On April 12th last year, Carlo Ancelotti was in charge of an Everton team that drew 0-0 with Brighton and he says he would not have given it up for anything – except for the place he finds himself 12 months on.
Had it not been Real Madrid who called, the Italian insists he would have stayed at Goodison Park, but it was and now he leads the team that stand 12 points clear at the top of La Liga and seemingly on the cusp of a Champions League semi-final place having beaten Chelsea 3-1 in the quarter-final first leg at Stamford Bridge.
At the end of that match, Thomas Tuchel said the tie was over but Ancelotti said they would come to fight to go through and Carlos Casemiro insisted they do not "trust" the Chelsea manager. The midfielder also asked supporters not to whistle Gareth Bale, saying that to do so would be to "whistle Madrid's history" and urged them to play their part on Tuesday night.
Fans turned on Bale on Saturday when he came on for his first appearance at the Santiago Bernabéu since February 2020. “I don’t agree with them whistling a player on my team,” Casemiro said.
“The support has to be for everyone. When they whistle a player, they whistle all of us. I didn’t like them whistling the other day: he’s a historic player at this club, he has scored lots of goals, he is important here. When you whistle a player like that, you’re whistling the club’s history.
“We have to approach it knowing that it is a hard game even though we played our best 90 minutes [in London]. We can’t trust anything, especially not the words from their coach afterwards, from Tuchel. We have to ask the fans to support us. They are the champions, the holders, they have our total respect. The fans and us have to give everything because it will be a very, very difficult game.”
Ancelotti laughed at attempts to make him accept that Madrid were favourites and waved away suggestions that Tuchel might be playing mind games. “Everyone has their own opinion,” he said. “Chelsea will come to fight to try to get through. [Tuchel] knows very well that it is complicated but he’s going to try. That’s the spirit of football and above all of big, strong teams that never give up.”
None are bigger than Madrid, which is why Ancelotti is here, his success so far suggesting that although he arrived as a short-term solution, he may yet continue next season.
“I felt very good at Everton: we worked very well, the relationship was very good with staff and club, and then the call from Madrid came,” he said. “I can understand that they get angry with me at Everton, but it was really difficult to say no to Madrid. Madrid were the only club I would have left for. To anyone else I could have said no [and] stayed happily at Everton.
“I am not thinking about [next season]. My contract is very long but I am not thinking about that. If the club is happy, I’ll continue happily. If the club is not happy, I will be grateful for the time I spent here. I’m confident that the season will end well, then I can continue happily.”