Carlo Ancelotti on Tuesday became the eighth coach to be hired under Florentino Pérez's 10-year stop-start tenure as president of Real Madrid. The Italian, 54, follows Vicente del Bosque, Carlos Queiroz, Mariano García Remón, Vanderlei Luxemburgo, Juan Ramón López Caro, Manuel Pellegrini and José Mourinho on the Real bench in the two stages of Pérez's reign, from 2000 to 2006, and 2010 to the present. Of all of those, only current Spain national team coach Del Bosque saw his contract out to the end. The rest received settlements before their stewardships were terminated.
At his official presentation on Wednesday, the Italian mouthed the words all new coaches at the Bernabéu must say: “The most prestigious club in the word has to win playing spectacular soccer because tradition and history demand it.”
Mourinho was, as is to be expected, an exception to the rule, stating in 2010 that the “beautiful thing was to win at Real Madrid,” and not the style in which this was to be accomplished.
Ancelotti has signed until 2016 and his arrival, which comes after Paris Saint-Germain officially announced Laurent Blanc as his replacement at the French club, marks the fulfillment of a long-held desire for Pérez. The Real president had tried to lure the Italian to the Bernabéu on two previous occasions. The first was in 2004 when he tried to exploit the presence of Ancelotti's old coach, Arrigo Sacchi, as the club's director of football. The second was in 2010 when Pérez was putting together his candidacy to return as Real presidency.
"Ancelotti was fat and seemed slow," remembers Sacchi about the former Milan player. "I showed him how to move around and it turned out he thought more quickly than anyone. He was a perfect coach on the pitch."
Ancelotti's coaching style has very little in common with that of Mourinho. Ever since it seriously started considering a replacement for the Portuguese last December, Real focused its efforts on finding a coach who was his antithesis.
Now it has chosen a man less given to wearing down his players emotionally and eroding the day-to-day harmony than the new Chelsea coach. The Italian, who has won two European Cups as a player and two Champions Leagues as a coach at AC Milan, as well as coaching Chelsea and PSG to domestic titles, is more relaxed in his handling of groups, managing his stars with sarcastic humor, warm dialogue and bonhomie.
His autobiography Preferisco la Coppa is full of anecdotes that reveal an affable and easygoing personality. He calls Kaká, who experienced his best run of form under Ancelotti at AC Milan, "the second-best player I coached after Zidane," likening the Brazilian to "an Erasmus student recently arrived in Milan who would suit us pretty well if he also knows how to pay soccer," he wrote.
In the introduction to the book, former Milan captain Paolo Maldini remembers Ancelotti telling jokes in the team's locker room before a Champions League final. The players laughed until the tears rolled down their cheeks while listening to the silence in their rival's locker room.
Maldini portrays Ancelotti as a shy man who could be very funny and rarely got angry. When he did, it was during unexpected situations, such as in Lugano after Milan had just lost a pre-season friendly to a Second B Swiss side. He swore at his players and accused them of terrible things. Later, feeling remorseful, he apologized. "Because deep down he is a sweet guy," says Maldini. After he calmed down, came the timely question. "Paolo, did I make a mistake?"
It's hard to imagine Mourinho asking one of his captains to analyze even one of his most measured actions, let alone one of his outbursts.
Ancelotti's arrival on the Bernabéu bench is sure to herald a flurry of activity on the transfer market at Real. Young Málaga star Isco has been widely linked with a move to the club, while it remains to be seen whether it can tempt Gareth Bale away from Tottenham Hotspur.
In other transfer news, Celta Vigo has snapped up newly promoted Almería's Brazilian goal machine Charles, the top scorer in Segunda last season, for one million euros, while Real Betis has snapped up Catalan playmaker Joan Verdú from Espanyol on a free transfer.