It’s been trailed as an inevitability for so long that Carlo Ancelotti’s eventual confirmation as Real Madrid boss almost seemed to be an anti-climax. But what an utterly fascinating appointment he is.
It seems to be a reaction against the regime of Jose Mourinho that he has been replaced with his polar opposite: an avuncular figure renowned for being laid back and allowing players their head. That might look to be the obvious move, but Real should beware. Taking the easy option isn’t usually the best idea.
Ancelotti’s autobiography is a fascinating, bizarre read. He strives to give the impression of a happy-go-lucky, almost comical character who is anything but intense about his job. Admittedly, any autobiography should be read with a pinch of salt; they always offer us a portrait of how the author wishes to be seen rather than the whole picture. Ancelotti, for reasons best known to himself, wants to be seen as relaxed to the point of coma.
Some of the incidents he relays from his career hardly cast him in a positive light. He comes over as obsessed by fine food rather than football, and sometimes appears to abdicate responsibility, either to avoid rocking the boat or out of a mindset bordering on apathy. And remember, that’s his version of events!
Perhaps this is exactly what Real need: after the intensity of Mourinho, a calm hand on the tiller. As Mourinho has created a fractious changing room, perhaps the balm of a friendly man manager is what is required to bring harmony back to the group.
But wasn’t Mourinho recruited in part because the factions among the changing room needed to be put in their place? If anything he has exacerbated the situation, but is going back to square one and selecting a coach who will ignore the problem and not rock the boat actually going to achieve anything.
Real have appointed a coach who will give the players their head, and you suspect we’ll see a massive change in the atmosphere around the squad. In general Ancelotti’s previous charges have loved him, mainly because he doesn’t tend to do anything to upset them. I’m sure this pattern will continue at the Bernabeu, but whether it’s what Real need is another matter.
After all, if you ask any group of kids who their favourite teacher is, they won’t necessarily give you the name of the best one, but of the one who lets them get away with the most. A fun manager, like a fun teacher, might spread the feel-good factor throughout the year, but don’t necessarily expect him to come up with the results in the final analysis.