Carlo Ancelotti committed to ‘spectacular football’ at Real Madrid
Italian endears himself to locals by merely not being Mourinho
Carlo Ancelotti (centre) alongside former Real Madrid player Zinedine Zidane (left) and Real president Florentino Perez at Estadio Bernabeu in Madrid, Spain. Photograph: Denis Doyle/Getty Images
Thirty-seven days after Real Madrid announced that José Mourinho was leaving, the Peacemaker arrived. Carlo Ancelotti was finally presented as the new coach at the Santiago Bernabéu, where he confirmed his assistant will be Zinedine Zidane. A new era has begun and the overall impression left by the Italian coach was that he represents a break from the last three seasons. “I respect Mourinho a lot but we are different,” he said. “He has his character, mine is different. Our situations cannot be compared.”
Ancelotti, who has signed a three-year deal until the summer of 2016, insisted he has not yet had time to talk to Madrid about potential signings, which include both Edison Cavani and Isco, who are also wanted by teams in the Premier League. Arsenal, meanwhile, are pursuing striker Gonzalo Higuaín, who the Italian included in a list of the “fabulous” strikers at his disposal. But Ancelotti did say that he wanted to see Kaká train before he took a decision on his future and said that he planned to help the Brazilian become a better player “for Real Madrid”.
He also confirmed Zidane would join the coaching staff, alongside Paul Clement and Giovanni Mauri, both of whom worked with him at Chelsea. “Zidane will be on the bench. The problem is that he won’t be on the pitch,” Ancelotti joked. “Zizou was a great player and now he wants a coaching role. I am very happy to have him alongside me.”
Mourinho’s departure ended three tumultuous years at Madrid, as relationships within the dressing room became increasingly strained, especially with the captain Iker Casillas. There was also tension with the media; by the end, the campaign to force Mourinho out had become intense and he was refusing to give press conferences. Ancelotti’s first task is widely perceived as overcoming the conflict and there was a very different atmosphere inside the Bernabéu press room on Wednesday afternoon.
Throughout his first press conference, the new coach’s answers distanced him from the former coach. If there were buttons marked “not Mourinho”, Ancelotti pressed them. As well as the tension, Mourinho had stood accused of being a defensive coach who preferred counterattacking football and was reluctant to play the club’s youth teamers. Meanwhile the president Florentino Pérez insisted that Mourinho had been a victim of the special pressures brought to bear on Madrid managers.
Pérez returned to that theme here, telling Ancelotti that the pressure at Madrid is nothing like what he has encountered elsewhere. Ancelotti, though, insisted: “I don’t think the pressure here will be any greater than anywhere else. A manager’s job comes with pressure.”
Told that people were already calling him the Peacemaker, the Italian replied: “No one ever called me that before but it is a nice name, so thanks. I don’t think Madrid needs a peacemaker but I am a coach that wants to have a good relationship with the players and I always have had.”
When he was asked about Casillas, Ancelotti noted: “I know him very well, he is a great goalkeeper, he is the captain, he has won everything. I think the relationship will be good. There will be no problems. There is a rule that is valid for every player in every team: the person who deserves to play, plays.”
Ancelotti made a point of saying that he enjoys working with young players. He was swift to describe himself as a coach and “nothing more”, whereas Mourinho had been manager. And, reminded about Mourinho’s decision to leave the grass long and dry before the Champions League semi-final against Barcelona in 2011, Ancelotti said: “if we want to play fast football, we need a fast pitch. Water.” He also said that he does not see Luka Modric being converted into a deep-lying playmaker as he did with Andrea Pirlo. “Pirlo’s was a more defined position,” he said. “Modric needed to be able to move all over the pitch.
Ancelotti had laid out his position at the very start of his presentation. “The challenge is very clear,” he said, “the most prestigious club in the world obliges us to try to win playing spectacular football.” He then explained: “I want a team that controls the play, that has a nice idea of attacking football, that has good balance. I don’t think it will be difficult to play offensive football with lots of possession.”