Back in July 2013 when Carlo Ancelotti first took over as Real Madrid manager after the departure of Jose Mourinho, the club had done everything doable except winning the UEFA Champions League.
Prior to moving to Spain, the Italian trainer had stints with Chelsea and had just left his role at Paris Saint-Germain, where he led them to quite a number of trophies.
Before Mourinho’s departure, he had led the club to a league title in the 2011/12 season and the semi-final of the Champions League in back-to-back seasons (2011/12 and 2012/13), suffering knockouts against German opponents on both occasions (Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund).
By that, much of the work had been done for the next coach and Ancelotti only needed the magic touch to ensure the club won the ultimate in his first season.
But that also meant that Madrid lost their touch with regards to finding stability in winning the La Liga title.
Carlo Ancelotti failed to win the league for Madrid during his two years in charge at the club. The league title was the only missing piece in his CV at the Spanish club.
However, he has the opportunity to complete that set after returning to the club this summer.
FINDING A REPLACEMENT AFTER ZIDANE
Following Zinedine Zidane’s decision to leave Madrid at the end of last season, Florentino Perez had a lot to do in ensuring the right man is brought to the club to restore the glory and to continue what Zidane had started.
Several names were linked with the job. Antonio Conte, Maximilliano Allegri and Joachim Lowe were all mentioned as managers Madrid was looking to appoint as a replacement but none of them actually got the job.
ANCELOTTI TURNED UP FROM NOWHERE!
After failing to find an agreement with any of the aforementioned managers, Perez looked to have found his man a few days later. That man, Carlo Ancelotti.
Considering he was heading into his second full year as the manager of Everton, Ancelotti never looked like an option but a return to Madrid never looked impossible for both parties.
Speaking after deciding to leave the Premier League side, Ancelotti said, “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.”
The Italian went ahead to sign a three-year deal with the Spanish side ad named the new gaffer.
WHAT WAS GOING TO BE THE CASE FOR HIS SECOND COMING?
The truth is, while many were quite happy the La Decima winner was returning to the Santiago Bernabeu, others were far from convinced.
Why? The situation was that Ancelotti was coming back to the team without the core of the squad he inherited during his first spell.
Cristiano Ronaldo was no more, Marcelo not his usual best, Xabi Alonso retired and Sergio Ramos was already on his way out of the club after the expiration of his contract with the club.
Despite all these, Ancelotti was unfazed by any of the challenges that could be coming his way.
THE POOR PRE-SEASON
Judging from the short pre-season, no one would have tipped Madrid to even get this far in the 2021/22 campaign.
A 2-1 loss to Rangers and a stalemate with AC Milan was not the best of preparation that Madridistas were hoping to see after a trophyless season in 2020/21.
THE PLAN FOR ANCELOTTI AND THE ARRIVAL OF DAVID ALABA
Knowing what he wants to achieve and how limited his squad was, Ancelotti had to create his own ‘Kylian Mbappe’ in Vinicius Junior while getting the best out of Luka Modric and Karim Benzema.
Following the departure of Ramos, Madrid also recruited David Alaba on a free transfer and that was a bit of a relief in defence for the gaffer.
It is no surprise that Madrid have scored the most goals in the Spanish top-flight so far this campaign while conceding 20, the third least this season.
With 17 and 12 goals scored so far, Benzema and Vinicius have contributed to 61.8% of the club’s league goals with 14 matches still left to be played.
THE PROGRESS SO FAR
After 22 league games, Madrid finds themselves top of the league table with four points ahead of Sevilla who are in second.
They are also 14 and 15 points above Atletico Madrid and Barcelona respectively in the race for the La Liga title.
However, with the additions made by both Sevilla and Barcelona in the winter transfer window, the work is far from done and Ancelotti now needs to motivate his boys now more than ever.
Ancelotti’s MEN are also in the next round of the Copa del Rey, where they play Athletic Club on Thursday, February 3.
On the European scene, Madrid is also in the last 16 of the Champions League, where they will face PSG in a two-leg battle for a spot in the quarter-final.
The team scored 14 goals in six games in the group stage of the CL while they have also managed 47 so far in 22 league games.
WHAT HAS CHANGED?
Trust, trust and trust – that has been the key to unlocking the best out of this crop of players. Eder Militao once mentioned that Ancelotti has appreciated his game and that has been key to his consistency this season.
That is what every player needs from his manager – trust.
Vinicius, some seasons ago, some would have called for his sale. But the confidence shown in him has brought the best out of him and has got him firing at all angles and in all competitions since the start of the season.
The Italian now manages 2.45 points per game compared to his spell in the dugouts at the Bernabeu, where he averaged 2.36 points per game.
CAN ANCELOTTI GET THE MISSING PIECE?
With the kind of performances we have seen for the majority of this season, Ancelotti stands a greater chance of winning his first Spanish league title at the end of this campaign.
However, he will need his players to stay firm, while also requiring his bench to come up big time whenever they are called upon – that is the only way he completes his trophy cabinet at Madrid.
He has proven to be the right man indeed and in a couple of years, if the same level is maintained and transfer targets attained, could see Madrid dominate domestically and on the continent once again as they used to do at some point.