Why Understated Carlo Ancelotti Is Key to Real Madrid Success This Season

Rik SharmaFeatured ColumnistFebruary 19, 2014

Calmness personified: Carlo Ancelotti is rarely flustered
Calmness personified: Carlo Ancelotti is rarely flusteredGabriel Pecot/Associated Press

Barcelona, Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid sit at the top of La Liga, each on 60 points.

We hear a lot about Tata Martino, and what he's trying to do with Barca.

We hear a lot about Diego Simeone, and how he is trying to compete with two sides that have infinitely more funds to spend.

But we don't hear so much about, or from Carlo Ancelotti.

The Real Madrid manager is difficult to dislike. Polite, reasonable, a gentleman.

A few months ago, Real fans weren't happy with how the team was playing, and the results.

The notoriously difficult to please Bernabeu spectators whistled Ancelotti and his players.

However, the manager was nonplussed, calm, steady as always.

He said, as reported by ESPN: "Being whistled is not bad. I have received a lot of criticism in my career.

“I do not remember any criticism which was bad. I consider these things to be necessary sometimes, they serve to make you work better."

Good times: Madrid are going strong in 2014
Good times: Madrid are going strong in 2014Paul White/Associated Press

And slowly, but surely, he has turned it around. Since the start of 2014, Madrid have only conceded one goal in 13 games.

It came in the only match they haven't won, a 1-1 draw with Athletic Bilbao.

Supporters are warming to the avuncular Ancelotti. They like how he's helping Jese to develop, to breathe, to become the player he could be.

The young Spaniard could well make it to the World Cup if he continues playing like he is.

Ancelotti spoke about Jese, telling Corriere dello Sport, translated by AS: “He is an amazing talent and he’s still not even 21 years old. I have coached other players like him, he reminds me a little of [former AC Milan forward] Pato”.

Off the radar: Alexandre Pato is playing in Brazil now
Off the radar: Alexandre Pato is playing in Brazil nowEugenio Savio/Associated Press

It's interesting that Ancelotti mentions Pato.

On Tuesday, the Brazilian striker completed a move to Sao Paolo from Corinthians, as he tries to revive his career.

Once he was one of the hottest prospects in football. And now his signing is being protested against by supporters, as per AP, h/t MSN Foxsports.

Pato is only 24, but has gone off the rails and may never become what he promised to be when at A.C. Milan.

Injuries have taken their toll, but he has missed Ancelotti's guidance too. The Italian wanted to bring Pato to Paris Saint-Germain and you wonder if that could have helped save Pato's career.

Ancelotti left Milan in 2009 to take charge at Chelsea, where his predecessor at Real Madrid managed a few years earlier, and of course, is in charge once again.

Even though both are loved by Chelsea supporters, Ancelotti and Jose Mourinho couldn't have tackled the Real Madrid job in more different fashions.

There were divisions and disharmony in the Real Madrid squad when Ancelotti arrived and one of his greatest achievements so far has been to smooth that over.

Mourinho left with both the dressing room and supporters divided. Some of the players were said to have hated the defensive way he played, as we explained on Bleacher Report before.

By contrast, Madrid's players are now unified and happy. Young right-back Dani Carvajal said, as reported by AS:

I’ve got no complaints at all about him [Ancelotti]. He is unambiguous – he’s exactly the same person you see in press conferences. He maintains harmony within the squad and creates a good atmosphere. He keeps all of us on our toes and never creates any problems with anyone.

The problem for Ancelotti is that he will be judged by results. 

Madrid have a favourable Champions League last-16 tie against Schalke, and you would expect to see them reach the quarter-finals.

They are going strong in La Liga, and if they travel to rivals Atletico on March 2 and dispatch them like they did in the Copa del Rey, they will be well-positioned in the run-in.

But with opponents as strong as Barcelona in the league and Bayern Munich in the Champions League, it’s conceivable that Madrid could end the season empty-handed.

And even if it’s the wrong move, Ancelotti could find being understated confused for being ineffectual, and be cut loose.