[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he harsh reality of football at the highest echelon became painstakingly clear yesterday as Real Madrid president Florentino Pérez confirmed that the historic club had dismissed Carlo Ancelotti.
The Italian boss was relieved of his duties after a season that promised much but did not yield silverware.
For Madrid and many other of the top teams in Europe and the world, second best is nowhere, with Ancelotti’s axing a classic example.
Madrid finished the La Liga campaign just two points adrift of champions Barcelona, who have been reinvigorated this season following the signature of Luis Suárez and have the best player on the planet Lionel Messi in a mesmerising mood.
Elimination from the Champions League at the hands of Ancelotti’s former club Juventus was hard to take for the Madridistas, but belittling the Serie A side is unwarranted; Los Blancos’ conquerors have won four consecutive Scudetti and are still on course for a treble this season.
Ancelotti’s side may well have not been at their best over the last couple of months, but the Italian can leave the Estadio Santiago Bernabéu with his head held high – especially after what he has achieved in the Spanish capital.
The delivery of the fabled La Décima makes the Italian the only manager outside of Bob Paisley to have been crowned a European champion on three occasions as a coach and engraves his name further into the history books.
His feat of winning the club’s tenth European Cup also saw the Italian succeed where the likes of José Mourinho, Fabio Capello and other top-notch coaches failed before him.
Ancelotti also won the Copa del Rey last season, beating Barcelona in the final, while the Uefa Super Cup and Fifa Club World Cup have also been added to his growing list of personal achievements.
Let’s not forget that the 55-year-old was also a nominee for the Fifa World Manager of the Year award at the Ballon d’Or ceremony earlier this year, with only Joachim Löw receiving more votes.
The distinguished tactician led his star-studded team to a club record 22 consecutive wins earlier this season, at which point his exit was unfathomable.
Ancelotti leaves the Bernabéu with plenty of players including Toni Kroos, Cristiano Ronaldo and Luka Modrić singing his praises and the majority of the club’s fans wanting him to stay, in another testament to his character.
Regardless of being sacked, Ancelotti should still be regarded as one of the best managers in the world game and of the current generation.
The demise of AC Milan since his departure has been dramatic, especially given that the Reggiolo-born coach won two Champions Leagues, Serie A and the Coppa Italia during his tenure at the Stadio San Siro.
He delivered the Premier League title at Chelsea, with his side scoring a division record of 103 goals in a memorable campaign.
A move to the French capital saw Ancelotti deliver the first of Paris Saint-Germain’s current three consecutive Ligue 1 titles, effectively setting the ball rolling for what now is a major European side.
One of his major regrets upon his departure from Madrid will be leaving without being crowned Spanish champions, which would have seen him as a national champion in four European countries. The emergence of the Diego Simeone-inspired Atlético Madrid and a three-point deficit was all that prevented this.
Just where Ancelotti ends up next remains to be seen.
A return to his homeland, with former employers AC Milan or someone else, would be a major coup for Serie A, play a part in furthering the national Italian game and be the biggest threat to Juventus’ current dominance over domestic affairs.
A host of other leading European clubs will rightly be weighing up a move for the calm and collected schemer, who remains one of the game’s best.
Madrid meanwhile will look for a replacement that can better his four trophies in two years record, highlighting the lack of patience and minimal room for error at the game’s pinnacle.
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