The stage is set, a Champions League final is about to be played, the players are anxiously waiting for their coach to come in and deliver an epic oration which gives them just the final push they need to take it home. Empowering words, life-saving final tips, bolstering enthusiasm are just some of the things that a coach is supposed to coat his players with just before a life-altering match. But what if the coach comes in and talks about what’s going to be served for dinner later that night, or starts joking? Carlo Ancelotti is one such coach. Perhaps not having to say anything about the match is the greatest compliment and vote of confidence he could give to his players.
Carlo Ancelotti is like a cool Dad, he will do all kinds of pranks with you (including wrapping a teammate in toilet paper, disguising him as a mummy and scaring the other team mates) and he won’t ever say no to food. So if you’re a Sunderland player still bemoaning the lack of ketchup in your team kitchen (as Di Canio wanted it), go seek Carlo, he’s the man for you. He would be the coolest chaperone, ever. Carlo stands up for his players in the press conference and if there’s any problem, he’ll discuss it personally and help you joyfully sort it out. Carlo is a family man.
Ancelotti describes himself as a hopeless romantic who falls in love with the club he coaches. He also cites an explanation for using a pen and paper to make notes for his players.
“It gives a touch of humanity to what I do. You can’t write a love letter on a computer.”
Having learned the art from the legendary Arrigo Sacchi himself, he possessed a unique skillset early in his managerial years which gave him an advantage and which ultimately lead to him landing the Milan job (assuming his eyebrow raising ”How you doin’?” wicked look was the main factor).
There are no doubts that his time at Milan was anything short of legendary. Milan was his Mecca, his elixir. Everyone played Carlo’s football their way, and it was in magical unison. But that isn’t all there is to his managerial career in Italy. Reggiana, Parma and Juventus were his previous teams, his “practice teams”, as it would turn out. Ancelotti was dogmatic when it came to the way his teams set up and was a loyalist to the 4-4-2.
He even decided against signing Roberto Baggio because of his stubbornness, but he learned. Everything came together for him at Milan. Improvement as a coach, a man and a friend. This was the point where he readily changed tactics and formations to better suit the players he had. It was Pirlo’s own suggestion to play deeper, and a younger Ancelotti wouldn’t have complied because it was clearly visible how poor Pirlo was there. After giving it some time, it turned out to be one of the most influential decisions in world football. The Maestro molded the position for himself and redefined the art of playmaking.
Ancelotti improvised and adjusted, like family members do. The incredible Milan team won two out of the three Champions League finals they played in a span of five years, becoming one of the greatest teams to have ever graced the football world, with players like Maldini, Nesta, Cafu and Stam in defense, Gattuso, Seedorf, Pirlo and Kaka in midfield, and Inzaghi and Shevchenko up front. Every Milan fan still holds Carlo in the highest regard, and it wouldn’t be surprising to find a tear-jerking collection of memoirs in every fan’s house, regardless of how things are at Milan right now.
Carletto, as he is lovingly called, refuses to believe in the notion that you need a grinning set of teeth or clenched fists flying in the air in a dressing room to get everyone pumped up. He’d rather sit around and poke fun at his players and talk it out. The team is his family and he refrains from putting them under pressure to get something uncomfortably. Instead of making his family suffer for something, he makes sure they are serene and aware of how they’re supposed to stand for each other. This immense selflessness instigates an unparalleled desire to win amongst his players, and they happily show what they’ve got on the field, unbounded. Ancelotti suffers and rejoices with his team as if he were with them on the field for every single moment, like a brother. Carlo is a family man.
Ancelotti then went on to Chelsea, where he established special relations with the players, who still long for him. With Ancelotti it was always a friendly environment and perhaps that laid the seed to the incredible camaraderie we see in the Chelsea team right now. His next project would be another highly influential period, at Paris Saint Germain. There was an influx of world class players like Ibrahimovic, Thiago Silva, Thiago Motta, Marco Verratti and many more during his tenure at the French club. In fact, at least 6 of the current first team players at PSG were bought when Carlo Ancelotti was at the club. It just goes to show how much the players trusted him with their careers, moving to a club on the verge of a renaissance. They have gone from a club which players use as a stepping stone to get a move to bigger clubs to becoming a bigger club where all the players want to play.
The next thing that Carlo set out to conquer was the elusive La Decima, and he triumphed in his first attempt. Was that so hard, Jose? Taking on innumerable responsibilities at Madrid, he made sure everything went smoothly. From making sure Bale had a remarkable first season in a completely new country to tinkering Di Maria’s position, to making the once ‘Worst signing of the season’ the most important player of the team (Modric), things at Madrid kicked up a notch. Madrid were unstoppable and won the La Decima, undisputed. They only improved and tore teams apart in Carlo’s second season and went on a mind-boggling 22 match winning run, only to bottle it later on due to injuries, lack of squad depth and political issues. All of this still doesn’t consider the team they lost out to, Barcelona, who were on their way to a triple and registering another great team (don’t think of it any less just because they’ve done it once already), by two points. Two.
Real Madrid is a place where every player knows what his position is and how they dare not speak about anything Perez has to say or do. Yet, every player (including Ronaldo) rallied and showed how much they loved Carlo, hoping they would get to work with him for longer.
Carlo’s relation with Modric was a special one and they were much closer than one can imagine.
“All I can say is that he is a great coach and person,” the Croatian midfielder told reporters. “I’ve played my best football under him.
“He trusted me from day one. Sometimes, although you don’t win trophies, it does not mean you’re no good.
“Every player has his worth.” Man-management is an elusive skill for many modern managers but that is not the case for Mr.Ancelotti. It’s safe to say that he’s coached all kinds of players, from Zlatan Ibrahimovic, an adventurous chauvinist to Kaka, a humble and timid wallflower. Ancelotti has always been very accepting of his players’ attitude and qualities and has hardly tried to overtake their basic beliefs. For example, the visible selfishness in Yoann Gourcuff’s play was pointed out, but also used to the maximum by Ancelotti when needed. It’s heartening to train and improve a player’s footballing abilities. But when you try and change the attitude of a player, it causes internal problems and Carlo understood that. Every single player had the utmost importance in his life.
Carlo has managed the best footballers on the planet and he has excelled. He’s been through four top European leagues, been through so much and he’s not done yet. He’s the only coach along with Bob Paisley to have won the European Cup thrice. Dortmund coach Tuchel recently said, “Creativity and discipline don’t exclude each other.” Carlo is a true connoisseur of this quote and has been a gift to football.
Ancelotti doesn’t know what’s next for him. He has often stated his desire to return to England. Maybe he could just return to his beloved Milan. Right now he’s on a sabbatical, undergoing a minor surgery and later planning on spending time with his grandchild, at home. Carlo is a family man.