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Ancelotti In Real Return

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When asked in 2015 if sacking Carlo Ancelotti was the right decision, Florentin Perez replied “I don’t know”.

Since Ancelotti left four different managers have taken on the role to varying successes, the most successful being Zinedine Zidane. The Frenchman has now left of his own accord three times, once s a player and twice as a manager he has stepped down.  In his two stints as manager, he bought three Champions League titles, two Uefa Super Cups, two Club World Cups, two La Liga titles and two Supercopa victories. Of the other three managers, Rafael Benitez, Julen Lopetegui and Santiago Solari, only the latter brought silverware to the Bernabeu with a Club World Cup win.

Zidane is the second most successful manager in Real Madrid’s history winning 11 trophies, second only to Miguel Munoz who has 14. Ancelotti has four to date and will be keen to add to this total immediately.

How Did His Return Come About?

Everton staff and supporters were left in shock as it was revealed on Tuesday, June 6 that Carlo Ancelotti would be leaving to join Real Madrid for a second spell as manager.

When appointed in December 2019, Everton owner Farhad Moshiri had the big-name manager he desired and club and fans were overjoyed with his arrival and the following signings, such as James Rodriguez, who he was able to attract.

Having been part of planning for summer transfer activity and long-term planning, Ancelotti informed Moshiri of his desire to leave and all was confirmed within what must have felt like the blink of an eye for the Everton owner.

One of the biggest surprises was that Ancelotti had recently stated his desire to continue with Everton; on May 18 he was asked about being linked with the Real Madrid job responded with “This is good publicity for me to be linked with Real Madrid but it is not true, I am really happy to stay here. I feel good at Everton and my target is to make Everton better and better every year.” 

For Ancelotti, the lure of Real Madrid seems too hard to resist, returning to the Spanish capital and managing some of the biggest stars in world football. In his departing word, Ancelotti thanked the players, staff and supporters of Everton stating “I have been presented with an unexpected opportunity which I believe is the right move for me and my family at this time”.

Unexpected maybe somewhat key in this statement. He had started the season well with Everton but was only able to finish tenth at the end of a season which saw them as genuine top-four challengers for long periods.

While he had been instrumental in bringing in players like James Rodriguez and Allan, his side lacked a real identity or philosophy leaving them struggling to maintain form, particularly at home. They only managed six wins from 19 home games with nine defeats and a negative goal difference.

While he had helped improve players like Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Richarlison, there were obvious concerns about his defence, which often led to many changes in the back line. He appeared to lack faith in Jordan Pickford and brought Robin Olson on loan from Roma to compete for the goalkeepers spot, but neither was really able to clearly show they were the clear starter.

What To Expect From Ancelotti At Madrid?

Ancelotti seemed to have hit a dead-end at times with Everton, and possibly was unable to improve his players enough to consistently compete with the top teams in the Premier League. This will not be the case with his new Real Madrid side.

Hurting after losing out on La Liga to their neighbours Athletico Madrid, Real will be looking for an immediate response under the guidance of the Ancelotti.

It may be fair to consider the Everton job too long a project to judge him on the poor league position they finished in for 2020/21. Ancelotti has a very successful CV and has managed some of the biggest sides in Europe including Juventus, Chelsea, AC Milan, Paris Saint-Germain and Bayern Munich.

He returns to Real with new faces as well as some very familiar to him. In his first season as Real manager back in 2013, he broke the transfer record to bring Gareth Bale to the Bernabeu from Tottenham Hotspur for a reported fee of around €100 million. Isco was signed from Malaga, Dani Carvajal from Bayer Leverkusen and Caemiro came in from Sao Paulo.

Casimero has remained a key part of Real Madrid and will no doubt remain an obvious starter in Ancelotti’s side. Carvajal has suffered this season with two long injury lay off’s and will hope to put them behind him over the summer and earn his place back in the starting 11. Isco was once again in and out of the side last season and will not be an immediate starter for Ancelotti, he is one that may stay with the club due to their financial difficulties Perez has mentioned and knowing another player of his position in the squad would probably cost more in transfer and wages than sticking with Isco.

Gareth Bale will be a big challenge for Ancelotti with the Welsh star being unwanted by Zidane which was news that was very much not kept In House. Bale may have burnt bridges with teammates, staff and supporters in Madrid, but has a year remaining on a very large salary. It appears next to impossible for Real to sell Bale, but he may be available for another loan to try and recoup some of the money Real are paying him. Ancelotti may see things differently though, having had a good relationship with Bale before as well as seeing him give some of the best performances on a football field.

CARDIFF, WALES – AUGUST 11: In this handout image provided by UEFA, Real Madrid Manager Carlo Ancelotti listens to Gareth Bale of Real Madrid during the Real Madrid press conference at Cardiff City Stadium on August 11, 2014 in Cardiff, Wales. (Photo by Handout/UEFA via Getty Images)

With the players at his disposal, it would not be surprising for him to utilise a similar set-up to how he did with Everton last season. With Benzema leading the line, he will supplement the attack with 2 wide players, similar to Zidane’s system. Rotations will be made in the middle of the pitch, usually using one defensive midfielder, mostly Casimero. The rotations will come with either playing a more advanced central attacking midfielder as he did with Sigurdson at Everton in a 4-2-3-1 or being more compact and keeping players like Modric, Valverde and Kroos to make a 4-3-3.

The Italian is a more flexible manager since his early days where he was criticised at times for not rotating his squad and relying on his favoured personnel at all times. He has shown at Everton though a willingness to rotate, possible due to the unique season of quick turnaround fixtures, but this will benefit Real in the long run. Due to the pandemic and the high wages of a number of players who have been out of favour or ling term injured, there may be difficulties in improving the squad depth. Raul has been doing great with the Castilla side and more players may be considered for rotation into the first team after a summer to observe and prepare.

He is an excellent man-manager which at this point is exactly what Real Madrid need. Having to move on from Zidane once again, the side needs to come together as a group quickly. They are a squad in transition also, with a number of stars coming towards the end of their careers like Modric and Marcelo and with players having underperformed like Hazard and Isco.

Ancelotti has it within him to keep good discipline and maintain a belief amongst a squad to perform at the highest level consistently. Apart from his time with Everton, he managed sides challenging for titles and has winner’s medals from the Premier League, Bundesliga, Serie A and Ligue 1. A La Liga title is still to be added; there is very much unfinished business here for Ancelotti.


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Main Image Credits- Embed from Getty Images

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