Ancelotti's 'quiet leadership' key to his Champions League success

AFP , Wednesday 29 May 2024

Real Madrid's superstars usually grab the headlines but quietly steering the ship in the direction of Champions League success yet again is coach Carlo Ancelotti.

Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti has steered the team to a verge of another league and Champions League double OSCAR DEL POZO / AFP


If Real Madrid beat Borussia Dortmund at Wembley on Saturday Ancelotti can become the first coach to lift the trophy five times.

The Italian is already the most decorated manager in the history of the tournament, winning it twice with AC Milan in 2003 and 2007, and then twice with Madrid in 2014 and 2022.

With the latter Ancelotti surpassed Liverpool manager Bob Paisley and his Madrid predecessor Zinedine Zidane, who boast three each, to become "Mister Champions".

Ancelotti won the competition twice as a player with Milan, but his exploits as a coach have become the stuff of legend, along with his recent trophy celebrations -- sunglasses on, cigar in hand.

The coach, who turns 65 on June 10, is adored by his players, a result of his "quiet leadership", the title of his autobiography.

Ancelotti knows how to keep players pulling together in the right direction, even in tough moments.

Brazilian forward Rodrygo Goes has endured dry spells in front of goal but Ancelotti has always backed him.

"There are times when you score every time you touch the ball, and there are times when you shoot a lot and fail," said Ancelotti in November. "It will pass."

With Ancelotti keeping his confidence steady, Rodrygo did not panic and soon hit a rich vein of form.

Vinicius Junior is another who struggled but with Ancelotti's guidance has found his top level at the perfect time.

"It's work well done," said Ancelotti. "He has great talent and has added great quality of movement without the ball."

Creating such warm feeling with his players helps them accept his decisions.

Midfielders Eduardo Camavinga and Aurelien Tchouameni have both played in defence on occasion, without kicking up a fuss.

On top of his man management, Ancelotti has also made several important tactical decisions this season. Sometimes his work in that area goes unappreciated.

"This team is well-trained," said Ancelotti a year ago, a rare boastful comment from the coach, usually content to play up to his avuncular image.

100 percent trust

Ancelotti's first big decision of the season was how to deploy new arrival Jude Bellingham.

The central midfielder started the campaign as part of the attack and it paid instant dividends, with Bellingham scoring 13 goals in his first 13 games.

Later Bellingham shifted towards the left or deeper in midfield.

"I trust the coach 100 percent, I know he knows what he's doing in all situations," said the former Dortmund man this week.

One of the reasons for the change was the team's only defeat of the league campaign, at Atletico Madrid in September.

Ancelotti adjusted his set-up after that, getting Bellingham to cover defensively as well as forming part of the attack. Madrid then went 32 matches unbeaten in La Liga, winning the title.

"The games that you can't win, you don't have to lose," said Ancelotti in February.

Despite many injury problems Los Blancos have not lost in the Champions League either, with their squad players delivering in key moments.

Ancelotti has kept them involved and Joselu's brace against Bayern in the semi-final was the perfect reward.

The Italian is rarely flustered, although he admitted he usually feels tension in the hours preceding a Champions League final.

With this his sixth as a coach, he can confidently predict how things will unfold.

"What do I like to eat? Broccoli, salmon and pasta. That is what I will eat," explained Ancelotti on Monday.

"After that, an hour of siesta, that seems good, if I can. After that, all the thoughts about the game (will come).

"Then before the team talk, the heart rate starts to rise. Up to 110, 120 (beats per minute). Until the game starts. After the game starts, it goes back to its normal rhythm."

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