Carlo Ancelotti has never discussed his future, but it feels as though the Real Madrid boss’ next move may now be an open secret.
Brazil are looking for a new permanent manager and there are heavy whispers that Ancelotti will be that man once his commitments to the Spanish giants are finished at the end of the current season. It has even been ‘confirmed’ by the head of the Brazilian FA, but neither Los Blancos not Ancelotti have said anything concrete on the matter.
Over the weekend, he was not exactly committal when it came to his future in Spain.
“All rumours will end sooner or later,” he said. “I’m very happy here. I’m also bit selfish, so you always have to do your best. I don’t always talk about my future.”
There is a sense in some pockets of the Madrid fan base and Spanish media that a change from Ancelotti may be good. In some ways, there is logic to that; it is a club that has been very keen to alter its image and perception in recent years.
Under current president Florentino Perez, now more than 13 years into his second term, most of their success has come through a bullish marketing strategy and signing the biggest stars in world football. The latter remains a vital aim, but Madrid are acutely aware of the fact they can’t compete in the transfer market with Premier League and other heavily backed clubs. They are using their unquestionable lure to act on players whose contracts are expiring, with Kylian Mbappe the most obvious example, while also moving to sign the best young players around, such as Jude Bellingham, and ‘creating’ their own superstars like Endrick and Vinicius Junior.
With that fresh approach and very fresh squad, perhaps a younger, more vibrant coach would make more sense. Their former midfielder, Xabi Alonso, who has worked wonders with Bayer Leverkusen in Germany, has been mentioned. Such an appointment could be seen in a similar light to that of Zinedine Zidane, who had an immensely successful couple of spells in charge despite little to no previous coaching experience.
But moving on from Ancelotti is something that shouldn’t be taken lightly. Although the modern era seems a lot more tactics based, which would suit somebody like Xabi Alonso, the Italian has enjoyed over 30 years in football management with very little in the way of a dip in his results. He has the right nous, understanding and personality to not only adapt and continue to win in elite circles, but maintain his position as the perfect man to wrestle with the unique challenges found nowhere outside the Santiago Bernabéu.
Ancelotti is a diplomat; the best of his kind. He’s been sacked by Madrid before, and that decision, taken because of a marginal slip in standards as Barcelona won the treble. shows the volatile nature of Perez and the club’s board. Ego can’t be a part of the brief, because that is a battle almost everyone would lose. No matter what, trophies are the minimum requirement at Madrid, with lodging an entertaining brand of football a close second. Ancelotti has skilfully navigated some real challenges because of his affable nature, and that goes for the dressing room too. Big personalities like Cristiano Ronaldo, Iker Casillas and Karim Benzema all loved working with him.
But egos are something Madrid are looking to change. The players who arrive have to buy into a collective ethos; the individualism that drove the club before no more. So perhaps there is less need for an operator like Ancelotti to manage it? Perhaps a younger manager with it all to prove would get on better now than before? All of that depends completely on if the boardroom follows the dressing room in the same evolution.
There were clear regrets over the sacking of Ancelotti in 2015. His team had only ended the wait for the fabled 10th Champions League crown (the club now has 14) a year earlier, and developed well tactically in the process. Poor spells under Rafa Benitez and Julen Lopetegui meant that when Zidane left, Ancelotti was seen as a safe pair of hands who could balance the need to win with the ensuing transition. By and large, he’s done that, adding a league, domestic cup and Champions League to the list of honours since returning in 2021.
Are Madrid prepared for the next stage without him this time? There definitely seems to be a grander plan for the entire club moving forward, and there would perhaps be less pressure on any new incumbent who fits the Xabi Alonso mould, but history has long said otherwise.
Ancelotti will take that ability to manage difficult situations and succeed with it in Brazil. It remains to be seen whether Madrid will enjoy their likely imminent separation quite as much. It is up to them to make it work.