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The 'nice, fat bear' with an appetite for success

China Daily | Updated: 2021-06-03 08:50
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Respected Italian coach Carlo Ancelotti has waved goodbye to Everton to take the reins for a second time at Real Madrid, where he succeeds Zinedine Zidane. REUTERS

Easygoing Ancelotti backed to restore former glories at Madrid

Carlo Ancelotti returns to Real Madrid bringing not only a history of winning trophies to a club that particularly craves them, but also an aura of calm that it sometimes lacks.

Ancelotti is renowned for his cool temperament. AC Milan legend Paolo Maldini once described him as a "nice, fat bear" incapable of getting angry.

Ancelotti rejoined Madrid as coach for the next three seasons, the Spanish club said on Tuesday. "Hello Madrid!" the 61-year-old Italian who succeeds Zinedine Zidane posted on Twitter.

Ancelotti, who won the Champions League for Real during his first spell at the club between 2013 and 2015, was set to be presented to the media on Wednesday, the club said in a statement.

It took less than a week for Madrid to turn the page on Zidane, who ended his less-successful second spell as coach, last Thursday, criticizing the lack of confidence shown in him by the club hierarchy.

The 61-year-old Ancelotti is returning to Madrid, where he coached from 2013-15, with unfinished business.

'Reigned supreme'

On Tuesday, the club recalled his first stint in charge as a golden era.

"Under Ancelotti's stewardship, the team reigned supreme in Europe 12 years on from the last continental triumph following an unforgettable win over Atletico in the Lisbon showpiece," said the club on its website, adding: "He is the Real Madrid coach to have recorded the most wins (78) in his first 100 competitive games at the helm."

Real missed the Spanish title last season by just two points and lost in the last four to eventual winner Chelsea in the Champions League, but failed to claim a trophy.

Ancelotti will have to rebuild the squad in difficult circumstances.

He has led teams to league titles in Italy, Germany, England and France. But, while he won one of his three Champions League crowns as a coach with Real, Spain is the only one of the big five European soccer nations where he has not won the league.

The Italian has accumulated an eye-catching collection of trophies with the most understated and phlegmatic of coaching styles. The only sign of emotion on the sideline is his famous raised left eyebrow.

His approach has appealed less to the biggest clubs in recent years.

Since being fired by Bayern in 2017, he has worked for the slightly less aristocratic Napoli and Everton.

Ancelotti led Bayern to a German cup and league double in 2017, but was fired in September after losing to Paris Saint-Germain early in the Champions League group stage.

Hie decision to drop veterans including Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben for that game intensified a growing rift with senior players. The club leadership sided with its stars.

Peacemaker

It was a first for Ancelotti, who is renowned for his closeness to his players.

Former Milan captain Maldini, who spent five seasons alongside Ancelotti the player and eight under Ancelotti the coach, once said: "Carlo never gets angry. That can only happen when he's eating, because once he's got a fork in his hand, you need an army to stop him!"

This calmness and bonhomie, as well as his immense experience, has often allowed Ancelotti to play the role of peacemaker.

After he arrived at PSG in December 2011, he failed to win the French league in his first season but ironed out rifts in the squad, treating stars like Zlatan Ibrahimovic with flexibility and taking a paternalistic approach to prospects such as Marco Verratti. He went on to win the Ligue 1 title in his second season.

He also won an English double with Chelsea in 2010, before being fired after the London club finished second in the league the following season and went out in the Champions League last eight.

Ancelotti started his first stint at Real by healing wounds in a locker room that had been set on fire by his predecessor, Jose Mourinho.

He earned the support and affection of Real's heavyweights, including Cristiano Ronaldo.

That was not enough to save him in 2015 after a disappointing end to the season at a club he had guided to its tenth Champions League title in 2014, the long-awaited Decima.

Diplomacy and intrigue

These memories and Ancelotti's family ties-his wife is Spanish-Canadian-gave him every reason to return to the Bernabeu.

This time he replaces Zidane, who started his coaching career under Ancelotti and conducts himself with similar restraint.

The club of his heart, however, remains Milan, where he spent 13 years, first as a player between 1987 and 1992, and then as a coach between 2001 and 2009

There he learned the arts of diplomacy-and intrigue.

As a player, he was a hardworking midfielder who played for Parma and then Roma before joining Milan where he won two European Cups (now the Champions League), in 1989 and 1990 under the legendary Arrigo Sacchi. He also played 26 times for Italy.

As a coach, he led Milan to an Italian Cup in 2003, a league title in 2004 and two Champions Leagues in 2003 and 2007, as well as in the epic 2005 final loss to Liverpool.

He started coaching at Serie B Reggiana in 1995 before moving to Parma and Juventus, where he failed to make an impact between 1999 and 2001.

Ancelotti, who joined Everton in December 2019, thanked the English club and its fans "for the tremendous support they have all given me".

"While I have enjoyed being at Everton I have been presented with an unexpected opportunity which I believe is the right move for me and my family at this time," he added in a statement published on Everton's website.

Everton said it would "begin the process of appointing a new manager immediately and will provide updates in due course".

AFP

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