On Tuesday, one of the closed season’s most protracted, yet inevitable transactions was concluded when Paris Saint-Germain released manager Carlo Ancelotti from his contract, allowing him to join Real Madrid.
Linked with a move to the Spanish capital as soon as it became evident Jose Mourinho would not be seeking a fourth term as Madrid boss, Ancelotti—known in Spain as "Carletto"—finally agreed to a two-year pact at the Santiago Bernabeu and will be officially unveiled on Wednesday.
Given that the record Spanish champions had become accustomed to Mourinho’s brash, often controversial approach to overseeing one of world football’s most expensive collections of players, the first adjustment the club will make will be learning to breathe a bit easier.
Ancelotti is a statesman and a gentleman, and whereas his predecessor was combative both with his squad and the press corps, he will bring a gentler, more compromising tact to the various relationships he’ll need to nurture if he intends to see out the duration of his contract.
His style will also serve him well as he navigates the corridors of the club’s power base—namely the offices of president Florentio Perez and sporting director Zinedine Zidane. Part of being a successful Madrid manager is being able to play the political game, and Ancelotti is as adept at it as anyone.
He will also reintroduce an element of dignity to Madrid’s rivalry with Barcelona. El Clasico had degenerated into a sour, hateful affair under Mourinho, and Ancelotti will be having none of the shenanigans that led Barcelona playmaker Andres Iniesta to suggest— via The Telegraph—that Mourinho had “damaged” the reputation of Spanish football.
Finally, Ancelotti will be able to bridge whatever split had previously divided the Madrid dressing room.
In a January interview with Marca, journalist Sara Carbonero—who also happens to be goalkeeper Iker Casillas’ girlfriend—claimed that atmosphere among the players was “not good,” adding: “It is common knowledge that the players do not get on with their manager at all. Right now there is a rift in the dressing room and we’ll have to wait until the end of the season to see if Mourinho leaves.”
He’s gone, and with him has departed the sort of bad feelings that kept Casillas on the bench during the final months of the season and alienated other establishment players such as Sergio Ramos and Xabi Alonso.
While at AC Milan, Ancelotti oversaw a group of high-profile players that included Paolo Maldini, Alessandro Nesta, Hernan Crespo, Clarence Seedorf, Andrea Pirlo, Andriy Shevchenko, Kaka and Gennaro Gattuso (the list goes on) and ensured that no one’s ego became big enough to be a problem.
Under Ancelotti, Real Madrid are likely to be a calmer, more unified group—something that will only spell trouble for their opponents in both La Liga and the Champions League.