Carlo Ancelotti is in no rush to take off his shoes, roll up his trousers and go paddling in the Mediterranean Sea. “I am not in a hurry to go on holiday,” he said on Friday as he pondered a meeting with Real Madrid president Florentino Pérez next week. “Madrid is a holiday city, I can stay here.”
Many expect those talks with El Real’s president to end with Ancelotti being asked to clear out his office at Valdebebas. Thanks for the Champions League last season, Carlo, but it’s probably best if you go and get a job somewhere else now.
With his eyebrows raised at the club’s training ground, perhaps for the final ever time, the Italian gave a press conference ahead of Saturday’s match with Getafe which was typically full of class and integrity. “If I stay [at Madrid], fantastic,” he added as the set of stormy questions poured down. “If I leave, I will go on the back of two very good years.”
But if the axe does fall, it will be because the second of those maybe shouldn’t be described as “very good.”
In his first year with Madrid, Ancelotti won the Copa del Rey and the club’s coveted 10th European Cup, and he ended the 2014 calendar year on a club record 22-game winning run. Victories in the UEFA Super Cup and Club World Cup took his trophy haul in the Spanish capital to four in less than two seasons.
Pérez, it was reported, was smitten. The creator of the galácticos was lining up a new contract for his sweetheart, but that contract never came. Results soon dipped, with Madrid’s Champions League elimination to Juventus and Barcelona’s La Liga triumph propelling Ancelotti into troubled waters; certainly not the kind of water thrown into your regular package holiday.
Undoubtedly a loveable guy, Ancelotti is not without his faults. For a start, why has he only won three league titles in 20 years of management, none of which have come in his two years prowling the Santiago Bernabéu touchline? He was also unable to keep his squad as fit and fresh as his counterpart Luis Enrique did with Barcelona. Fitness coach Giovanni Mauri and his team may end up paying for that.
In favor of Ancelotti staying, though, are the fans — 43.9 percent of Diario AS readers chose him over a host of other candidates in a poll on Thursday — and the players, though those reasons could end up working against him. The narcissistic Pérez might not want somebody (almost) universally loved guiding his club for too long.
There’s also the lack of alternatives in the managerial graveyard. Zinedine Zidane was supposed to be the replacement – Madrid’s riposte to Josep Guardiola. However, his year in charge of Real Madrid Castilla has not impressed Pérez, who has apparently lost faith in one of the early members of his galáctico project. Of the rest of the distinctly average options, former Valencia and currently Napoli boss Rafael Benítez looks to have risen to the top, despite franking fourth in AS’s poll.
Reaction to the news of Benítez’s candidacy has been understated. Actually, it’s been furious. Not many people see the logic of ditching Ancelotti to bring in Benítez, although the man once tagged ‘Fat Spanish Waiter’ does, at the very least, deserve to have his achievements underlined.
He is “a madridsta, a winner and a man of the club,” says AS, one who spent the majority of his injury-plagued career playing for Castilla. His first forages into management came with the club’s second string and then as Vicente del Bosque’s little helper in the first team. Two La Liga titles later followed with Los Che in the early 2000s before eventually claiming the Champions League with Liverpool in 2005.
There have been blots, too, with an ill-fated spell at Inter Milan and a hated cameo with Chelsea. And despite a couple of cups, he’s hardly earned a move to the European champions (it’s got a couple of weeks’ use left in it yet) during his time with Napoli, either.
Still, he is a man who bleeds blanco ,and he has had some noteworthy successes as a gaffer. Surely Madrid fans could find it in themselves to love one of their own?
Jürgen Klopp, Míchel and Unai Emery are among the other underwhelming names being flopped about, though manager is only one piece of El Real’s puzzle. Whoever Pérez turns to this summer will find there’s a lot of work to be done.
Where to even begin?
It starts at the back. Real Madrid will have to spend the coming months pretending it knows nothing about an impending move for Manchester United stopper David de Gea, awkwardly praising Iker Casillas in the interim. And who knows what that will mean for professional Uncle Festa look-a-like Keylor Navas, El Real’s current number two. Madrid will probably be better off once it calls time on this soap opera and bring De Gea home.
In defense, Danilo will come in from Porto; a left back will probably arrive as well, as Fábio Coentrão and Álvaro Arbeloa prepare for life away from the front line. Pepe appears to be getting a new contract and Sergio Ramos is going nowhere. That might unsettle Raphaël Varane, but it’s unlikely to bother Nacho Fernández — he’s quite happy being the club’s victory cigar.
Luka Modrić and Toni Kroos are screaming out for another pair of legs in midfield, as Asier Illarramendi and Lucas Silva don’t look like the men to help. German international Sami Khedira is out of contract, with papers predicting a move back to the Bundesliga.
Pérez would not be the Pérez we know and love if he wasn’t drawn into a transfer battle for a player dubbed the star of the summer: Juventus’ French midfielder Paul Pogba. Paris Saint-Germain holder Marco Verratti’s chances of moving south of the French border could hinge on Ancelotti’s future.
Ahead of them, where does Isco go to get the best out of him? What’s James Rodríguez’ ultimate position? And whisper it, is the BBC attack destined to break up after being made to look like a sham by Barça’s MSN? This could be the last summer in which El Real could cash in on Cristiano Ronaldo for megabucks, while Gareth Bale — tired of having his car egged and unfathomable Spanish words shouted at him — may decide to head back to England where he can become the man about town once again.
The players that come in have to be the right players. Too often the Pérez regime has brought in big names and ended up working out where to play them later. This season’s injuries to key players (Modrić, James) left them short of the required personnel to execute Ancelotti’s ideas and formation.
With just one league title in seven years, there’s plenty to be done this summer. Carlo, Rafa or whomever takes over the summer best phone his wife now and let her know he’ll setting up camp at Valdebebas…