Milan's wane means Carlo Ancelotti gets to continue helping the club

Carlo Ancelotti acted as one of AC Milan’s chief transfer advisors. Thing is, it’s 2014, not 2004.

A part of the silky Milan side of 25 years ago, Ancelotti was the club’s head coach from 2001 to 2009, taking home a couple of Champions Leagues and a Serie A title before heading to Chelsea. There he enjoyed some success despite looking permanently baffled by more or less everything, from the language, to the weather, to the sudden arrival of Fernando Torres.

He’s been in charge at Real Madrid since last year. So why is he giving a rival club help with signings?

Milan president Silvio Berlusconi told AS: “He’s been close to [chief executive Adriano] Galliani, and gave us his approval with regards to the transfers of Diego López, Alex and [Jérémy] Menez.”

Real sold López, a goalkeeper, to Milan in August. Defender Alex, who played under Ancelotti at Chelsea and Paris Saint-Germain, signed as a free agent earlier in the summer, while Jérémy Ménez – attacker and partner of French Big Brother winner Emile Nef Naf – took the same route.

On the one hand, it’s healthy that in a sport with so many devious machinations, pumped-up rivalries and malicious actors, Ancelotti and his former club maintain a strong, respectful and trusting relationship.

Though Real isn’t paying Ancelotti to help another European powerhouse get stronger, the club’s hierarchy is unlikely to get too upset at this news. It’s not just a story about the enduring bond between Ancelotti and Milan, it’s a tale about the Italian club’s decline. Right now the Rossoneri are no threat to Real’s continental dominance, and it’s been that way for a while.

Milan last won Serie A in 2010-11 and have only got past the second round of the Champions League once since winning the thing in 2007. The club hasn’t faced Real since 2011. Last season Milan finished eighth in Serie A and failed to make it into European competition for the first time in 16 years. Not even the Europa League. Lacking its former talent and financial power and in a league that’s weaker than it was a decade or two ago, Milan is a non-issue at the Bernabeu.

It’s a bit like when, after years of sniping as Manchester United and Arsenal vied for EPL dominance, Alex Ferguson started being nice to Arsène Wenger and sold him Mikael Silvestre in 2008. The warm, fuzzy feelings of respect emanating from Old Trafford were the worst possible news for the Londoners. It meant the Gunners had declined so much that they were barely a blip on Ferguson’s radar.

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