’s football in all has been a step up.
Threatening Ancelotti, whether directly or indirectly, with the loss of his job if Real didn’t overcome city-rivals Atletico in Lisbon wasn’t necessary. The European Cup would likely have returned to the Bernabeu at some stage under the Italian, such is his track record in the competition, both as a player and manager.
There shouldn’t have been a discussion about a possible firing because Florentino Perez had tried and failed in the past to lure Ancelotti to Spain. Who wouldn’t be impressed with a manager who had had such success with that Milan side, taking them to three European Cup finals in five years?
It’s the kind of restraint Chelsea should have shown when they dismissed the Italian on the final day of his second season in charge at Stamford Bridge, shamefully and undeservedly in an arbitrary tunnel at Goodison Park. The year before, Ancelotti had brought a league and cup double to the club – the only Premier League title between both of Jose Mourinho’s spells. Anyone with sense at the club would have seen what a remarkable feat it was. Ancelotti had never played or managed in England before his appointment as Chelsea manager.
The west London club spun themselves in a daze replacing Ancelotti and then replacing each of the subsequent replacements before Jose Mourinho came along. And even now after a year, the Portuguese probably wasn’t Roman Abramovich’s first choice, having seen Pep Guardiola head off to Bavaria.
Chelsea should be asking what Ancelotti lacked that Mourinho has made up for. Both are winners, wherever they go in Europe, but you lose the controversy and confrontational manner of the Portuguese by sticking with the Italian. Has Abramovich really discarded his ambition to see attractive football on display at Stamford Bridge?
What can be certain is that the Real Madrid manager’s winning mentality and success rate will bring further silverware to the Spanish club. A Copa del Rey and European Cup double isn’t bad for a manager who was once again unfamiliar with the league he arrived in last summer.
One of the most likeable and respected coaches in the game. Like Chelsea, it’s hard to understand why Real would even contemplate letting Ancelotti go.